by Jan Baughman
(Swans - May 5, 2014) A few years ago, we published an article about the American culture of life, which is about everything but life, with its school violence, lack of support for our troops, and anti-abortion "pro-life" crusade. It's been another hypocritical week in that same culture, with the horrific execution of Clayton Lockett; the ongoing, relentless attack on abortion in Mississippi; and the continued attacks on the growing ranks of the poor.
The U.S. thought it had found a way to make the death penalty more palatable, utilizing lethal injection and simply putting the condemned to sleep like a euthanized dog. One drug for sedation, one for paralysis to stop breathing, and one to stop the heart. It sounds peaceful and humane (even good enough for assisted suicide, but we can't allow that...), except when something goes wrong. Death-row inmate Clayton Lockett's turn came up, but some time into the process his vein collapsed and the drugs did not do their peaceful, humane work; rather, Lockett appeared conscious, writhed, and groaned until the curtains were drawn on the spectators and 43 minutes later he was pronounced dead from a massive heart attack. Some feel he got what he deserved; still, the Eight Amendment to the Constitution deems that cruel and unusual punishment shall not be inflicted.
As the drugs used for lethal injection have become more difficult to obtain due to pressure on manufacturers and the refusal of some countries to export them to America for such use, states are in a quandary (and indeed, executions are being delayed). Missouri is considering a return to firing squads (cheap and effective, or "humane yet most economical," as one of its legislators put it). Some still use the gas chamber; others allow hanging as an option, and even electrocution in some cases. What would you chose? Perhaps the Food and Drug Administration will broaden the use of Euthasol, currently approved for euthanasia of dogs only, not for humans. According to its manufacturer, "Euthasol (pentobarbital sodium and phenytoin sodium) contains two active ingredients which are chemically compatible but pharmacologically different. Each ingredient acts in such a manner so as to cause humane, painless, and rapid euthanasia." Euthanasia? Euphemism.
As for Mississippi, the state has one remaining abortion clinic, the 20-year-old Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic. A 2012 state law required that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and thirteen local hospitals have refused to get involved. The law is under appeal but is unlikely to be revoked, which would make Mississippi the first state since Roe v. Wade without a single clinic offering safe, legal abortion care.
And finally to the poor, who by all accounts are being forced to stay that way. Republican Senators blocked Democrats' efforts to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25 (the increase would have been required to take effect by 2016, thus still being an improvement but woefully behind...). Perhaps Republicans were emboldened by the US Census report released this week that revealed a drop in the rate of people living near poverty, down from 6.3% in 1966 to 4.3% in 2012. Unfortunately, that drop did not see people lifted further away from poverty; rather, they moved officially into it. According to the report, which can be accessed at http://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p60-248.pdf, "In 2012, the official poverty rate was 15.0 percent, and 46.5 million people lived in poverty. At the same time, the near-poverty rate was 4.7 percent, and 14.7 million people lived in near poverty." That's 61.2 million people at or near the poverty level in this country, and we can't raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour out of baseless ideology about the poor, and fear it will hurt businesses' bottom lines.
Yes, it was just another routine week in the culture of life. A botched execution here, an attack on abortion there, and 61 million of us who can't do a thing about any of it.
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