By The Progressive on May 06, 2014

It looks as if the practice of the death penalty is finally catching up with America. We must do better than this.

The botched April 29 execution of death row inmate Clayton Lockett, 38, in Oklahoma was gruesome, cruel and barbaric. The man died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the lethal drugs were administered. The morning of his execution he had refused to cooperate and had been subdued with a stun gun.

President Obama and the United Nations agree the execution was inhumane. The president called it “deeply troubling,” adding there are “significant problems” with the way death is administered, citing racial bias, uneven application and the fact that innocent people are sometimes put to death. A spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the execution violated international law.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said, “Justice was served,” adding that the execution was lawfully carried out. Defensively, she added: “The people of Oklahoma do not have blood on their hands.”

If the governor believes that what happened to Lockett that day was justice, then what conception of justice is this, other than that of a lynch mob? It is no accident that the lion’s share of executions take place in the South, with its legacy of slavery, segregation and lynching.

For years, lethal injection was promoted as a painless and humane form of the ultimate punishment in an attempt to legitimize the form of execution — and the death penalty itself.

In years past, other forms of execution — such as hanging, the electric chair and the gas chamber — were touted as humane as well. Well, it turns out that lethal injection is not a painless form of punishment, which is beside the point.

America’s proponents of capital punishment are faced with a conundrum. The lethal injection chemicals are manufactured in Europe, and through an EU embargo, European pharmaceutical companies are refusing to sell their products to the states for use in executions. This has led some states to procure their poisons on the black market, administering executions with a lack of transparency and experimenting with untested, unapproved cocktails on human guinea pigs such as Clayton Lockett.

Obama said he will ask Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an analysis of the death penalty. The wisest course of action for the United States — the last death penalty outpost in the West — is to impose a moratorium on federal executions. Although such an action would not impact state executions, it would serve as a role model for the states to follow.

The alternative is inaction, which is not only unacceptable. It’s also immoral.

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By David A. Love, a freelance writer in Philadelphia who has worked on the death penalty issue for years. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org. Copyright David A. Love

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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