I confuse myself.
I am a grown-up. I watch the news. I know that people commit horrible crimes. Crimes that make my heart shrink away in horror.
“How on earth could anyone do that?”
“Honey, are you hearing this? It’s horrible. I can’t believe it!”
These are often the questions falling out of my mouth as I watch our polished newscasters lay out the facts of the latest horrific event.
I get mad. I grieve. I want justice for the victims. I should be a slam dunk vote for the death penalty.
That would make sense.
Except I’m not.
Because I’m not, and because I don’t even understand it myself, I recently drove five hours to hear a man speak about it. He was a warden on death row for decades. He presided over many, many deaths. He got paid for it. I could not imagine what he would stand up in front of a room and say? I thought I might hear regret or a well-honed defense. I thought he might say something that would sway me one way or the other. I had questions and I wanted answers.
I got none.
Instead, I can tell you that this man raised his children in the shadows of a prison. I can tell you that death row inmates in my state don’t get a last meal anymore. But, when they did, it evolved from fried chicken and mashed potatoes twenty years ago to cheeseburgers and fries more recently. I can tell you that of the eighty odd men and women he saw die only three put up any kind of struggle. I can tell you that this retired warden said he prayed for his charges. I can tell you that sometimes the prisoners cracked jokes in the last moments and that almost always there were witnesses for both sides. The victim and the perpetrator.
I came home and posted on my Facebook page that I was more confused than ever. And, I am. However, I am sure of one thing. Whatever it is that made us establish a death penalty is the same thing that makes us want to know it is done humanely.
I rage against the crimes I see on the evening news. Punish evil.
I’m disheartened that inmates no longer get a last meal before we execute them. A juicy cheeseburger. Really? That’s a bad thing? What does that say about us on the other side of the needle?
The whole subject is conflicting for me. In the end, all I can say is I believe in evil and I believe equally in life.
Maybe, I am not unlike the warden.
Maybe, I could give a man a piece of candy before I had to carry out his death sentence because that little act would save both our humanity.
Maybe, if I ever join a picket line, it will be to bring back a last meal to prisoners I believe deserve to die for taking someone else’s life.
I’m a mixed up girl.