De vrije keus om te sterven zoals je geleefd hebt
Twee ter dood veroordeelden in Utah krijgen de keuze hoe ze willen worden geëxecuteerd. Ze kiezen het vuurpeloton.
Vikingen, die alle veldslagen overleefden, vroegen aan het eind van hun leven een vriend om hun te onthoofden, want sterven in bed was een vernedering.
Waar in de recente geschiedenis de doodstraf werd uitgevoerd was het adagium: je mag wel doden maar niet pijnigen. Het is dan ook stuitend, zegt deze columnist, dat tegenwoordig in de VS ter dood veroordeelden geen laatste sigaret meer krijgen wanneer ze er om vragen. Het is te ongezond blijkbaar…
Until very recently, at the Website of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, we were invited to learn what executed prisoners for the past several years had requested as their last meals. Fried okra, macaroni and cheese, a six-pack of Mr. Pibb. Comfort food, as they say. We also learned from the site of those cases where the state had been unable to fulfill the requests. For example, demands for cigarettes are routinely turned down, since, we learn, this product is prohibited by the Department. The state, evidently, cares enough to ensure that its death-row inmates are kept safe from the deleterious effects of tobacco.
Anybody who has ever yearned for a cigarette, and felt the relief that comes with taking a deep and drawn-out drag, will affirm that there’s something eternal about the moment. Though it may be taking time away from the end of my life, for now at least it is liberating me from time altogether. It is in this sense that, as Richard Klein says, cigarettes are sublime. Likely, such an understanding of the cigarette’s power was behind the ritual, in less hypocritical days, of offering a final smoke to the condemned. In spite of his inevitable fate in the temporal order of things, the cigarette and its moment of eternity offered the closest thing the prisoner was going to get to a way out.
I hate capital punishment. It’s revolting, and I’m kept awake at night knowing that it’s going on. But I hate so much more the knowledge that a condemned man is denied his right to smoke, in order that his executioners may pretend that what is taking place is a normal part of the smooth and sterile procedure-following of a healthy and modern institution. If it’s going to happen, blood needs to splatter, the heavens might do their part by trembling a bit, and all those complicit deserve at least a bit of second- hand smoke in their eyes.