Hot Potato: Food for Thought
This Won't Hurt a Bit
The Happy Executioner
1997 August 18

European television regularly airs programs about the barbaric American habit of executing criminals. We repeatedly see interviews with wardens, guards, and doctors who participate in the killing of prisoners. What is so striking is how ready, willing, and able they are to kill someone in the name of the state - they sometimes seem positively eager to do so. They speak of seeing the terror in the victim's face as he meets the same fate he has brought upon some unfortunate victim. They are entirely comfortable reciting, in minute detail, just exactly how you go about killing someone. Right down to the details of how you keep the victim from soiling the sheets.

This image of the executioner who is so ready to carry out his duties is a deeply unsettling one. What kind of perverted charge are they getting out of it all? What does it do to their mental health? Most of them will admit that they don't sleep very well after an execution.

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