Posted by: Harold Knight | 04/18/2015

“. . . dramatize the power of the state and church over the disobedient individual. . .” (Philip Smith)

Robert Lynn Pruett, Scheduled for Texas execution, Tuesday, April, 28 2015

Robert Lynn Pruett, Scheduled for Texas execution, Tuesday, April, 28 2015

This past Wednesday, the State of Texas once again dramatized its power over the disobedient individual. We, you and I, my Texas friends, murdered Manuel Garza, Jr., on April 15, 2015. We participated in one of the

communicative acts which ‘outrun the immediacies of crime and punishment and speak of broader and more extended issues’ – such as politics, morality and social order (Philip Smith, quoting David Garland –see citations below).

Manuel Garza Jr., Texas executed  Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Manuel Garza Jr., Texas executed Wednesday, April 15, 2015

We have participated in the ritual that

Reinforce[s] the value of the dominant normative system and the need for social order by destroying, humiliating and ridiculing what is defined as evil. Critical theorists, on the other hand, argue that executions dramatize the power of the state and church over the disobedient individual by means of coercing, controlling and manipulating his or her body (Philip Smith).

Kent Sprouse, Texas executed  Thursday, April 9, 2015

Kent Sprouse, Texas executed Thursday, April 9, 2015

We have, perhaps, made another ritual sacrifice, in the sense that

. . . modern executions are more or less undeniably ritualized killings of a human being and so, of course, are those traditional religious practices termed “human sacrifices.” Indeed . . . one is struck by how much attention there is to detail, regulation, and control; the ritualized dimension of these affairs is fairly obvious. . . the ceremonial last meal, the administration of last rites, the last words of the victim, the covering of the head of the prisoner before death, the protection of the identity of the executioner, and the dispersal of responsibility for the death [and the] striking . . . concern to ritualize time, to mark it off and to heighten each and every moment of the process. . . (Brian K. Smith—see citation below)

Manuel Vasquez, Texas executed, Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Manuel Vasquez, Texas executed, Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My opinion of our joining together to murder yet another “victim” is obvious. But there are deeper and more disturbing questions to ask than whether or not one agrees with the state killing of individuals.

Donald Newbury, Texas executed, Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Donald Newbury, Texas executed, Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The question about how to categorize the violence done in a modern execution is thus the same question as that concerning “sacrifice”: is it “legitimate” or even “sacred” killing, or is it “illegitimate” and “criminal”? [The] debate over capital punishment . . . between impure and “illegitimate” violence, on the one hand, and purifying and “legitimate” violence, on the other, [makes] the ritual act of killing . . . no longer a socially “purifying” act but itself the possibility for social dissension—and perhaps even the outbreak of renewed violence (Brian Smith).

The outbreak of renewed violence.

Robert Ladd, Texas executed, Thursday,  January 29, 2015

Robert Ladd, Texas executed, Thursday,
January 29, 2015

Smith, Brian K. “Capital Punishment and Human Sacrifice.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 68.1 (2000): 3.
Smith, Philip. “Executing executions: Aesthetics, identity, and the problematic narratives of capital punishment ritual.” Theory & Society 25.2 (April 1996), 235-261.
Garland, David. Punishment and Modern Society: A Study in Social Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1993).

Arnold Prieto, Texas executed, Wednesday,             January 21, 2015

Arnold Prieto, Texas executed, Wednesday, January 21, 2015

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