Timothy McVeigh was executed yesterday. The coverage has been, as all coverage of a big story is these days, non-stop and over the top. Every conceivable angle has been covered extensively, anyone who can spell Oklahoma City has been interviewed, and all I have to add is my own ambivalence about the death penalty.
I continue to wrestle with the topic, but despite my best efforts, I just can't pin it down. The principles war without a victor. The wrongess of taking a human life except in self defense butts head with the importance of not just punishing wrong deeds, but making the punishment fit the crime. And there are murders that are so wrong they require a maximum response - death in return. Does an execution lower us to the same level as a killer? We don't think that when we send kidnappers to jail, which is pretty much equivalent to what they did. Two wrongs don't make a right, but nobody goes on to say therefore we shouldn't punish any crime. And while an execution in no way restores the victim, nobody uses the same logic when it comes to those who commit rape or child molestation. Yet how is it right for the State to kill but not an individual?
My emotions war too. Mercy fights with Vengance. My sense of justice fights with itself. People who's intellect and morals I admire take differents sides. So even in McVeigh's case, a case devoid of ambiguity, a case were even some who oppose the death penalty supported his execution, I still can't make up my mind. I feel both that it was wrong, and yet that it was appropriate at the same time. Fundamentally, there is no human repair when someone choses to kill with malice aforethought, and while there is no way to make us all whole again, we can't just give up and not try.
I'm going to the gym again. And once again my workout clothes have shrunk. They must do that when they sit unused in the closet. I was forced to go out and buy new ones to maintain my dignity as well as my circulation. While bursting a shirt with your bicep is impressive, doing it with your gut lacks a certain something.
Not much has changed during my latest abscence -- people who are about to spend hours on the stairmaster so that they can have a butt so firm and toned a croquet ball will bounce a a foot into the air off of it still fight to park 2 spaces closer to the door. Passing downwind of certain people (overwhelmingly male) can result in a dislocated nose, a permanent case of nausea, and an appreciation of the poverty of meaning in the word "stink". Well, one thing has changed. I no longer spend three hours at the gym as I did when I was twenty five: half an hour and I'm out of there. The worse shape you are in, the less the effort to make any improvement.
I write this as we hold a garage sale. Our whole neighborhood is having one today. For the Murphy Family®, it's a chance to have somebody pay us to haul off things we would otherwise throw away. The customers seem to come in three groups. First, the mothers (or grandparents) out looking for kidstuff. These are our target market. Second, the older couples who do this more for entertainment. We rarely make a sale to them. And lastly, the pros. The people who make a living off buying junk and reselling it. We make our big money off them, even if only one visits. One came by today and bought a cheval mirror, a chest, a beach towel, a computerized spelling toy, and a bag of hamster bedding (left over from Snowball's untimely demise). He parked his truck, bounded up the drive, looked around, and announced what he'd be buying. He peeled twenties off a thick roll to pay, hefted the heavy furniture with ease, and was gone as fast as he came.
The people that give me heartburn are the ones who show up and want to haggle. "If I buy eight of these 25¢ books, can I only pay a dollar fifty?" It is simply beneath my dignity to quible over 50 cents, and besides, it's all trash anyway. Someday I'll use my favorite Pakistani haggling comeback, "You cut my head off," but not today. The worst was the lady who showed up in the late model minivan and asked for the price on Erin's beat up old bike we were originally gifted by neighbors. When I told her it was free for the asking, she had me blow up the front tire to show it was still good. Then her kid got a couple of toys out of the free bin (mostly old happy meal toys). Lastly, her eyes fell on Erin's old Winnie-the-Pooh comforter. The price tag was missing (as it was on there earlier in the day, I half way suspect she took it off herself hoping I'd give it away like the bike.) I said I could let her have it for five bucks. She countered with three since it was "well loved". I didn't say it was originally eighty bucks you cheap broad, I said sure. I found that my dignity easily covered two bucks. When she struggled with the bike and comforter, I carried the bike down and loaded it into the back of her van for her. And why not, by my reckoning I was still up three whole dollars on the deal.
HGTV has a show called Dreamhouse. (Yes, I watch HGTV. Want to make somthing of it, bub?) They should call it Nightmare on Elm Street instead. They profile the building of a person or couple's dream house over many (many) episodes. Most of the stories we've followed so far have ended in disaster, and those that didn't weren't pleasant along the way. Often the owners, after all the agony of building the house -- and believe me this show really delves into the agony -- had to sell the house within months of building it. The latest one looks like they are heading for a divorce. It's a great antidote to those home improvement shows with Bob and Norm and Pat that make it all look so easy and cheap. Spouses, have your significant other watch this show (even if you have to force them) the next time he or she starts talking about a home improvement, adding on, or building a new one. All I ask is 10% of savings you reap when you don't get sucked into the money pit.
Thank you sir, and could I have another please?
Take me back to The Murphy NexusTM, please. I've had enough of this.
This page last updated 12 June 2001.
© Contents copyright Kevin Murphy 2001. All rights reserved.