Saturday, September 13, 2008

Baseball, hot dogs and lethal injection

I support Maryland Citizens Against State Executions (MD CASE), which opposes the death penalty, but I nevertheless was startled to receive this postcard in July.

None of the images exactly shout "death penalty" -- but what image does, these days? One of the many reasons states opted for lethal injection over the electric chair in the first place was the chair had become too loaded an image, like the noose, the guillotine, the stake and the cross; it was no longer the property of the executioners alone. Now there is no loaded image for execution in the United States -- a syringe, after all, could represent so many things, good and bad -- which helps keep execution out of people's minds, which helps the status quo, and so the executions continue.

Not so many in Maryland, though. According to the invaluable Death Penalty Information Center, Maryland has executed five people since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, and the first one wasn't until 1994. Six prisoners currently are on Maryland's death row, all men. (What's their racial and socioeconomic breakdown, I wonder?)

I wrote my story "The Executioners' Guild" (I thought) in a hot haze of righteous anti-capital-punishment anger. After it was published, dozens of people came up to me and said: "I loved the story. By the way, what do you think about the death penalty?"

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