Capital Idea!

“300 Men in the state of Tennessee
All waitin’ to die
won’t ever be free.
I ain’t hurtin’ nobody.
I ain’t hurtin no one.”
-John Prine

“If this is how Queen Victoria treats her convicts she doesn’t deserve to have any.”

– Oscar Wilde, while waiting to be transported to prison.

The time is March 15, 2084. Although primitive, the practice of public hangings has finally flexed its way back into the spotlight. Due to judicial system that now demands a quick response by judge and jury, there is a no nonsense nip to the air at courthouses from Presque Isle to Chugla Vista. Subsequently, there is very little violent crime in the United States. Hangings are rare, but well attended by the citizenry. People drag their kids just like was the tradition 200 years prior.

Back then, in Telluride, Colorado a double-hanging was to be performed at the expense of one Martin “Scar Tissue” McMorris, a twice-convicted, once-caught murderer of low degree. Joining McMorris on the evening’s dance card was local panhandler, Slow Sammy Esto, who had cleverly enough shot an off-duty deputy at a poker table, in front of dozens of witnesses to boot.

Although the San Juans were wild and most everyone toated six-guns, there were really surprisingly few incidents, considering the robust lifestyle. Civilization was arriving by the ore bucket. Hangings remained popular. The town appoointed a committee to see that the event was handled on the up and up. First was the matter of invitations.

According to Salida Community College historian, the late, great Dr. G. Edward Quillbark “It was an honor to be invited to a hanging. First the town fathers would invite each other and then the ladies’ auxilary to the town fathers would invite themselves too. After that a few minor dignitaries, concessionaires and the merchant class would be notified. Then, moments before the big moment, the great unwashed would be herded into the town square (adjacent to the Sheridan, the town’s finest hotel which, incidently, featured a Saturday Night bath for 50 cents.)

In Telluride it was no different. All of the invited guests were encouraged to attend and bring their children as well as sociopathic livestock. The drama of a lynching was thought to be an effective deterent to crime of the aggravated nature. Failure to attend often brought rebuke. Despite the chronic lack of buggy parking on Colorado Avenue most of the town’s population made at least a cameo appearance.

In October of 1891 an unidentified Moab couple brought each one of their 14 living children to a regional hanging near Paradox. All were reportedly impressed with the expediency displayed at the affair and said the pot luck was above average as well.

Quillbark continues on the subject of percieved deterent: “After the hangings of John Hunt and his dandy, half-brother Michael, pilfering at the candy store dropped almost in half. Many citizens, including the local marshal and the storekeeper himself, attribute the decrease to that punitive action. The youngsters in the town had no comment.

Sadly, the practice of public execution gradually lost face, yielding to a society that would preferred to engage in massive wars and slaughter itself on asphalt highways than worry about calculated paybacks. By the Great Depression one had to go a long way to find a decent public hanging, even in the cities. During World War II everyone was too busy conceptualizing, constructing and delivering bombs to see the hanging circuit as important anymore. Interest fell sharply in the Fifties and then the Sixties arrived, still wet behind the ears on the subject of terrible swift swords, an eye for an eye and the like. Politicians and cops pledged to fight crime through the Seventies and Eighties with little success as the streets became war zones. With the prisons filled to capacity a new industry emerged, that of prison building. In the Nineties the situation reached a breaking point as liberals screamed for gun control and conservatives called for stiffer penalties. After the Millennium the camps grew larger and the people more separated by fabricated issues. The rest of the population stockpiled ammunition.

One sunny day, in the spring 2014, it became apparent that the only place crime was being fought successfully was on television…It was different. The cops caught everyone, often in less than an hour. The guilty culprits never got out of jail, people felt safe again. The good guys always won — the bad guys always got their just desserts. There were no nervous Barney Fife’s adorned in full battle gear, waiting outside of bars, hoping to catch an Otis or two in flight.

People began to ask the question: Why is crime under control on TV but not on the outside of their bedroom window? Politicians were forced to act and many looked to the private sector for the answer. Emerging shoulders above the rest was a small New Jersey corporation, Garden State Rendering and Liquidations, run by a Howard Tarten, a man, although ravaged by Tuburculosis and rampant dyptheria, who had spent a lifetime studying gallow etiquette. His logical solution to the problem of crime: Televised Lynchings.

“The business of public execution made an incredible recovery with the introduction of Tarten’s techniques,” says Quillbark, himself a stockholder in one of Garden State’s first enterprises, Capital Cable Ltd.. This very secretive cable system specialized in producing public executions of all types for television. Soon it rivalled MTV for the loyalty of the nation’s youth.”

Armed to the teeth with the catchy slogan “Get crime off the streets and into your living room”, Capital Cable reported record profits in its first year while becoming the darling of the Right. The viewing public was placated.
Tonight’s hanging is brought to you by Geze Bindings, Spam, The North American Hemp Growers Institute and your local state corrections bureau….

Kevin Haley, a self-proclaimed sensitive male for the ages lives in Colona where he raises dust and publishes the San Juan Horseshoe. He often breaks pop bottles on the highway and eats breakfast while in the bathtub.

Filed Under: Reflections on Disorder

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