I haven’t posted in ages. Busy battling COVID fatigue, publishing a new collection of poetry—Little Palace of Illness, revising my third JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventure, Nothing Comes After Z (slated to publish in early summer), raking our eucalyptus forest and working on Saints and Skeletons, a memoir of my years in Mexico. In between all that, I try to keep up with the outrages of climate change, racial injustice, and American politics and policy. I don’t usually comment publicly about this stuff, but this news bite I read this afternoon on the Huffington Post slays me:
SOUTH CAROLINA ADDS FIRING SQUAD TO EXECUTION METHODS The South Carolina House voted to add a firing squad to the state’s execution methods amid a lack of lethal-injection drugs — a measure meant to jump-start executions in a state that once had one of the busiest death chambers in the nation. Condemned inmates will have to choose either being shot or electrocuted if lethal injection drugs aren’t available. [AP]
Firing squads as we know them began with the invention of gunpowder and firearms and became the standard method of execution for militaries across the centuries. Although guns are more lethal than ever before, in the 21st century firing squads are out of fashion. Many countries have banned them, and the countries where firing squads are still legal are slowly abandoning them as a form of execution— except ours.
Typically, death by firing squad is a military form of execution, the go-to method of dispatching soldiers. Using a firing squad makes punishment a communal event. The offender is killed by his or her peers, using weapons the soldiers all use in combat, reinforcing the community over the individual offender.
In the US only four states, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah, and newly voted in—South Carolina use firing squads, although Wyoming and Missouri are open to using firing squads as well. It’s cheaper and more effective for the sate. In most other US states, execution by firing squad is considered “cruel and unusual punishment” and therefore in opposition to the 8th amendment.
My mental image of a firing squad is of the blindfolded captive tied to a stake with a row of uniformed agents of a fascist state taking aim. . .or men, women, and children lined up in front of a ditch. . . or rival gang members slumped against a blood stained wall. A firing squad is the act of barbarians, megalomaniacs, power mongers, not the act of a civilized state. This is one more indication the US lacks civility.
“Nobody can do it like me. Nobody. Nobody can do it like me, honestly.” “Nobody is stronger than me.” “It’s all because of me.” “I know words. I have the best words.” “Our country is being run by incompetent people.””I’m not changing. I went to the best schools, I’m, like, a very smart person. I’m going to represent our country with dignity and very well. I don’t want to change my personality — it got me here”
“The only people brave enough to vote out this corrupt establishment is you, the American people.”
I’ve carefully followed both sides of the Sebastopol Inn Homeless issue in the news and on Nextdoor, and I have come to the conclusion that the Sebastopol Inn would not be an appropriate site for a homeless shelter.
First, we have no guarantees regarding who it will house. Currently it is projected to be for those 65 and older or with health issues, but that may change.
Second, oversight or management seems sorely lacking and without that, this appears to be a house of cards waiting to crumble.
Third, Sebastopol does not have the infrastructure to handle the needs of those with severe health or mental concerns.
Fourth, the current owners have a history of bad business management for which they should not be rewarded. This looks more and more like a bailout than a business deal.
That said, I must now take exception with the bashing and demonizing of our homeless population by some posters on Nextdoor—not all, so hold your outrage!
Opioid addiction is an epidemic in America. The Sackler Family who owns Perdue Pharmaceuticals was just fined a record $8 Billion for flooding the streets with their drug, Fentanyl. No one plead guilty, no one was arrested or did jail time. Their multi-billion dollar family fortune is still intact and they continue to enjoy their lives while too many families in this country mourn their dead or deal with the heart breaking consequences of addiction.
But you deal a joint on the corner and you do 20 years.
“Well, that was the choice those junkies made,” many here have said.
But I have a friend from the mountains of Kentucky. His family, like most there, goes back to the founding of the US. He told me there are so many dying every day from Fentanyl, that the mortuaries are beyond capacity and use grocery store freezers for the bodies. This is Middle America, conservative, tough, religious, hard-working and independent. Those people didn’t wake up one morning and decide to become immoral, degenerate addicts. So why have so many small towns just like his, whether in Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, or Ohio met this fate?
The answer is the one that no one in the opposition wants to discuss: ECONOMICS.
And no—before I’m accused of wearing rose colored glasses again—it doesn’t cover every individual we see on the streets today, or absolve many from their poor choices. But the system is designed to move the bulk of the nation’s wealth from the bottom to the top and that consolidation has a profound effect on the 99%.
The abyss between the haves and the have nots is greater than even in the Robber Baron age of Morgan, Rockefeller, Astor and Vanderbilt. Millions of jobs have been lost to cheap labor in Asia. Real wages adjusted for inflation have not risen since the mid-70s. A recession every 8-10 years, as regular as clockwork, has cost many millions of homes to be taken by the banks and the result of all these foreclosures is another epidemic—one of homelessness. Nothing like a little recession to speed up land redistribution, because as one of those Robber Barons said, “When a man doesn’t have a home, he doesn’t have anything to fight for.” And without an address, you can’t vote.
When a person loses their job and their home, their dignity and pride often are taken as well. Studies have proven the generational impact of poverty and dislocation on the human psyche, and the effects are profoundly destructive. During the Great Depression we saw a spike in alcoholism as people sought to blunt the pain of a world they did not create. Today it’s drugs. And just as with those folks in Kentucky, I doubt any of the street people we see said, “Boy, I can’t wait to grow up to become addicted to Fentanyl and live in a box.”
So, whatever your position on the current solutions being offered, I for one, would appreciate a more humane and compassionate view of the people involved, because they are people. And to those who’ve posted some of the most disparaging remarks, remember: standing on the shoulders of the less fortunate to make yourself look taller isn’t advancing the discussion in any positive way.
Tossing ideas around on where to house them, or even treating their addiction, is a losing sum proposition because next year, next month, next week, there will be another generation of lost and damned UNLESS the cycle itself is broken!
And to the most vocal here—and your continued unwillingness to address the root economic causes of homelessness, while avoiding the REAL societal reform needed to truly fix it—I have to ask, “Why?”
America has not always been this way. It doesn’t need to remain this way. But the cure will require a real reallocation of our resources, as other nations have managed. We can’t just a rearrange the deck chairs as another generation of American hope sinks beneath the weight of an economy stacked against it. Are any of you up to it?
Mark Pavlichek majored in journalism, creative writing and critique at U.C. Berkeley where he was selected to study with Pulitzer winner M. Scott Momaday, and PBS’ “Critic At Large,” David Littlejohn. He is the principal in West County Productions, a PR firm that created the Nature Conservancy’s first national campaign, Gift’s Of The Land; a cross-marketing partnership featuring endangered species that generated nearly $1 million in sales and international press. And he is a founding partner in JAM Manuscript Consulting–A Full Service Editorial Team.