Losing Our Heads

So a number of people have been posting links to news reports about the public beheading of a convicted child rapist / murderer in Saudi Arabia. The woman screamed she was innocent just before being executed.

Many of these people are outraged to one degree or another by this news.

I’m just trying to figure out what their outrage is aimed at.

Are they universally opposed to capital punishment?

Well, then we’re in agreement. I would hope we can convince all people, cultures, and governments to abolish capital punishment.[1]

Are they upset that the woman proclaimed her innocence to the very end?

We execute a lot of people here in the US who proclaim their innocence to the very end. I do not know enough about this case to have an opinion on whether or not the Saudi government adequately proved the woman had indeed sexually abused and murdered her step-daughter. I do know there’s ample precedence of step-parents abusing and murdering step-children here in the US, so barring proof there was a miscarriage of justice, I’m going to assume the Saudis know more about the facts of this case than I do.

Are they upset it was a woman that was executed?

Women are as fully capable of committing heinous acts as men, and we’ve executed women for such acts here in the US.

Does the manner of execution bother them?

Beheading is a pretty gruesome way to go, but it is swift and relatively merciful. Certainly swifter and more merciful than repeatedly jabbing a condemned prisoner for 30 minutes in a futile attempt to find a suitable vein for lethal injection, followed by several minutes gasping for breath, fully aware one is dying.[2]

Does the fact that it was a public execution bother them?

The last public execution[3] in the US was in 1936, the last public guillotining in France was in 1939. Photographic evidence indicates public executions in France and Saudi Arabia are comparatively sparsely attended as opposed to the jam-packed spectacles the US used to conduct. Now, if the argument is that public executions are a shameful thing and shouldn’t be conducted, we need to ask why that is so: Because they are unjust? Because they offend our delicate sensibilities? Or because they force us to face the facts about what we are doing to people in the name of justice?

Does it bother them that the execution was carried out by brown skinned non-Christians who aren’t big fans of the US of A?

Well, we had no problem with the French lopping the heads off people up to 1977, and here in America we had more than one death by hanging turn into death by decapitation. It is their land, their culture, their government; if they feel they are justified in what they are doing, how can we stop them? Put pressure on them to change their behavior?

Okay, fine, let’s say we do that. Exactly what kind of behavior are we attempting to change? Killing people, or killing them in public? Do we want the means of execution shifted to something we feel more comfortable with?[4]

We don’t hear a lot of outrage about Asian nations executing prisoners by hangings or firing squads.[5]

Most of the world has abolished the death penalty for common crimes, and many nations for all crimes. The biggest proponents of the death penalty remain Far East Asia, the Middle East, and the horn of Africa.

capital punishment map

I have to ask, is this what fuels the outrage of some? Not that criminals are being executed, but that they’re being executed by people who are…well, let’s put this delicately by using the phrase coined by the late Peter Bergman…not-us ?




[1] I think all forms of “punishment” are futile, which, as I have noted elsewhere, is not the same as saying people should not be held responsible and accountable for their actions. By all means, take driving privileges away from drunk and reckless drivers, have people who have committed minor offenses pay some restitution in the form of community service or a fine, imprison dangerous and violent criminals so they will not be able to harm citizens during the time they are behind bars, but never ever “punish” because all punishment amounts to is eye-for-an-eye retribution to try to make the offender feel bad for what they have done. They never feel bad; they feel victimized and refuse to accept responsibility.

[2] And, yes, the vast majority of executed prisoners did far worse to their victims. The state is supposed to be above petty revenge and retribution and more about justice. By all accounts it took at least two blows to sever the head of the woman in Saudi Arabia, but the first blow was fatal and severed her spinal chord, so death was probably as instantaneous as that by guillotine. Not to make light of capital punishment, but if the objective is to kill someone as swiftly and as mercifully as possible, the electric chair is the way to go; it makes an awful mess and stench, but it kills the prisoner pretty much instantaneously. That’s the problem with killing people: The swift and merciful ways are messy, the clean ways are slow and agonizing (either physically and / or psychologically).

[3] Rather the last legal public execution…

[4] That’s pretty presumptive of us, isn’t it? How would we feel if they tried to tell us how to dress?

[5] Rather, we don’t hear a lot of outrage about our trade partners executing people by hangings and firing squads; we’ll red ass North Korea all day long.





Fictoid: the sniper’s lament