Wednesday, March 16, 2005

It's Always Fried Chicken

Jimmy Ray Slaughter, 57, was injected with a lethal dose of chemicals today in an Oklahoma prison. He was convicted of killing his girlfriend and their 11-month-old daughter in 1991. He proclaimed his innocence as he died.

This sounds like a post about the death penalty, I know. But it's not. Although I have ethical concerns about the death penalty that I might discuss in another post, this post is about something else: food.

CNN posted the story about this execution today and ended it with this sentence: "For his final meal, he requested fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, biscuits, apple pie and cherry limeade."

What does it say about America that this it is what the reader is left with at the end of a story about a convicted killer himself killed by the state?

(And cherry limeade? What was he thinking? Not to mention that every story like this seems to mention the last meal, which, not by any coincidence I'm sure, includes fried chicken.)

Is this some kind of "reality TV" moment gone bad? We need to know all the sweaty details? Or are we so obsessed with what we eat and why and who eats something else and why and why a dying man would choose fried chicken that this is somehow important?

Is this just fluff--a little light reading, a quaint aside to make us feel somewhat connected as humans to this story--to help us leave the story on a good note? Or is there something insiduous and more cosmic about the "big choice," the last meal, the fried chicken?

Or am I just hungry?


Anonymous Tomas el Grillo said...

Today Yahoo published a picture of an Iranian rapist being properly flogged prior to being publicly hanged. Since I assume that all the readers of this blog will be Americans, I will also assume that we could easily be spun into thinking of flogging and hanging as barbarian, compared to our more humane injections and electrical destructions. The question is not of the death penalty but more to the point we need to discuss incarceration in general. Obviously, there is no deterrent value in flogging, hanging, injecting, or frying since the criminals are not deterred. I suspect the real reason for these public executions is revenge. If you stick to quoting snippets of truths from the Newer Testament, you will get pretty uncomfortable with throwing your anti-social neighbors in jail for not paying child support, or snorting dope.
We could put our "corrections" dollars to better use if we only locked up folks that are a reasonable threat to the rest of us. (and then not letting them out until they no longer pose a threat, like when they are in a hospital bed, etc.) The money saved could be used to actually fund programs that successfully disabuse substances, for example. We have the technology to track the marginally adjusted (like Martha Stewart) as they do their best to adjust. If we were to love these neighbors, as directed, we would do everything we could to cope with their needs and put up as few barriers to their adjustment as possible.
Is the Iranian flogger any worse than an American blogger, or can they both be succumbing to self-righteous misdirection?

3:21 PM  

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