“Did you ever see a hangman tie a hangknot?I’ve seen it many a time and he winds, he winds After thirteen times he’s got a hangknot…”
- ‘Hangknot, Slipknot’ - Woody Guthrie
First three lines of song ‘Hangknot, Slipknot’, written and sung by Woodrow Wilson Guthrie 1912–1967, popularly known as Woody Guthrie -- the American folk music singer/songwriter of “This Land Is Your Land” fame. Woody Guthrie has inspired generations politically and musically.
It was George Bernard Shaw who said in his, Man and Superman -- “Criminals do not die by the hands of the law. They die by the hands of other men.”
When exactly a year ago, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said, “there are top drug dealers who hold high posts in NGOs, some social and religious institutions and political parties,” the writer joined those who vehemently opposed his surmise. However, the recent unprecedented hostility, especially initiated by above categories towards President’s move to execute a ‘selected’ few in the death row, arouses curiosity.
There was a clarion call for restoration of death penalty, in the immediate aftermath of 5-year-old Seya being raped and murdered a couple of years ago. Bring back Hangman; ‘kill the Killer’ was the then public outcry. In that instant President Sirisena, now a beleaguered man who is in search of a frail straw [to hang himself on to before being drowned in a few months] responded by announcing his intention to consult the views of legislators [occupants of den of thieves] before sanctioning the reintroduction of Hangman’s Noose.
An execution by hanging was first recorded in Homer’s Odyssey, the second-oldest extant work of Western literature composed at the end of 8th century BC, where Odysseus and Telemachus hanged 12 of their household maids. This gruesome act was dramatized in a scene in 1954 adventure film Ulysses based on Homer’s Odyssey by Italian director Camerini. The Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn starred movie illustrated the hanging of 12 maids [however, protests compelled the producers subsequently to delete the scene]
The hangman’s noose is a knot used in execution. The knot is typically placed just at the back of the left ear. The pull on the knot when the lever is dropped causes the jerk of the rope to wrench the cervical vertebrae [that protect the brain stem and the spinal cord] apart. This causes very rapid death. The position under the ear was intended for the knot to crush close the neck arteries, causing termination of brain circulation and instant. True the airway can be compressed and inhalation can be broken up, the real reason for loss of consciousness and death in hangings is pressing of the carotid arteries, blocking blood supply to the brain. In judicial hangings, fractures of the cervical vertebrae are common. The reason is that the condemned person drops a sufficient distance. Loss of consciousness happens very rapidly, usually in 20-60 seconds. The supply of blood to brain is interrupted, consciousness is lost swiftly. Death may take from 1 to 5 minutes.
Ending the lyrics of his song Guthrie wrote,
“…I don’t know who makes the law for that hang-knot. But the bones of many a man are whistling in the wind, Just because they tied their laws with a hang-knot.”
When it came to drug king-pins turn however, the “5-year-old Seya raped and murdered” perceptions has taken a U-turn. Such crimes against little kids are the most monstrous and of gruesome crimes. That would be a rationale for capital punishment because children are guiltless and innocent.
Sensitivity, Compassion, Empathy and Panathi-patha galore towards the criminals who distribute narcotics free to school children. The public response that continued to make a loud and clear noise in favour of the re-introduction of the Hangman two years before has been reversed. “I have already signed the papers and four of them will be executed soon,” the President told media heads a week ago.
"An execution by hanging was first recorded in Homer’s Odyssey, the second-oldest extant work of Western literature composed at the end of 8th century BC, where Odysseus and Telemachus hanged 12 of their household maids"
There are quite a few immoral men on both sides of the political divide; as Makandure Madush, according to a senior minister, [though, not very reliable], have revealed the names of [and will be made public sooner than later]; plus quite a few plunderers of state wealth who deserve public execution at a specially erected the hangman’s dais at the Galle Face Green. However, death penalty is inhuman, cruel and degrading. It is nothing but legalised murder and the President’s idea justifiably met with severe criticism.
‘We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.’ -- “Before They Are Hanged” by― Joe Abercrombie
The first precept is to abstain from destruction of life.- Dhammapada states
Everyone fears punishment; everyone fears death, just as you do. Therefore you do not kill or cause to be killed., “Him I call a Brahmin who has put aside weapons and renounced violence toward all creatures. He neither kills nor helps others to kill.” These are injunctions against supporting any legal measure which might lead to the death penalty. There is disagreement among Buddhists as to whether or not Buddhism forbids the death penalty.
This Sutta discusses the connection between criminal justice and social justice, especially the link between poverty and hostility. “Let no crime triumph in your kingdom, and to those who are in need, give property.” Like today’s street demonstrations, people gathered at the gates of King Pasenadi, demanding that Angulimala be apprehended. King meets the Buddha and clarify his task. Buddha responds: “if you see Angulimala now a good bhikhu, who does not kill, how would you treat him?”
The king responds that he would pay reverence to him as a good bhikhu, and the king was surprised when the Buddha points out Angulimala nearby; the Buddha was able to discipline Angulimala without force or weapons and bring peace. The significance of this story within the Buddhist convention highlights the only explanation Buddhism accepts for punishing a criminal: to help re-form his character.
"Every human being has a right to life, both the victim and the murderer. The death penalty is clearly in violation of the right to life and right to live"
Why should billionaire drug dealers be allowed to survive the rest of their lives in relative comfort, out of tax payers money? To continue to house and feed them for the remainder of their life who continue to direct drug dealing operations. It makes a mockery of justice; and justice can only be served by their lawful execution. But is there a justifiable selection process?
On the other hand, You cannot un-execute a innocent person. Miscarriages of justice, wrongful execution of an guiltless person takes it to the extremes. If someone is unfairly imprisoned they can at least be freed and even compensated by the state. If an innocent man is executed, it is irreversible; a pardon won’t be much comfort.
Most of us believe that removal of capital punishment has caused the murder rate to increase; our human beings do not behave in this peculiar way -- as if most of them are wandering about thinking of murdering someone because there is no threat of a death penalty. The truth is that man has in him a desire to kill under various circumstances [killer instinct]. But he has that instinctive checks upon that desire which may arise at times, through education, upbringing, position one holds in society, stands in the way of the anti-social desire.
The most appalling part of the capital punishment is, not the physical pain -- but the assured awareness that in a month, in a week, in an hour, then in minutes, then in a few seconds, then this very instant -- your heart and mind must renounce your body and that you no longer exists be a man -- and this is the truth.
Writer can be contacted at - [email protected]
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