For those of you who haven’t followed Rick Perry’s career, he’s the current governor of Texas. He’s also 1) pro-life 2) a conservative Republican 3) pro-gun ownership 4) pro-death penalty and 5) a pro as pissing me off. The funny thing is, none of these points in and of themselves are enough to grind my gears. But for some reason he is particularly skilled in combining them to make an epically disturbing political force. I know people who are pro-life. I also know people who are Republican. And even though I largely disagree with many of their political and social beliefs I don’t ‘hate’ any of them. Everyone has a right to their own opinions and that’s totally fine with me. So what about Rick Perry makes it any different? *Existential Crisis*
Don’t get me wrong, and I felt the same way about George Bush, I’m sure the man is a delight to shoot pool or shotgun beers with. But Rick Perry in power? When you picture him sitting behind his desk with a nice cup of joe, does Gandalf or Saruman come to mind?
I’ll pause for a moment while you do that.
And now onto the catalyst for all of this. Maybe it was the headline “Rick Perry On Death Penalty And ‘Ultimate Justice’ In Texas: ‘I’ve Never Struggled With That’ featured on the Huffington Post this week. Maybe it was the video footage of him fetishizing the Texan justice system. Maybe it was the collective (though probably staged) applause and whooping after he informed the audience that Texas has executed over 200 people this year for “crimes against the state.” Rick Perry goes to sleep at night knowingly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. And not only is he unshaken by that, he doesn’t worry about whether or not any of them were actually (and sometimes probably) innocent. That, to me, is far more disturbing than his mere support of the death penalty. There are plenty of people who are down with capital punishment who are still human about it. Isn’t the whole purpose of justice the redemption of humanity? And it’s all well and good to redeem the victims by punishing the criminals. But what about protecting the alleged criminals from the people who say they practice justice? Perry ended his sickening little soliloquy with “Americans understand justice. I think Americans are clearly, in the vast majority of cases, supportive of capital punishment.”
Americans understand justice. Really? Perry should tell that to the family of James Craig Anderson, beaten to death by a group of seven drunk American white-power-enthusiast teenagers in Mississippi this week, just because they felt like it.
The death penalty is a touchy subject. But I will say this. The cognitive prowess of mankind, while frequently wasted on meaningless bullshit, is a pretty remarkable achievement. So when it comes to punishing criminals in this country, why use methods employed by governments several hundred years ago? Shouldn’t our priorities for criminal punishment lean more towards a trajectory of understanding criminal activity rather than eliminating it with a quick and easy execution?
Rick Perry’s zeal for capital punishment isn’t (or shouldn’t be) an ‘American thing.’ It is, though, (largely because of his leadership) clearly a ‘Texas thing.’ What worries me isn’t even these speeches from the metaphysical podium of power. It’s the applause, the cheering and fist pumping that turns these blatantly ignorant and outdated practices into a sociojudicial (might have made that word up) norm.