Tuesday, June 30, 2015

4060 Executions, Lessons, and Carroll

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum (I think that I think, therefore I think that I am.)"
--Ambrose Bierce--


There's a lot I don't understand about the current furor about execution drugs.  I don't mean to get into a discussion of execution, that's a moral quagmire.  It's bad enough that some people think it's ok for the state to kill someone but then they object to certain means.  That seems silly, to justify killing, but then get squeamish.  I'm not sure why we'd execute them, anyway.  It's been shown that execution does not act as a deterrent, so that's not a good reason.  Some people object to paying the cost of supporting someone they consider worthless for the rest of their lives, "so let's just kill them", but that doesn't seem like a good reason.  Some are afraid that if the prisoner escapes they will do it again, so let's make sure he can never repeat the crime.  That almost feels ok to me, except that we cannot predict the future, so I'm not sure that's valid, either, especially when the sentence is not applied evenly.  And then there are those who are just angry and want to deliver the absolute vengeance.  I don't think that's our place.  Especially when we so often get it wrong.  So, anyway, I have mixed feelings about executions, and about those who are so hot for them.

But the current arguments going through the courts concern the means.  Firing squads, gas, electric chairs, nooses, whatever else, have gone away because they supposedly violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel punishment.  That stuff kind of hurts, I guess.  So, in an attempt to be "kind" (I guess), the current methods involve injections of crap that stops the heart.  And some folks object to that on the grounds that it's not entirely painless.  I haven't looked into it enough to know what pain they're talking about.  Something about it burning or causing panic or something.

Doesn't matter. 

I don't see what the problem is.  I don't understand why there's physical pain at all.  There will be psychological pain, of course, but that starts when the sentence is passed and gets worse when appeals are rejected, and no one seems to have any problem with that.  Doctors cut people open from stem to stern and rummage around in their insides every day, and there's no pain.  They just sedate you, then there's general anesthesia, and then they can administer anything they want and there's no pain.  The tricky part is the initial sedation, and I can think of a half dozen ways to make someone compliant without their cooperation.  A date rapist can tell you about three.

I don't  understand.

[I absolutely understand why one might object to execution altogether.  What I don't understand is why anyone who does approve of it would object to the means.  In my mind, if someone is going to be executed for murder, then they should die by the same means they used.  It is only just and fitting, and shows the same degree of depravity.  Even the Bible is confusing - there's that "vengeance is mine" thing, but there's also the "eye for an eye" bit.]


I came across the word "loquacious" yesterday in a blog.  It's not a word you see often these days; heck, you almost never see or hear it.  It took me back to my teaching days.

I taught high school math, and honors math for college credit.  About once every three weeks or so, I'd use a big unfamiliar word in class.  Like, I'd comment that one of the kids was unusually loquacious today, or I'd praise a kid for particular perspicacity in solving a problem, and then I'd write the unfamiliar word on the board and ask if anyone knew what that word meant, "Don't shout it out, just raise your hand if you know."

"Ok, here's the deal.  If  the day after tomorrow you bring to me a slip of paper in your own handwriting with the word and the correct definition on it, you'll get five points added to your score on the next quiz.  Yes, you can share, you can copy what someone else finds.  BUT, if it's wrong, you lose two points, so you might have to do your own research to make SURE it's right.  No paper, no problem, but no bonus, either."

Believe it or not, the kids loved it.  One day somebody said something about a confused classmate named Alice being in Wonderland.  So, naturally, the extra credit that day was "What was Lewis Carroll's real name, and what was his profession other than writer?"  [Answer:  Charles Dodgson, math teacher.  Photographer was also acceptable, although that was more of a hobby.]

Remember, this was long before even the slightest hint of the internet.  All they had was dictionaries, library books, or other adults. 


That all set me off in another chain of thought.  Charles Dodgson had a stammer.  Not like a stutter, but when you just can't get a word out at all.  When you know exactly what the word is, but it just won't come out.  He also had something like eleven siblings, every one of which also stammered.  He never married, and of his siblings, none of whom died young, only three married.  (There's a list of his siblings with dates at http://lewiscarrollsociety.org.uk/pages/aboutcharlesdodgson/life/lifefamily.html.)

His father was an archdeacon, preached sermons, didn't stammer.  All of Charles' siblings did.  Of the 12 kids, 9 never married. 

I am suspicious.  I'm wondering if there might have been abuse at home.  So I did some research.

Not a peep anywhere, good or bad.  However, after his death, some of his papers and letters were destroyed by his family, "to protect reputations".  That was the Victorian era, so dirt was well hidden, and patriarchs ruled unquestioned.  The reputations protected, by the way, were said to be women (some married) with whom he'd had affairs.

Curiouser and curiouser.

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