The Mercy Seat: Arkansas Executions Postponed

(Note: some quick hits today as I try to rebalance a full schedule and pretend the Stanley Cup playoffs haven’t actually started yet, and this is all some grim dream…)

Shortly before midnight, the US Supreme Court postponed another in the spate of executions Arkansas has been planning. The state had been planning to execute eight men in 11 days, which, if it seems just like a spate of spring cleaning, sort of is.

The ruling brought to three the number of condemned prisoners who have now been spared the audacious execution schedule set by Republican governor Asa Hutchinson in a rush to use a batch of the lethal injection drug midazolam before it expires at the end of the month.

Think about the cruel mentality that would think of such a thing, with no more thought than rushing to make some sandwiches before the mayo turns. But there is a twist: you can always get more mayo. The problem with midazolam is that even drug companies don’t want to make it, and it has to be imported from abroad, a process that is getting more difficult because there is growing evidence that the process of death is essentially torture.

But, for Hutchinson, and for much of the right, that’s the whole damn point. It’s showing that they are the tough ones, that they don’t care about your little PC whining on the rights of murderers. Which can be a compelling argument, emotionally. I don’t know the details of the cases, but I haven’t heard anything that any of these men have been wrongly convicted. So talking about the victims and justice is justifiably powerful.

It isn’t really about the victims, though. It’s about a display of power, and keeping the (generally) racialized mechanics of death in place. It’s about being able to say that even though far-left wing pharmaceutical companies want to stop us from carrying out the hard work of justice, we’re going to push through.

When Rick Perry got applauded for saying he never lost a moment’s sleep about the incredible number of humans he had put to death, that wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t just “right audience, right time”. It was an encapsulation of GOP beliefs. There is no cruelty too great or meanness too small not to be applauded if it makes liberals angry.

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