A Firing Squad of Nine

April 22, 2008

A Firing Squad of Nine


Ted Burnett

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court voted 7-2 to deny a petition by two men on Kentucky’s death row to stop their execution by lethal injection in the case of Braze vs. Rees. The Supreme Court’s latest action gives further credence to the notion of God’s total absence from our religious society and this “democratic” government. From this one bench – a jury of nine – in the past forty years has sanctioned the taking of human life in two types of situations; one of the rulings was a landmark decision while the other was a reinstatement of the white man’s long-held belief. As the federal government’s justice system, is this news disturbing to your ears? Does this even bother you as a human being and as an American?

Currently, “the supreme law of the land” enables man to use death as a convenient problem-solver for basically eliminating community symptoms rather than serve as a stanch defender of life, at any and all cost. This government policy has led to a hardened attitude towards life (and the cause of our rigid arteries) – at all stages and has caused the death and destruction of this society. One’s mere existence now serves as an acceptable substitute to a happy, healthy and vigorous life. These federal rulings are endorsements of slavery over individual freedom. How can this be? This court has engineered policies that run contrary to the recorded words of Jesus Christ and the ideals of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. This great spiritual document reads…

…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

No king, no priest and no pope can give any one of us life, nor do they even have the power to – no more than a judge, a doctor, a soldier, an executioner or the common man has the right to take it away. This right resides exclusively with our Maker and with no one else – lest we forget. The conflict between this fundamental spiritual truth and a man-made convenience has created great inner turmoil within our national conscience – leading to war within ourselves, with one another and with other global societies. This conflict can no longer be allowed to go unchecked. It has destroyed the moral character, the integrity and dignity of this nation like a swarm of termites taking to an old wooden structure. This unnatural tension is the source of most every one of our current social and political troubles. What should be the policy of last resort is now just another public policy.

One of the most famous man-made conveniences is the 1973 landmark case Roe vs. Wade involving abortion. The Roe decision overturned most state and federal laws against abortion in the United States stating that it violated a constitutional right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment while the second case involved state-sponsored use of the death penalty (or capital punishment), in 1976. As part of the Civil Rights Movement, the end of the death penalty was consistent with the goal of justice for African-Americans sought in the 1950’s and 60’s. Furthermore, a disproportionate number of those executed by states were African-American. This action coincided with a grass-roots effort to end government-sponsored violence including its role in the Vietnam War. Between 1967 and 1972, there were no executions anywhere in the United States. Today, do we not find ourselves in a similar state of affairs? Are we not a nation full of exploding violence and death?

Years ago, over lunch I had a brief conversation with an attorney discussing his specialty and that of his moderate-sized firm. He made the statement that now his practice and that of the entire firm was solely performing defense work, but at one time he and his colleagues were actively engaged in both facets – plaintiff and defense litigation. However, they soon found themselves “coming and going” while representing their clients, both, as plaintiffs and as defendants in related cases creating headaches, heartburn and ethical dilemmas for the firm. At some point, the crisis came to a head forcing the partners to make a conscious decision to handle work on one end of the legal spectrum or on the other, but they could no longer engage in both.

I think the scenario that once confronted this law firm and forced them to resolve in their mind and in their actions going forward is where America now finds itself over the issue of these court rulings and other government policies supporting death vs. this nation’s founding principle rooted in God and in life. A society of the existing and stagnate vs. a living and growing one, a society of slaves to all things vs. freedom, a society condoning lies vs. promoting transparency and airing the truth. On one hand, in this Judo-Christian nation, we make big claims of being “Pro-Life” constantly arguing how precious human life is and how the unborn should be saved at all cost. A small segment of Christians even takes it a step further and finds themselves picketing with signs in the parking lots of abortion clinics across America denouncing the activities of these “wicked” doctors, their staff and the young pregnant women, single or not, who turn to these doctors desperate for help, desperate for relief from their tiny, living problem.

These self-professed followers of Christ are often so quick to judge every arriving client and to condemn the motives and the actions of all those. I have heard it said that some of these shaming protestors have previously obtained an abortion themselves some years earlier or assisted in an abortion(s). In spite of Roe vs. Wade legalizing abortions, I know that there is still a great deal of personal guilt, shame and even a larger social stigma waiting for these women as they depart the center for home and are hit in the face by a new cold reality. The reasons for making “this choice” by these poor women – vary greatly. How can a Christian society be so quick to judge so harshly the circumstances that led the mentally, emotionally and spiritually tormented to bravely walk through the center’s front door or maybe its back and follow through on their decision to have this traumatic procedure? Would Jesus be just as quick to condemn or to understand? Only the righteous with their often unemotional, flippant attitudes and lacking in any empathy could stand in judgment of the vulnerable.

I am aware of two women that have terminated an unwanted pregnancy. Last year, an over fifty-year-old mother of four, in a matter-of-fact and in a surprising fashion, shared with me her story over coffee one morning. The other woman, a thirty-something, still treats her act of shame like a piece of buried treasure to be protected from all sunlight deep in the recesses of her mind, heart, soul and womb. She doesn’t know that her secret is known outside of her stoic and prominent family. Sadly, she has suffered from bouts of depression for the years while her family idly and silently stands by and ignores her obvious struggle. While both were young when they got pregnant and elected to have their abortions, the mother of four was in an unstable marriage at the time and was already struggling with four small children scurrying under her feet each morning. The very thought of a fifth on the way and another mouth to feed was simply too much for my new friend to handle.

The other was only a co-ed, off at college, and looking for love in all the wrong places. After missing her monthly period, she found herself concerned with more than just writing term papers and passing her exams. The two circumstances were entirely different, the reasons for having their abortions were understandable, but the outcome of guilt, shame, depression and suffering in complete and utter silence that would brutally haunt the two of them for decades was exactly the same. Sadly, in one case, her secret continues to serve like a bad hangover and a heavy burden sitting on her chest that won’t go away. For the then-wife and mother, her abortion was about terminating number five. The college student’s irreversible decision resulted in her aborting her precious first. She is now a wife, a homemaker and the mother of two. I can’t, but wonder how she must feel each time she celebrates the birthday of her “first” or how her guilt feelings from college now affects her daily relationship with her two children.

Did either story sound like an honest case of free will being exercised or anything but? Did either instance sound like a matter of “defiance, an issue of women’s rights, choice or exerting control over their body?” Did their decision to terminate sound like the use of willpower or simply acts of desperation, confusion, rejection and not wanting to disappoint? Was their silence, afterwards – out of freedom or slavery, out of faith and trust in others or fear, out of an unexpected mother’s love and compassion or one’s humiliation, out of integrity and dignity or a complete lack of? Even in the midst of having control over their bodies it seems to have temporally failed them at a most critical moment – conception.

For all the “Pro-Choice” community’s talk of a woman having rights and control over her body it has never escaped me how there are parentless couple’s desperate for their first child from their own seed. They engage in the exact same activity of intercourse. After repeated failures, frustrations, blame for months or years, they become willing to seek help and make an appointment to see their doctor. The couple may take infertility tests, hear a lecture on the causes and treatments and maybe sent home with medication to boost either his sperm or her egg count. They may decide to drive to their local bookstore to purchase a copy of Pregnancy for Dummies or choose to surf the Internet from the privacy of their home. So, how much control does this couple have over their bodies? Are they any different from a woman that is very fertile, but doesn’t want to be bothered with the responsibilities of motherhood? Is this a case of simple willpower or is there some unknown variable or mystery in the pregnancy equation and in life? Do some of us just have the “it” factor while others don’t? Is God somehow involved in this process?

Where does willpower and control come into play regarding birth defects, disabilities and life threatening diseases and illnesses, as such as, cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, mental illness, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s? Are these illnesses merely a lack of or a loss of control? What rights do we have over our dying and broken bodies? How about all those who are physically injured or brutally attacked including being raped and/or killed? How much self-control do any of us really have over our bodies and over our environment? I would argue not very much.

Life is full of man’s cruelty and tragedy. Life’s sunset can occur without notice and nighttime is forever. Isn’t the phony argument of a women’s right to choose, to control one’s body tantamount to playing God, to rendering a judge’s decree of death to the innocent and the guilty, alike, the abortionist or the executioner flipping the switch? Isn’t this just another failed example of man vs. nature, of man vs. God? Who are we really kidding? Who do we think we are?

On some random occasion when all the appeals have been exhausted a date and time is set by a governor for the execution of another man-killing monster. The madness that prompted a single or multiple acts of murder seems to be reflected in the frenzied behavior of the tailgating Christians upbeat in excitement during the deathwatch outside of state prisons like – Texas’ Huntsville Unit, Florida’s Starke Prison or Virginia’s Sussex I. Can you picture Jesus leading a chant and screaming at the condemned from the protestor’s roped-off section? With Jesus expounding, “We are going to crucify your ass”, to the thundering applause of his followers.

I don’t know if this heartless conduct happens at every single execution around the country, but I do know that I have seen and heard TV news reports of it occurring at least once recently. It sounds absurd. The whole thing sounds totally absurd. Today, “the Cross” proudly hangs from the necks of many Christians as a sign of their faith and it is prominently mounted on most churches. I have heard it said that today’s version of “the cross” would be something equivalent to the electric chair, the intravenous needle used in lethal injections or an assassin’s bullet worn as jewelry. In light of Jesus’ torturous execution, how can his followers so quickly condemn their fellow man and be so gibe about seeing a murderer put to death? Have these believers not been moved by Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection or are they too distracted by all the Easter festivities?

The U.S. Supreme Court and the many lower federal and state courts aren’t the only guilty parties approving this course of destruction. The U.S. Administration and Congress also have a penchant for blood. Driven by fear and death, Congress annually writes and passes legislation, allocating funding while the President signs these bills into law. This allows our government to invent many of our foreign policy troubles to serve as a distraction from facing our actual domestic chaos. Our government is quick to believe that some rogue regime or country (North Korea, Iraq, Iran, China) is a “clear and present danger” to our national security interests and that they intend to do us harm. The United States has repeatedly turned to our military in a public declaration or in total secrecy to invade another country triggering or joining in on a war, in places like, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq/Kuwait – the 1st Gulf War, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq – the 2nd Gulf War. How much carnage has taken place due to our delusional thinking, due to our paranoia – millions?

Our spy agencies by their nature are also driven by fear and death. Historically, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been the government’s “hit man” in carrying out some of this nation’s deepest, darkest and ugly secrets. From running guerrilla wars like the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, the Contras in Nicaragua, to assassinating foreign political officials and military leaders, to overthrowing democratically-elected governments. That’s unbelievable and unacceptable. The CIA has propped up over thirty-five ruthless dictators including Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Vietnam’s Ngo Dihn Diem, Germany’s Adolph Hitler, Panama General Manuel Noriega and the Shah of Iran… who supposedly represented our “interests” in their country or region. Although, their vile leadership violated the Spirit of our country’s founding principles, yet our cowardly government simply turned a blind eye to these egregious acts by our “strategic” partners and never had the courage to come clean with the American people.

The CIA runs the notorious “School of the Americas” now located at Fort Benning, GA teaching its tactics to Latin American military officers on how to conduct coups, including the use of interrogation, torture and murder. Critics have called it the “School of the Dictators” and the “School of the Assassins.” According to the Association for Responsible Dissent estimates that by 1987, six million had people died as the result of CIA covert operations. Former State Department official William Blum correctly calls this an “American Holocaust.” How can we still be the same principled nation that fought for our own independence?

Recently, we have engaged in methods of torture against al-Queda terrorists, suspects and other Muslims believed to be supporting terrorism in America through the use of a secret network of prisons set-up after 9/11 and located throughout the world. The closest one operating nearby at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been involved in a thirty-year drug war fighting against the ever-growing American appetite and will for illicit drugs to anesthetize their mental, emotional, spiritual and physical pain. These addicts are “dead to the world” and are killing themselves “on the installment plan.” The DEA and its foreign counter-parts, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. military along with federal, state and local law enforcement work daily to cut-off the flow of these narcotics, like, cocaine from Bogotá, Columbia, marijuana from Mexico, opium from Afghanistan and crystal meth, from right here, in the backyards of most any town, USA. What kind of a Czar, lawmaker, policymaker or Rambo, running through the jungles and coca farms of South America and through our neighborhoods at all hours of the night, is it going to take to figure out that our best efforts at reducing the drug use for the tens of millions of addicts won’t ever come from curbing a small or even a large percentage of the supply. Are we just looking for another losing fight? Victory can only be achieved through reducing the demand, by curing the addiction through proper treatment, by instilling freedom and truth back into society and by no other means.

Reduce the demand and the current supply will diminish at the same rate that the demand falls. It’s basic Economics, any questions? The long-established U.S. policy towards the interdiction of illegal drugs and to treat the human crisis with a criminal solution, both, domestically and abroad has been a complete failure. It’s a public health crisis. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters have died and continue to die on the streets at an alarming rate while this ignored truth stands out like a nasty tattoo. What is our best approach in solving this epidemic? We know only to lock them up for a few months. Is it working – no? Once again, this society must cherish life and lose this current infatuation with death if there is ever going to be a change in policy towards the sick. So, who are the sick – every one of us? Is this thirty-year policy working or just employing lots of folks with guns, bulletproof vests and hearts? Are there any fewer drug addicts, today? Isn’t it about time we end this charade and have a change of heart, a change in policy?

When the supreme law of the land is rooted in the spirit that only God is the giver and taker of life then man can humbly stand-down and cease sentencing his fellow man to death. Without equivocation, the policy of this country is all its affairs should be to preserve life and reclaim its mystery. All life should be celebrated whether it is an unplanned pregnancy, an addict’s struggle or a dead man walking, guilty or not, without reservations. Does God, as we know Him, place conditions on loving any one of us? As love, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and acceptance replace judging and condemnation by our society, a new attitude will surface leading to the discovery of many heart-beating solutions never before realized through reason alone. This will lead to the embracing of life over death and slowly eliminating our need for women’s clinics, crack houses, top-secret jails and torture methods, prisons and death row.

Gratefully alive!

I am available for speaking, consulting and political advising. My other essays can be viewed at my blog @ http://www.toxicnation.blogspot.com/. All essays are available in a MS Word format upon request. I can be contacted by email: tebjr1@yahoo.com.

Copyright © 2008. All Rights Reserved. “A Firing Squad of Nine” by Ted Burnett.


A History of CIA Atrocities:

Coleman McCarthy, “The Consequences of Covert Tactics” Washington Post, December 13, 1987. source of William Blum quote

Trial and Error: Capital Punishment in U.S. History http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5420

Wikipedia.com – Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) 1st paragraph, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade

 Ted Burnett: I'm an American thought leader and pioneer on the subjects of human, organizational and societal development and health. I write about the role that integrity, dignity, sanity play, as well as, on the topics of spirituality, faith, freedom, happiness, problem solving and risk taking. I produce and deliver original, world-class commentaries on business, political, social and spiritual matters to a global audience of world leaders, chief executives and key decision makers, top faculty and notables in the fields of academia, banking, business, foundations, government (including heads of state, lawmakers and governors), healthcare, media, non-profits and policy institutes. Website: www.tedburnett.com