Let’s see. About 45 years ago I was in 9th grade. We were bussed to a school called Mount Miguel, named after a nearby mountain called Mount Miguel because the high school I later went to had not been built yet. I have no idea who Miguel was or why they named a mountain after him. Coming from the south, we didn’t know anything about California’s Spanish heritage. For a long time we pronounced El Cajon like L Ca-John and La Jolla like La Jolly.
About that time I became upset by the death penalty maybe because of my own murderous inclinations towards my PU’s (or parental units, as my brothers and I call our mother and father). Also in the news then was this guy Ceryl Chessman; I must have read an article or something about him and how he had “reformed” in prison and written books and things like that. Of course, I didn’t know if he had reformed or not; he was probably still the creep he had always been.
But that didn’t make any difference. If the government was supposed to represent the people, then when the government executed somebody it was doing so as my representative, although I couldn’t vote, of course. And it just didn’t seem right to me that, if the government was my representative, that I should be implicated in the killing of somebody I didn’t know or really didn’t give a shit about. I mean not only was the government doing something I didn’t want it to do in my name, it was doing so in a very impersonal way.
I felt that if you were going to go about murdering somebody in that way that they should be allowed the dignity of it being personal. I figured the governor should come in and shoot the guy. How could a guy sit at his desk and know that somebody else was killing a guy that he could have saved? Or maybe they should hold a lottery and some average Joe could be picked to shoot the guy in the head. Or maybe one of the family members of one of the victims could do the job and afterwards they could jump up and down with joy, or whatever.
I think I started thinking about the impersonal stuff when I saw an episode of “The Defenders.” This had E.G. Marshall in it, who is now dead; and the guy who went on to be the father in the Brady Bunch—though I never watched that and may be wrong—who I think is also now dead. They did an episode on capital punishment and they showed you the whole business right down to the final moment. I mean the guy being executed did not have a chance at all. He couldn’t run; he couldn’t fight back; there was not a fucking thing he could do, but sit there while they strapped him down and maybe pee on himself out of fear. This was a human being and he was as helpless as a fucking dog.
So I got pretty scared because my PU’s really didn’t have positive expectations for me and my brothers. It seemed to me that mostly they were worried that we would end up in prison or as sexual perverts. So I guess I was thinking there but for the grace….
Hard to remember even that for a few years there in the 60’s capital punishment was illegal.