Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls
Execution With a Garrote
The Hangman's Noose
Lady Justice With Scale, Sword
No man is an island, entire of itself ... Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. -- John Donne
It's great to be alive, to breathe fresh air, to hear the robins sing and see the rising sun, to be free, to be part of mankind.
Life, despite its trials and tribulations, is joyous; but it also is ethereal, evaporating, sooner or later, into, for the faithful, the heavens.
We Are Not Alone
Each of us lives his own life, but we are not alone. Ultimately, we must take responsibility for our own lives, for how we conduct ourselves in our short sojourn -- for the good and the bad. And each according to his belief, we must one day answer for our actions.
But, being human, we -- all of us -- are governed by what is commonly called "human nature."
When we hit a homerun with the bases loaded, get straight A's in school, make a killing in the stock market, complete a difficult painting or produce an A-one product on the job it's human nature that we feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. When we give a few dollars to the Salvation Army, or to other worthwhile charities, our hearts feel the warmth transmitted by the unknown beneficiaries of our largess.
Basking in Reflected Glory
If a friend or someone in the family hits the million-dollar Lotto, or wins a golf tournament or lands a job as chairman of General Motors, we bask in reflected glory. We didn't do anything, but, nevertheless, we feel good about it; our lives are somehow more meaningful, our spirits are somehow uplifted.
We reflect not only on the accomplishments of ourselves and our contemporaries, but even on those of our forefathers. Somehow we, as humans, are better, have greater intrinsic value, because people like Socrates, da Vinci, Einstein, Washington and Lincoln preceded us. Their lives are intrinsically intertwined with ours; our lives would not be the same had they not lived.
At 12:04 a.m. Tuesday the state of Washington snuffed out the life of Westley Allen Dodd. Dodd, a confessed, convicted child killer, was hanged.
He Chose the Gallows
Under Washington state law, Dodd was given a choice of death by lethal injection or death by hanging; he chose the gallows.
As one observer stated following the execution, Dodd's death will not end murder, rape or mayhem; his hanging will have little effect on such heinous crimes.
Although Dodd opted for hanging -- indeed insisted upon it and demanded that there be no appeals, no stays of execution -- it was not his wishes but those of society that were carried out Tuesday; the preferences of a convicted killer, unless condoned by society, are of little effect.
Reporter Expresses 'Surprise'
The journalist who witnessed Dodd's last moments and reported on them said he thought the execution would be "gruesome," but observed, "the quick and clinical way the state put to death child-killer Westley Allen Dodd today surprised me."
He obviously tried to be objective and detached, as any good reporter would.
But, as a human being, he could not but end his story with the stark, but telling declarative sentence:
". . . When I got back to my motel room,I threw up."
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaperof Norwalk, Conn., on Jan. 9, 1993. Little has changed since then.