Opinion: Thank God it’s Fryday

Illustration

Illustration

By Bridget Sharkey

At 7 a.m. on Jan. 24, 1989, serial killer Ted Bundy was executed in the electric chair. With him died all the horror and madness that he had inflicted on his victims and their families. The nation was safe, women were safe, and the people of the United States could go back to their normal, civilized lives.

Or they could hang around the outskirts of Florida State Prison, waving frying pans and cheering, “Burn, Bundy, burn.” Or they could set off fireworks to celebrate the removal of his dead body. Or they could buy shirts that said, “My Grandma went to Bundy’s frying, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

Three cheers for civilization.

Sometimes it only takes one killer to bring out the killer in us all. I wonder how many people in that crowd of thousands would have volunteered to pull the switch, how many would have volunteered to shave his head, how many would have volunteered to put cotton balls in his anus to keep him from defecating on himself.

All right, so maybe no one would volunteer for that last one.

Still, it’s amazing to see how thin the veneer of decency really runs in our society. We imagine ourselves to be intellectual and enlightened human beings, yet we all love to see a criminal strung up on a tree.

The days of public execution might have ended years ago, but the crowds still turn out with hot dogs and beer cans.

On the day Timothy McVeigh was executed, a camera crew managed to drag a bystander away from her barbecue grill long enough to ask her a few questions. Upon hearing that McVeigh’s last meal was mint chocolate chip ice cream, she glared into the camera, enraged, and said, “That’s the last meal he will get from my tax money.”

What she said wasn’t unique, nor were her acid-washed jeans and L.A. Gear tanktop. Yet I will never forget her words. Why? Because I think she would have liked to have seen McVeigh drawn and quartered.

Forget lethal injection, just drag the guy out and let the crowd stone him to death. And why not? Didn’t he kill more than 160 people with his selfish, evil act? Didn’t he ruin hundreds of lives and break thousands of hearts?

Didn’t Ted Bundy do the same, on a slightly smaller scale?

Yes. But somehow I don’t believe that killing them was the right answer. The response of the crowd should tell you capital punishment is a crazy, antisocial idea. Those people behaved like animals, not like reasonable adults.

Those in the crowd claimed they were thinking about the victims and their families, but the macabre way they were celebrating suggests otherwise. They were celebrating death. The swift and painful end to a human life.

Which is pretty much what Bundy and McVeigh celebrated once upon a time as well.

Too often people support the death penalty for the victims’ family’s sake. However, executions do not necessarily end the families’ pain and remorse. They just end another life. Pain can’t be electrocuted away.

It’s never easy to take a stand against capital punishment.

Even when you know that since 1973, 116 innocent people were removed from death row. 116 people who could also have died with a tailgating party happening outside.

Sen. John Kerry kept it short and sweet when he said, “I know something about killing. I don’t like killing.”

We have had enough killing lately. Even allegedly justified killing leaves behind a wake of dead bodies and pain.

It’s 2004. Enough bodies have been hung; enough bodies have been burned at the stake; enough bodies have been lethally injected.

So unless you’re cooking me scrambled eggs, leave your frying pans at home.

Bridget Sharkey is a senior in LAS. Her column runs Mondays. She can be reached at [email protected]