Monday, December 13, 2010

an education

Sometimes I wonder how useful it might be to require all those graduating from college or entering into a job to see an execution. Maybe you could get a college degree, but its usefulness would be premised on the viewing of an execution ... not on a TV monitor, but through a glass that was not 15 feet from the event itself. Graduates or others feeling faint of heart might decline this adventure, but those seeking positions as stock brokers, bankers, politicians, teachers, social workers, doctors, soldiers and so forth might be given extra credit or extra pay for having assumed the responsibility. In the event, puking and tears would be permitted, but there would be a monitor to assure that no one closed his eyes or turned away.

This bizarre and somewhat grizzly suggestion is premised on the all-too-easy ways in which we may evade our responsibilities, little and large. It is premised on judgments and belief systems that are often too glib and offer to little considered substance. It is based on a lack of street-level accountability that suggests kindness to our fellow beings is not just nice ... it is also sensible.

Here is an excerpt from a 1939 interview with a Massachusetts resident, Charles Monroe. I think it suggests the kind of backbone any of us might wish to exhibit:

I try to be a good citizen by performing certain public and personal duties which most of my friends would throw up their hands at if I suggested they perform along with me. In my opinion there's too much 'passing the buck' going on today. I don't like many of our laws - capital punishment, for instance - but since I'm a voter and a sustainer of our form of government, I of course automatically make myself as responsible as any other individual in the upholding of our laws.
As a sort of an 'accessory to the fact' I once forced myself to attend an execution down in Sing Sing prison where my brother-in-law holds a good job. It was an ugly business. One witness fainted and another vomited, and it was a big relief to get out of there. I felt like the executioner myself, as I was partly, for the fact that we do not press the button or cut the rope doesn't let any of us off.
But if I can't convince you that I was a killer in that instance, you'll have to grant that I'm a killer of pigs and cattle, for I've often helped farmers butcher their live stock. I've done this to satisfy my own conscience, for I'm a meat eater, and being a meat-eater, why shouldn't I assist with the dirty work? You smile! (Complete Charles Monroe interview)

And for those willing to see an execution and receive extra credit in the social market place, perhaps there could be an extra-extra credit adventure: Be present and focused as a child is born.

No one can tell another what to think or how to think in the presence of such events. Philosophies and religions fall away except among the terminally blind. And it doesn't matter much WHAT anybody thinks in the face of street-level facts. It matters THAT they think.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. A lot of people should see executions; and I would add the meat for their dinner that night killed.