Monday, December 13, 2004

Where Were You When the Scott Peterson Death Penalty Came Down? God Help Me, I Know.

I was at Martin Mack's saloon on Haight St. in San Francisco. We had been watching -- perhaps, I should say we being subjected to -- the soccer game between Manchester United and Fulham, about which you cannot begin to imagine my depth of indifference, when someone twigged to the fact the Peterson jury was coming back in with the penalty verdict and changed channels.

It was Christmas lunch for the Drunk Boyz. The Drunk Boyz are an assortment of guys who either work for the University of San Francisco or worked there once. As my regular readers know, I am what you might call a fetish consumer of alcoholic beverages. I talk about drinking more than I actually drink -- you have figured that out. To me such consumption symbolizes a kind of Bohemian and/or creative lifestyle, so I blog blog blog about the drinks I had while a journalist. It's personal, quirky even, and if you go to the top right of this page and click through an assortment of other blogs hosted by Blogger, you will see that my talk of wine, beer and the estimable Jack Daniels Black is embedded in the context of one hundred thousand teenage girls moaning and bemoaning the fact Tab did not look at them today in geometry class and should be judged/damned accordingly.

Sweet goddess, I wish it were geometry class in which Tab, in all his myopia, looked through, past or over all the Candaces and Sarah Jessicas and Winonas of the world. But it was probably Self Esteem for Sophomores, and thus the future belongs to those lands out there where the sun sets. (No, not Hawaii. Keep moving.)

But you get the point. I have an occasional drink, and I plaster it on this blog like a swoosh logo.

To place you in the moment once again, I remind that the Drunk Boyz -- not drunk and far from boys -- were at Martin Mack's on Haight St. in San Francisco having our little holiday season sitdown, and the "football" was on the telly when those in positions of responsibility at MM in HS turned the channel over to the revelation of the Scott Peterson verdict. And, after a certain amount of delay and confusion, we learned that the jury had decided he should die. And if you believe what the Drunk Boyz had to say, once the dire penalty was announced, none of us had paid much attention to the crime or its aftermath, including the trial. In my case that was certainly true. A plump pretty white woman great with child was savagely murdered. Subtract the "white" and it's a day in the life of the world. (And maybe you should subtract the "plump," too.) It's as if, if you concentrate on the obscenity of this death, if you put too much time, energy and interest into this horrendous murder, you are somehow giving yourself a pass on Darfur and Sadr City and other places where terrible is something you do before lunch, to jumpstart the day.

I did have a brandy, followed by coffee, boys and girls -- don't do this at home. But still, I am writing on fumes. All the way home across the Bay Bridge I listened to the news conference with the jurors who chose to talk, and everything they said touched me. The jury system as theoretical construct: you and me dealing with too much information. Beaucoup slack to those who actually did the job. I do not think that the death penalty is a good idea, but when some people are executed my mind says one thing and my lizard brain, there somewhere down low in the far suburbs of the skull, says otherwise.

The Drunk Boyz are good boys. We talked of institutional politics and long-range plans and which college deans we might be able to play/manipulate/enlist in our righteous cause and those which we almost certainly can't, as we sat there sharing thimble by thimble the cheap fierce inadequate Chilean merlot -- yet why was my voice so much louder than it needed to be? -- in the first booth at Martin Mack's on Haight St. in San Francisco, California as we learned that Scott Peterson may die soon rather than later, only the timeline but not the final outcome subject to appeal and lawyers billing $300 an hour.

It's only the telly, isn't it, turtle dove?


G Pabst said...

I was there.
I seen it all.
And I trust the Constitution to protect me from my baser inclinations should all gang aglee.

For instance. If some fevered psycho were to murder one of my loved ones I'd prefer personal retribution (killing by my own hands) over any other society-mediated punishment - injection/gas/life-in-prison.

And that's the beauty of the system.

I'm prevented from being the beast that I know I'm capable of (edit: of which I know I'm capable).

A humanizing system, if we let it be.

For all who are horrified by the Iraqi Arab practice of beheading - remember that it was not so long ago (just a moment in human history) that my Anglo-Saxon-Norman ancestors were regularly beheading enemies of the state and exhibiting the gorey trophies on pikes at the gates of London. A mere four hundred years ago. Less!

We're animals, and our genetics are no different than the earliest Homo Sapiens (which was no Sapiens, if you ask me).

Which out-of-style historian was it that diagnosed it as the "arrogance of the modern?"

From goblins and ghosties an long leggity beasties, oh Rational Law, protect us!

I'm not to be trusted when it gets personal. I know it. You know it. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention knew it, too. Bless 'em.

I served on a murder jury a couple of years ago and can't imagine what It would have been like under the hot light of the media. It was bad enough cooly under the culural radar.


(* a pseudonym adopted subsequent to identity theft)

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Let me thank General Pershing for his wise comments.