Lamentations: On Carl Buntion & Oscar Smith
Lamentations is a series of short reflections derived from a reoccurring conversation that takes place before every scheduled execution in the United States between prominent abolitionists Death Penalty Action Executive Director Abraham Bonowitz and Convener of Clergy United Against the Death Penalty The Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood.
Death row is quickly becoming a nursing home. Don’t believe it? Think about the two guys who are facing execution today. Carl Buntion is 78. Oscar Smith is 72. Both are in terrible health. Both need help to complete many basic tasks. Both are going to require significant assistance to even get to the execution chamber…let alone up on the gurney. So, who picks up the slack? State workers of course.
You go in to make sure that your patient is cleaned up. You go in to check the vital signs of your patient. You go in to feed your patient. You go in to help your patient into their wheelchair. You work hard to keep your patient calm. You steady your patient so that they don’t fall. You encourage your patient to keep them moving. You use all your strength to lift your patient. You create a line to run fluids into your patient’s veins. You do all that you can to help your patient…be executed?!?!
Be they doctors, nurses or any sort of technician…we can’t imagine that any state worker did all that schooling for the opportunity to kill old people. Surely there is freedom from all this madness? Yep, we can stop killing people…we can stop creating new classes of victims…we can end the death penalty. But in order to do that, we are going to have to help people realize that the rhetoric around the death penalty needs to include the experiences of everyone who is victimized by it.
We lament that Texas is executing Carl Buntion. We lament that Tennessee is executing Oscar Smith. We lament the role that state workers play in the process. We lament that we haven’t been able to abolish the death penalty yet. We lament.