Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Last Meal

Whenever the newspaper reports that somebody has been executed in prison, we as readers are divided into three factions, based on our philosophical persuasions.

One group, consisting of about twelve percent of the population, become enraged at and ashamed of a penal system that embraces capital punishmen and, condones "cruel and unusual" methods of execution (apparently, if we do have to kill someone, we should arrange a car accident, that being "usual").

The second group, probably a saddening twenty percent of the demographic, get righteous and bravo and a little chubbed up at the thought of evil-doers being whisked from the streets and into Hell.

What happens to the other sixty-eight percent of us? How do we react to the news that Whoever Wayne Badman, Jr. was denied a stay of execution and expired last evening, in front of twenty-two witnesses, seventeen minutes after being injected with a lethal dose of potassium chloride? We skim down to the bottom and find out what he had to eat.

Of all the survey questions and conversation starters and pickup lines I've heard in my life, one of the most fascinating and disquietingly common specimens is as follows:

"If you were on Death Row, and you got to choose your last meal, what would it be?"

What kind of sickos are we? Why did I have elementary school teachers who found this an appropriate question for group discussion?

Here's what I think.

We as Americans are so obsessed with the prospect of getting something for free that we can separate the wish fulfillment dream-come-true magic of making the gummint buy us Whatever-We-Want for dinner from the whole "in a minute they're gonna kill ya" caveat. Just under "What would you do if you won the lottery?" in the daydream hierarchy is the "last meal" thing, shining up at us and inviting us into flights of gustatory fancy. We project ourselves into the paper shoes of the monster just long enough to entertain visions of porterhouses and strawberry shortcake, and then we detach, and move on. We can only relate so far, after all. If he wasn't the murderer the court says he was, we muse, he was at least guilty of a fatally limited imagination: KFC, Budweiser and peach crisp? Come on, man! You're our avatar here! Do you know how many people out there you're letting down with your lack of horizon?

Anyway, lets play a game.

Imagine that you either:
a. Brutally raped and murdered at least one person, most likely a child. -or-
b. Were wrongfully convicted of such, probably because of your complexion, social or financial status.

It doesn't matter which--the end is the same!

We--America, that is--have a question we've just been burning to ask: what's for dinner? Isn't this FUN?

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