Their killer and ours

What’s the difference between Jack Kevorkian and Timothy McVeigh?

Simple. Our crackbrained government, the one the U.S. Supreme Court imposed on us, approves of mass murderer McVeigh’s decision to show suicide (his own) on television. On the other hand, Kevorkian is a bad man because he gave TV a videotape of himself helping a dying man who begged him to speed up the process.

And that makes perfect sense, if you are Attorney General John Ashcroft. He’s the twit who decided it was a good idea to grant McVeigh’s sick wish to have his May 16 execution shown on closed-circuit TV to all the survivors and relatives of the 169 victims whose lives he took with his fertilizer bomb in Oklahoma City six years ago this week.

How wonderful. McVeigh will even get to make “reasonably brief” final remarks, which likely will be carefully calculated to make himself a martyr, at least in the eyes of various militia members crouched down in the piney woods, deep in the incest belt.

For those of us who have mostly given up walking on all fours, however, it is about the most appalling decision I can remember. Conservatives like to bash liberals for encouraging what they call “immorality,” and moan that such decisions as those banning prayer in schools threaten the foundations of our culture, or Western civilization, even.

This is far worse. Those who have seen the movie Braveheart know that when the English caught Scottish rebel William Wallace back in 1305, they tortured and executed him in public before a cheering crowd that included little children. Watching people die was a popular sport for centuries, and sometimes admission was even charged.

Twenty years ago, we were rather proud that we had evolved beyond that. But Ashcroft has just taken the first giant step to re-establishing the public gallows. Yes, yes, I know the execution is supposed to be viewed “only” by 250 or so survivors. (An actual lottery will be held to determine the further lucky 10 who get to be in the very room.)

But odds are heavy that a bootleg video of his execution will be on the Web in a week, and T-shirts with his last words on sale in Royal Oak before that.

This was all, incidentally, the murderer’s own bright idea. McVeigh, who called the babies he blew up in their day care center “collateral damage,” wanted the execution nationally televised. Actually, this isn’t a normal execution at all, but in the words of this semi-shrewd psycho himself, a “state-assisted suicide.”

Months ago, he dropped all his appeals and clamored for execution. But why do we let him continue to play us? If we really wanted to punish this scum we’d do better to leave him in the People’s Institute of Anal Dilation for life, to let him think about what he did while eating slop, staring at the walls and fending off assassination attempts.

Yet if we really feel the need to execute him, why give him every opportunity to make himself a martyr? We used to know better. When the allies hung the top Nazis after the Nuremberg trials, they were executed in the dead of night, cremated, and had their ashes scattered secretly so that no one could make their location a shrine.

Now, we are actively creating a new martyr, a sullen punk whose real reason for blowing up the federal building was probably resentment that he wasn’t good enough for the Green Berets. So he gets to go peacefully to sleep on TV, a celebrity, and unless I am happily wrong, someday sooner or later — probably sooner — some other pimple-faced misfit will commit some atrocity to “avenge” Our Heroic Martyr, Timothy McVeigh.

God love this country.

Speaking of Kevorkian: When he went to prison two years ago, he vowed to starve himself to death and to keep performing assisted suicides and euthanasia if he were ever freed, even if, as he told me more than once, “they burn me at the stake for it.”

Two years in the slam later, he now promises that if he is released on bond, he will no longer help anyone die, no matter what, unless it is legalized.

Those who believe that the hopelessly suffering should have this option have every right to be annoyed at Kevorkian, who had made assisted suicide de facto legal before squandering all that he and Geoffrey Fieger had won with his publicity-seeking euthanasia.

That having been said, Kevo has been treated uncommonly harshly, and his appeals unfairly delayed, by the legal system. Unlike Tim McVeigh, he is not allowed to do on-camera interviews or dictate the terms of his punishment. But not only is he responsible for many fewer deaths, all of his patients or clients really wanted to die.

So why not release Kevorkian on an electronic tether and to the custody of his attorney or his close friend Ruth Holmes, whose family he lived with before he was jailed?

Then, if he breaks his word, throw him back in the slam for the full 25 years, and forget him forever. Sounds like a fair bargain to me.

George Did It! All false modesty aside, in the interest of fairness, I would like to point out that George W. Bush did exactly what I suggested last week. He apologized to the Chinese and got our spies back, undoubtedly after the editors faxed him an advance copy of this column telling him to do just that. Various readers have noted I incorrectly said our bumbling craft was an Air Force plane, when it was actually a Navy one.

Naturally, I knew that all along, but thought by putting it that way I could spare the Air Force from the need to create a public embarrassment of its own.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for the Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]
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