A periodic reminder


It’s that season.

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!”
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”
MY POINT EXACTLY.”

― Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING. It’s all getting hard to believe, isn’t it?

Death row inmate Brandon Bernard has been executed in Indiana after last-minute clemency pleas were rejected by the US Supreme Court.

Bernard, 40, was convicted of murder in 1999 when he was a teenager, and is the youngest offender to be executed by the federal government in nearly 70 years.

Bernard told the family of the couple he killed he was sorry, before dying by lethal injection on Thursday.

Four more executions are planned before the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.

This administration is rushing to murder as many people as they can before a new administration, that might be slightly more reluctant to murder people (only slightly!), comes to power. It’s very strange. Who are these people who are so eager to kill before someone can tell them “NO!”?

JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING. Interesting fictions.

Comments

  1. Bruce says

    From the old book nobody takes seriously except when they want to, it says:
    Vengeance is Mine, sayeth the Lord.
    But to too many literalists, it seems to say:
    Vengeance is Thine, sayeth the lord to the Horde.
    It might be more honest for it to say:
    Some of us feels that Vengeance is Fine or Fun, sayeth the Horde to itself.
    I am starting to question the unquestionable authority of this one true literary fiction, which can’t make up it’s mind as to in which way “Thou shalt not kill” must be taken absolutely literally.
    Now excuse me, I have a house to go cure of leprosy or dandruf, and I guess I have a pregnant wife whom I have to force to take a chemical abortifacent, because Numbers 5 cannot be questioned either. I’ll see everyone at the Red Lobster picketing.

  2. raven says

    It’s very strange. Who are these people who are so eager to kill before someone can tell them “NO!”?

    These are rhetorical questions.
    It’s not strange and PZ Myers knows this.
    We also know who those people are, the GOP and the fundie xians.

    The cruelty is the whole point and the only point!!!
    These are after all, the people who created and run concentration camps for children along our southern border.

    It’s simply a demonstration of power.
    Nothing says “we have power” like killing a few people out in public for no real reason other than you can.

  3. raven says

    Above all things the fundie xians want power and money, which are interchangeable.
    Which makes sense.
    Their Sky Monster gods probably don’t exist but power and money do exist, are highly sought after, and quite useful.

    It’s almost certain Roe versus Wade will be overturned.
    The fundies have been working for that since it was decided in 1973.
    Then what?

    If a zygote or fetus is a person, then abortion is first degree murder.
    It won’t take long for the Red states to make doing or getting an abortion felony murder, with life sentences and/or the death penalty.
    They’ve already introduced bills in their legislature to do exactly that.

    We will be able to watch some young women, who will almost certainly be nonwhite, being tried and sentenced for the crime of murder by abortion.
    Because cruelty is the whole point.
    Nothing says power like being able to sentence women to life in prison or death.
    It’s just like the good old days when the xians had real poltical power.
    That era was known as the Dark Ages.

  4. raven says

    Death Penalty For Abortions Would Be Good Deterrent For Women, Says Republican Candidate in Idaho
    BY HARRIET SINCLAIR ON 4/4/18 AT 7:22 AM EDT Newsweek

    Women who end pregnancies should potentially face the death penalty, according to a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Idaho.

    Three-term state senator Bob Nonini suggested there should be some penalty for those who had abortions if the procedure became criminalized in the state

    When Roe versus Wade is overturned, there will be a race among the Red states to see which ones can criminalize abortions and arrest a few or a few hundred thousand women.

    The fundie xians can’t wait to fill up death row with women.
    Because the cruelty is the point and it’s all about power and money.

  5. jenorafeuer says

    @raven:

    It’s almost certain Roe versus Wade will be overturned.
    The fundies have been working for that since it was decided in 1973.

    That last line isn’t actually true, at least not based on what Fred Clark over at Slacktivist has written, and he lays out a good case.

    Back when Roe v Wade was decided, the fundie evangelical attitude was pretty much ‘abortion is unfortunate, but no more than that’. Abortion was considered a Catholic issue, and good Protestants didn’t care about it so much. There were even books written by some of the leading thinkers in the movement at the time that said as much.

    Those books have since been rewritten. (Clark even mentions a specific book where part of the introduction has been removed since it was originally written in order to fit the new narrative.)

    No, the real driving court case behind the creation of the modern Religious Right wasn’t Roe v Wade, it was Bob Jones University v United States, almost ten years later, in which BJU was told that their blatantly insufficient attempts at integration weren’t enough, and that they had to either do it properly or go fully private. So it was really all about racism.

    Thing is, at the time, they couldn’t just come out and say it was all about racism, so abortion was brought up as a misdirection. Tell people they wanted to overturn abortion law, get them riled up to vote so the Republican party could appoint more conservative judges, and gee, isn’t it strange that the conservative court gutted the stronger parts of the Voting Rights Act before they did anything about Roe v Wade… innocent whistling

    Now, that said, in the couple of generations since then, the people who knew that abortion was originally a misdirection away from the real issue have been replaced by those growing up believing it always was the real issue.

  6. PaulBC says

    @7 I grew up with the 20th century Catholic understanding that “life begins at conception” but I have no idea what other Christian faiths held, and your explanation is certainly believable. It was still possible to debate the morality of abortion at a Catholic prep school in the late 70s (and not everything is debatable: adultery or blasphemy violate specific commandments for unambiguous reasons). I imagine that given self-selection of Catholics that abortion is now less subject to debate.

    James Watson’s professed view allowing infanticide was sometimes trotted out for shock value, I guess to suggest some kind of slippery slope. (In fact, infanticide has been common in history and I can well understand it given limited resources. Life has been very hard for many people at many times.)

    Traditionally, I am pretty sure that quickening was the most significant point, or at least a popular point at which to confer protection of human life. The notion of conception as the creation of zygote was not even known for nearly all of human existence. So many embryos self-abort, that heaven (or maybe limbo) would have to have an extra wing for the siblings you didn’t know you had. Do people believe this? I mean does anyone literally find such a situation remotely plausible? (Yes, but probably not many.)

    It always astounds me when people abuse “science” to make their dogmatic view of morality even stricter than the common sense of their peasant forbears would have it.

    And as is clear to any observer, when we can bomb indiscriminately, send people to death row on flimsy evidence, let a disease run rampant “because business” then whatever this is about, it is not about “life.” It is certainly about control. If you came up with a 100% effective contraceptive and some way to get everyone to use it, the same Christian zealots would have some new objection.

  7. says

    Beyond the hypocrisy, it’s almost as if the GOP is becoming a death cult that worships blood shed for no other reason than death and violence. Trump is trying to squeeze in as many executions as possible before inauguration day but why is he doing it? His base want’s to see death. They think that capital punishment equals tough on crime. It doesn’t. Worse still, he already lost the election. What’s he campaigning for. Why is he pushing for these executions without review? What does he have to gain from this?

  8. brightmoon says

    So far there have been 9 federal executions duringTrump’s watch . Most this year and there are 4 more coming up before Biden takes the office . What did we expect ? It’s well known that Trump is a sadist . There had been a sort of moratorium on federal executions. NYS hasn’t had a death penalty in a while . Until fairly recently the crime rate had been going way down . NYC just doesn’t live up to its fake reputation of Sin City

  9. christoph says

    I googled Terry Pratchett and found three really good quotes:

    Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.
    The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head.
    In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.

  10. Jado says

    Cameron Todd Willingham.

    Assholes will execute anyone they can for any bogus reason they find BECAUSE THEY CAN. Innocent or guilty, devil or angel, the BLOODLUST must be SLAKED.

    And if it means that someone might review what they did and call them out on their bullshit, they will execute the victim toot-sweet to avoid any embarrassing questions of intelligence, logic, competence or even simple human empathy.

    Which is why they want to bring back the firing squad. Gotta make it as brutal as possible, or else it’s just methadone-light-type execution. Gotta be that ketamine pop-skull-type execution, or it’s not worth it.

  11. John Morales says

    JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

    That sort of thing is why the Inquisition and the Nazis did what they did.

    Worst thing about self-righteous people, you can’t talk them out of their fantasy.

    “Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

    I’ve never understood this supposed worry.
    Whether or not there is a point (there’s that teleological thinking again!) is an irrelevance, things are what they are. Nothing changes in either case.

    I pity those who feel a need for some ‘purpose’. Such needless, pointless angst!

  12. PaulBC says

    @15

    That sort of thing is why the Inquisition and the Nazis did what they did.

    Worst thing about self-righteous people, you can’t talk them out of their fantasy.

    “You can’t Torquemada anything!”

  13. rrutis1 says

    Is the rush to executions really a surprise given all the care Trump and the other rescumlicans have given to the nearly 300,000 dead from Covid 19…just this year. It is clear that nothing will ever slake their thirst for blood, no moral argument, no economic cost, not even the bible they hold up to ward off us non believers.

    This is why I am slowly but surely cutting these people out of my personal life…they are bad for my health.

  14. vucodlak says

    @ John Morales, #15
    Oh yeah, big believers in mercy, the Nazis. Yugely merciful. /s

    A near universal quality of people like the Nazis, the Inquisition, and the current batch of fools running the US is that they spit on the concept of mercy. They despise it, decry it as a weakness. Some misapply the term to refer to the favoritism they show those in their in-group, but it’s not mercy if you’d never offer it to those you hate.

    Without mercy, there can be no justice. Justice without the possibility of mercy is mere tyranny.

    So no, Nazis and the Inquisition possessed neither mercy nor justice. They didn’t care about either quality. Duty, perhaps, but that seems especially hollow without the other two. Slavish traditionalism, a fanatical devotion to some fictional “purity,” a yearning for an exclusive and unattainable perfection, a rejection of compassion- these are the things that give rise to their kind.

  15. John Morales says

    vucodlak:

    So no, Nazis and the Inquisition possessed neither mercy nor justice.

    A twisted version of it serves as rationalisation:
    Purify the body politic, torment the body to save the soul.

    They portray themselves as the righteous ones; adherents lap it up, comply, condone.

  16. Anton Mates says

    THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY.

    I’ve always found this the most annoying Pratchett quote. There are plenty of generally-agreed-to-be-objective entities that wouldn’t survive a grind-and-sieve, because they’re too large and complex for that. You can’t show me an atom of water or a molecule of rabbit either, but water and rabbits still exist. Justice and mercy could be emergent properties of these larger systems, such as multi-person societies.

    I’m partial to moral fictionalism and error theory myself, but this is a terrible argument for them.

  17. PaulBC says

    @21 I agree that justice and mercy are the first casualties of any process that involves grinding the universe into fine particles.

    On the other hand, a universe in which Death is personified probably works differently. It could include the existence of souls and maybe even an élan vital. So it’s possible that other abstracts exist as fluids rather than emergent properties.

  18. leerudolph says

    PaulBC@22: “So it’s possible that other abstracts exist as fluids rather than emergent properties.”

    Aren’t states of matter (or of whatever “fluids” refers to here) themselves “emergent properties” of whatever “matter” may be? (That’s an honest question, not merely a rhetorical one.)

  19. PaulBC says

    leerudolph@23 I mean “fluid” in a preatomic model, including substances like phlogiston or for that matter water. Fluids were certainly not understood to be emergent properties of atoms until very recently. How do I know what goes on in a universe in which Death is personified.

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