Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Taking Everything as Part of the Game

The more things change, the more the brutes remain the same. If you've never read it, or haven't read it in years, do yourself a favor and read George Orwell's "A Hanging." Here's the end of it:

The Eurasian boy walking beside me nodded towards the way we had come, with a knowing smile: 'Do you know, sir, our friend (he meant the dead man), when he heard his appeal had been dismissed, he pissed on the floor of his cell. From fright. - Kindly take one of my cigarettes, sir. Do you not admire my new silver case, sir? From the boxwallah, two rupees eight annas. Classy European style.'

Several people laughed - at what, nobody seemed certain.

Francis was walking by the superintendent, talking garrulously. 'Well, sir, all hass passed off with the utmost satisfactoriness. It wass all finished - flick! like that. It iss not always so - oah, no! I have known cases where the doctor wass obliged to go beneath the gallows and pull the prisoner's legs to ensure decease. Most disagreeable!'

'Wriggling about, eh? That's bad,' said the superintendent.

'Ach, sir, it iss worse when they become refractory! One man, I recall, clung to the bars of hiss cage when we went to take him out. You will scarcely credit, sir, that it took six warders to dislodge him, three pulling at each leg. We reasoned with him. "My dear fellow," we said, "think of all the pain and trouble you are causing to us!" But no, he would not listen! Ach, he wass very troublesome!'

I found that I was laughing quite loudly. Everyone was laughing. Even the superintendent grinned in a tolerant way. 'You'd better all come out and have a drink,' he said quite genially. 'I've got a bottle of whisky in the car. We could do with it.'

We went through the big double gates of the prison, into the road. 'Pulling at his legs!' exclaimed a Burmese magistrate suddenly, and burst into a loud chuckling. We all began laughing again. At that moment Francis's anecdote seemed extraordinarily funny. We all had a drink together, native and European alike, quite amicably. The dead man was a hundred yards away.

Seems mighty pertinent of late, what with even President Bush, who himself has imitated/belittled a woman on death row, feeling that Iraq "fumbled" the Hussein execution and " it looked like it was kind of a revenge killing."

Yeah, there's no hint of revenge in the death penalty. It's all about goodness and justice and ignoring commandment #5 (Catholic version).

2 Comments:

Anonymous Tessitura said...

hrmmmph...double standards?

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Good stuff, George. "A Hanging" and "Killing an Elephant" are damn strong pieces.

4:57 AM  

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