Saturday, December 16, 2006

Requiem aeternam, Angel Diaz - a Good Friday for Advent

The French social critic Albert Camus reportedly said, "The unbeliever cannot keep from thinking that men who have set at the center of their faith the staggering victim of a judicial error ought at least to hesitate before committing legal murder."

While "life" and "family values" persist as wedge-words in the increasingly deficient American political dialogue, the nation continues to tolerate inhumanity of the lowest form - a mandate to kill its own citizens.

Executions happen every year with barely a "blip" on the media radar - a sadly fitting coda to the lives of men and women whose existences were never really taken seriously by the rest of society. More often than not, we neglected them when they most needed a community and a hope - and in the end, the only representative we sent them to show our concern was the executioner who does his love on our behalf. This is our state.

But once in a while, we see a little more of our cruelty:
In Florida, medical examiner Dr. William Hamilton said Wednesday's execution of Angel Nieves Diaz took 34 minutes -- twice as long as usual -- and required a rare second dose of lethal chemicals because the needles were inserted clear through his veins and into the flesh in his arms. The chemicals are supposed to go into the veins...

...Diaz appeared to be moving 24 minutes after the first injection, grimacing, blinking, licking his lips, blowing and appearing to mouth words.

As a result of the chemicals going into Diaz's arms around the elbow, he had a 12-inch chemical burn on his right arm and an 11-inch chemical burn on his left arm, Hamilton said.

Jesus Christ, betrayed by a friend full of fear and uncertainty to a government all too eager to capitalize off of it, slowly died over the course of six hours, suspended on splintered wood only by lead driven into his wrists and ankles. His last words, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?"

Just as Angel Diaz may have been trying to scream through the paralyzing toxins, injected by the needle of the Republic. "My people, my nation, why have you forsaken me?"

Mr. Diaz, I don't know. But I am sorry. Rest in peace, and may God have mercy on us.

This Advent, when Christians are supposed to be preparing for the memory of Christ's birth and life, we also keep in mind the ultimate tragedy that surrounding Christmas is a sea of crucifixion, if we dare to see the Christ on the injection table, in the chair, at the rope, against the wall - or wherever the people yell, "Crucify him!"

This Advent, God invites us instead to "Choose life." (Deuteronomy 30:19) As one of the bishops of the Episcopal Church in Western Washington said a couple weeks ago, "Hope is a moral choice." It's also a difficult choice in the face of such despair - but the joy of life is the exercise of our hope in spite of all evidence pointing the other way.

Happy holdiays, everyone. See you on the other side.

O Come O Come Emmanuel!

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