By Matthew Rothschild on September 17, 2009

You want to know how barbaric the death penalty is?

Ask Romell Broom.

The convicted rapist and murderer was brought into the execution chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility on Tuesday.

But the executioners could not manage, over the course of two hours, to get the IVs in right so the lethal injections could do their dirty work.

They tried finding a vein in his arms. They tried finding a vein in his legs.

Broom himself assisted the executioners by sliding rubber tubing up his arm and flexing his hands.

To no avail.

They eventually found a vein they thought was suitable to the morbid task but it collapsed when the techies tried to insert some fluid.

That brought Broom to tears.

Finally, the prison director called off the botched murder attempt and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland gave Broom a one-week reprieve.

How ’bout commuting the sentence to life in prison without parole?

Broom has suffered enough already.

Dostoevsky once wrote that being sent to your execution but then surviving is one of the most hideous experiences you can have.

Yeah, being raped and murdered is more hideous. Much more.

But the state should not be in a sadism contest. And that’s what the death penalty is.

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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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