The Lethal Injection College Fund

Here's one billion dollars. Kill a few people, or help thousands?

Here's a modestly clever idea that will never come to pass in a thousand years because it's absolutely not the way modern life or America work right now, but it's nevertheless all sorts of delightfully ironic fun to ponder anyway.

I'm reading a bit about how our fine, God-loving nation just
executed John Allen Muhammad, aka the Washington D.C. sniper, injected
his remorseless flesh with a megadose of sodium pentothal as dozens of
people actually chose to sit behind a glass wall and watch him writhe
and twitch and die sans any final statement or single sign of penitence
or satisfying explanation as to his murderous actions.

If you like, you can read the story right now
on this fair site, and then jump to the bottom where you will certainly
find a reeking cesspool of some of the most nasty, disturbing anonymous
comments from fine, God-fearing Americans, and then proceed calmly to
feeling utterly soiled, disgusted and sad about the human race as a

Here's a better idea: Skip that, and instead check out the recent study
from the Death Penalty Information Center, which states that after all
court costs, fees and various social machinations are factored in, the
average death sentence costs each state that supports it about $30
million per inmate, running well into hundreds of millions in wasted taxpayer dollars every year.

I say "wasted" because the study proves that, even from a simple
economic perspective, the death penalty is ridiculous and culturally
debilitating, and the various states in question could save hundreds of
millions a year simply by locking the prisoner up for life.

To be honest, the first idea to occur to me wasn't even all
that clever. I initially wondered what would happen if you took, say,
30 of the nastiest, most hateful, eye-for-an-eye death penalty
supporters and anonymous commenters in America today, and made them the
following offer:

I will hereby give each of you $1 million if you agree that we will not
kill this insane, murderous criminal, and instead just let him rot in
prison for the rest of his life without a chance of parole. A million
bucks, all for you. Or, we kill him, waste the $30 million and you get

Do you know how many would accept? Of course you do. All of them.
Which means, for most, support of the death penalty is no serious moral
conviction at all; it's merely an ugly, black hunk of reactionary
spittle, the bleak human vengeance synapse writ large, something
reptilian and small and just about as far from our often hypocritical
concepts of God and forgiveness, compassion and understanding, as you
can possibly get.

Thankfully, this admittedly spiteful thought soon passed and
quickly led to the wider idea I mentioned at the top of this column. Do
you know what $30 million can buy these days? What your average
cash-strapped urban playground could do with that kind of money,
particularly during a recession?

Here's my simple and semi-obvious idea: what if Washington D.C.
had taken the same $30 million, and instead of killing a single
remorseless criminal, created upwards of 600 full-ride college
scholarships for lower-income or minority students, at 50 grand each.

In other words, for every criminal a given state is seeking to
execute -- like, for example, the Fort Hood killer, who they say might
well be eligible for the death penalty
-- we take the same tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and send
hundreds of kids through college instead, kids who otherwise would
never have been able to afford it and in fact might've ended up on the
streets or in prison.

We'll call it the Lethal Injection College Fund. It shall, by
its very existence, do nothing less than completely transform the ugly
American revenge impulse into something celebratory and optimistic. We
shall transmute a brutal crime into a glimmer of hope and possibility.
From dark to light. From excrement, flowers. From our most violent
nightmares, a hint of grace. What a thing.

In 2008, the United States executed about 30 males, all by
lethal injection, unless they lived in South Carolina, in which case it
was electrocution preceded by being forced to stare for two full weeks
at a poster of Lindsay Graham. Horrible.

That's nearly $1 billion in taxpayer money wasted last
year alone across the U.S. -- mostly in the South -- just to kill a few
criminals, just to keep alive a vile and primitive idea that's proven
to be not the slightest deterrent to violent crime, and only puts us on
par with some of the world's most cruel and sadistic third-world
nations. Theoretically, that's 18,000 kids we could've put through
college. One dead criminal, or 18,000 educated kids. What a choice.

Did you note the fascinating kicker regarding the Lethal
Injection College Fund? The amazing twist? Among those theoretical
18,000, it's a safe bet that, had it not been for the LICF, many
would've eventually wound up in prison themselves, a few probably on
death row. Translation: One violent criminal saves countless potential
future criminals from the same fate. There's a karmic lesson in there

Do not misunderstand. I am well aware of the utter absurdity of
this idea, not to mention that you could take the same simplistic
formula and apply it just about anywhere -- for example, say, flipping
the insane cost of a single U.S. military fighter jet (also about $30
million, ironically) into how many homeless puppies could be saved if
we used that money for shelters. I realize that the economy simply does
not work this way.

Unless it does. Because of course, the death penalty has a
special, particularly nasty tang. It is no weapon for peace. It is no
advancement of the human experiment. It only serves to devolve,
regress, keep us low and brutal and mean.

I would like to report that we are nearing the end of the
reactionary bloodlust phase of the American experiment, that, with the
Obama-inspired resurgence of positivism and the concomitant lessening
of the bogus, pseudo-cowboy American fantasy, the dark energy that
seems to welcome the death penalty is lessening, and it feels as if we
are about to join the rest of the civilized world in rejecting this
inhumane, animalistic practice.

But of course, I can't possibly say such a thing. We are
nowhere near that point. Not when 65 percent of Americans still support
the death penalty, bullets are sold out across the land, and millions
absolutely refuse to evolve past paranoia and fear and vengeance, the
ugliest of American cornerstones and the most clenched, spiritually
bereft aspects of our national identity.

And now, John Allen Muhammad is dead, and no one anywhere
feels the slightest bit better, not really, not if they're honest, not
if they truly look their god in the eye and try to justify this dark,
spirtually bereft human impulse. And, oh yes, 600 hypothetical kids
will now never go to college.

Oh well. It was all just a silly fantasy anyway.

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