Thursday, January 11, 2007

Flying as a Flag

I didn't see any of the images. I guess in the UK, the tabloids put the pictures on the front page -- neck broken, eyes open, head dangling. Gee, there's something to enjoy your morning coffee over. (Who are these people who buy this trash anyway??)

But despite the media foaming at the mouth at the chance to show off something really grizzly, something fundamental changed in the world with the Hussein hanging. Have pro-capital-punishment governments realized that, I wonder? The newspapers sure did.

Civilized people have now witnessed an execution. They now know what an execution is. Governments can't whitewash it anymore. End point.

Here is what else people have learned from the Hussein hanging (if they didn't know it already):

1. Executions in real life are sick. The whole spectacle of deliberately causing death in the name of the law is enough to send anyone rushing to the loo. There's nothing dignified or stately or honourable about it: it's just sick.

2. Executions are not about justice. The jeering and taunting of Saddam Hussein in the seconds before his head was ripped off revealed the truth: executions are about revenge. We judge, we take revenge. "Judge not," Jesus said. "Vengeance is mine," the old testament says. We do it anyway and call it justice. One problem with revenge: it bounces.

3. Executions don't solve problems. They don't kill crime or violence. The crime and violence are still out there in the unhappy world after the body hangs. In Iraq, violence and injustice rage on. Revenge piles upon revenge. Hussein's death is just one more for the pile. It solved nothing.

5. The self-expression/communication revolution -- cheap camera devices + internet connection -- means the end of the government official line. The prim and tidy Iraqi government television version of the lead-up to the execution was utterly destroyed by the shaky, hand-held phone-camera version. One was whitewashing, self-righteous; the other was stark, cruel, and dishonorable. One was lies; the other was truth.

6. People are angry. If someone hadn't recorded the real execution with a cell-phone camera, then the world would not have known the truth.

7. Cell-phone cameras should be permitted at US state executions. The population would only need to see one execution. One. One bit of truth. Then it would all be over.

Mary Dyer hanged as a flag for others to take example by, and her flag was liberty. Perhaps that's too generous to say about Saddam Hussein. But he hanged as a flag, and his flag was truth.


At 1:05 PM, Blogger Johan Maurer said...

Thank you, Nancy. I feel a little less alone for being publicly thankful for that "illicit" video.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Liz Opp said...


I had grown weary of the news coming out of Iraq and so had become... dulled... or maybe lulled into not caring anymore by the time Hussein's execution came around.

Your post has helped lift the veil that had fallen over me of late. Thanks for being bold enough to write about this.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up


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