With Game of Thrones being back on the air, the memeverse is up and spitting out tumbler posts and it’s put a thought in my head. Lately, I can’t shake the words: Our way is the old way.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series or who haven’t watched the first episode the in a spell, the first time those words are used is when Ned Stark, warden of the North (think or wardens like governors of large areas of the country) sentences a deserter to die and chops his head off. Afterwards, he asks his ten year old son if he understands why that happened.

Bran: he was a deserter
Ned: But do you understand why I had to be the one
Bran: Our way is the Old Way
Ned: The man that passes the sentence should swing the sword

There’s been a lot of talk about the death penalty lately. Lethal injection recently came before the Supreme Court. More and more Pharmacists have refused to provide the drug cocktail required for a lethal injection and states are facing increasing scrutiny for keeping the recipe a secret. Utah has reauthorized the firing squad in case they run out of the drugs and need to keep on executing people. And now Anthony Ray Hinton has become the 152nd person on death row to be exonerated, causing many to wonder how many innocent people have been executed by the state.

Despite what I’ve just cited, this post isn’t calling for the repeal of the death penalty, only that we be more honest about it.

Which brings me back to Game of Thrones and “The Old Way”. I would like to propose that if we continue to use employ the death penalty in this country we make a few changes.

First, all executions should be made public by television broadcast during the nightly news on the major networks.
If we are going to continue to stomach this sacred tradition of ours, the citizenry has a responsibility to know what it is they are condoning.

Second, we return to a direct action style of execution, most likely, the firing squad.
There is a theory – one to which I subscribe –that the forms of execution thus far banned as cruel and unusual are, in fact, neither, but instead are forms which we the people find too unappealing to look at or think about. We want to remove the visual aspect of killing. So things like hanging, beheading, or firing squad which often kill the prisoner instantly, but some find too disturbing to see or picture, are eschewed in favor of methods like the gas chamber or lethal injection, where the prisoner is sitting down and dies a little easier on the eyes.

Third, blindfold optional.
In many states, a hood is placed on the prisoner’s head (also, for the firing squad, the executioners are hidden behind a curtain or wall). However, as citizens we are afforded the right to face our accuser and, in my opinion, this right should extend to our state sanctioned death. The prisoner should be allowed to look the man or woman about to kill them in the eye.

Fourthly, no blanks
In the case of the firing squad, seven marksmen’s rifles are loaded with one round. One of the seven is a blank, presumably so they can each go home that night believing they may not have just shot an unarmed person in the heart.
If you are going to serve as an executioner, you better be at peace with what you’re doing. You shouldn’t get the luxury of plausible deniability.

And finally, to embrace the true spirit of the Old Way, that executions be carried out by the highest ranking member of the executive branch.
In Thrones this person is the king or lord or whatever the fuck, because the executive and judicial branches are the same, hooray for feudal efficiency. In the United States of America, that person would be the President for federal executions and the respective governor for those at the state level.
That person is more than just an elected official, they are our leader. They are who we choose to represent our will as a democratic nation. They also are the only people who could potentially commute or suspend the death sentence and thus should be made to feel the full weight of that responsibility.
In keeping with my proposal, however, I will extend that responsibility a bit further. As the firing squad is traditionally made up of seven people (to ensure the prisoner dies quickly), here are my suggestions to fill those slots:

  1. Governor (President)
  2. Lieutenant Governor (Vice President)
  3. The Judge overseeing the prisoner’s trial
  4. The Sheriff of the county in which the prisoner was convicted
  5. The Prosecuting Attorney
  6. The District (or state) Attorney (Attorney General)
  7. The Foreman of the jury

I like this system. It’s honest. It’s transparent. It is true to what we supposedly believe as a society. But mostly I wonder how that would affect our perception of this issue if we had to watch a man with an IQ of 86 gunned down by Rick Perry. I wonder what we would think of President Obama if he looked into the eyes of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and couldn’t pull the trigger.


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