Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Well, Don't Lose your Head Over It.

I read a report recently from Reuters, oddly enough in the “AOL Jobs” section that “Saudi Arabia has authorized regional governors to approve executions by firing squad as an alternative to public beheading, the customary method of capital punishment in the Gulf Arab kingdom, the Arab News reported on Monday.”

The reason given was a lack of swordsmen who sometimes have to travel hours and arrive late to their assignments.

I wondered why there was a lack of swordsmen. Did the Marie Antoinette School of Beheadings go belly up? It’s hard to imagine enough classes required for a 4-year degree for lopping off a head. Maybe you could just earn your certificate after completion of just these 6 classes: Sword Selection and Sharpening; Choosing the Right Hood; Tricks for Removal in Just One Slice; Protecting Yourself Blood-Borne Pathogens; Introduction to Pressure Washing, and Advanced Pressure Washing Techniques.

I lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for a year and personally knew several people who had witnessed beheadings and behandings. Not many of them took place in Jeddah, where I was stationed, but more were in Riyadh, the capital. If you were in the town center on the right day, the police would corral you in and force you to watch these gruesome events.

According to what I was told by non-natives, so take it with a grain of salt, if you were a big, strong executioner with the build of a sumo wrestler and had a good track record of whacking off a head with just one chop, then you were well paid and a valued member of society. On the other hand, if you were not an honor student at the Marie Antoinette School of Beheadings, maybe just coasted through with a low C average, and you were thin and weak, and you had to hack at a criminal’s neck like some butcher’s apprentice, you were not well received in society nor were you sent out by the temp agency very often unless there was a rush on crime-deterring executions. Because you know those aren’t full time jobs. Those people aren’t killing people 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, because there is very little crime in the Kingdom. 

And if you can’t figure out why crime is low there, maybe you should just stop and think about it a half second longer. Think death by anorexic supermodel with a butter knife to the neck. How’s that sound?

Oddly enough, when I was living in the Kingdom in the early 1980’s I had a secret and somewhat sick wish that someday I would be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get dragged into witnessing a beheading. I was in my early 20’s then, so I couldn’t help but be curious about it. My dad, as a writer in his 20’s, witnessed an electrocution by the notoriously faulty electric chair nicknamed “Sparky” at Starke prison and wrote about it for the St. Petersburg Independent and even won a state journalism award for it. I wondered which execution method would be worse.

I wonder why Saudi Arabia decided to personalize beheadings and not adopt the guillotine.  The guillotine is pretty much fool proof and quite accurate, and for the most part, quick and, I would guess, painful only for a second or two. As beheadings go, it would certainly be my choice. Everything in the Kingdom is religion-driven, so there must be something in their scripture that requires the killing must be done by a MASOB graduate, preferably a cum laude. Since shootings are personalized as well, I imagine this doesn’t violate any religious tenant.

It makes you wonder (well, it makes me wonder, anyway), how you choose a career in Head Removal. “Mom, when I grow up, I wanna be an executioner!”  And to support this, your parents give you toy swords and little pop-bead headed mannequins.  But this is really a sideline job, or a hobby. Maybe they have an Executioners Reserve Corps. Perhaps companies offer executioners’ leave. “All right, Mohammed, you can have Thursday off, but just make sure you bring back the proper documentation, including photographs. And this time be sure the victim signs the permission slip before you cut off his head. Last time that signature was a little suspect.”

So it’s guns over swords in Saudi Arabia. According to Wikipedia, in America, death by firing squad is still legal only in Oklahoma, and even then as a secondary method (what, the lethal injection didn’t take?) Also as recently as October of 2011 a state representative sponsored a bill to make death by firing squad a choice, And from which state did this representative reside?

Why, Florida, of course.

Just another reason why I love living here. Nothing insane or insipid gets by us. And we’re damned proud of that. Can death by sword to the neck be far behind? We can only dream.



Creative Commons License by Bill Wiley is licensed under a

Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States


Honor Hole

In my neighborhood, there are a lot of proud parents who stick to the back windows of their SUV  these pennants that read, “My child made the honor roll at Brand X High,” or whatever school. Most of these people put these tapered stickers in a circle to show the world that their kid is really racking up the frequent honor roll points, meaning that, when s/he graduates, it could possibly lead to an internship at Checkers.

I’ll admit I was a frequent  honor roll student. Back then however, the honor roll limbo stick was set so high, it didn’t take any effort to pass under it. Pretty much if you showed up to class sober, unlike so many of the teachers didn’t, and completed the better part of your homework, you made the honor roll. There was no celebration, and there were no sticky pennants. The last thing we wanted was our parents to do was to let the neighborhood know they had a dork for a child.

Today they even have also-ran stickers that you can buy (there is no room for second place in our educational system) that read something pitifully sad like “I’m the proud parent of a terrific kid.” Let’s get this straight. Unless you are a child abusing parent, it goes without saying that you think your kid is terrific, and you are proud of them even if they do spend four hours a day with a rock, trying to pound a square peg though a round hole.  “He’s a non-conformist. He thinks outside the box,” you say. “That’s the stock where great business executives come from.”

Well, you’re probably right about that. It would explain a lot about the places I’ve worked.

I’d like to see some more creative and true bumper stickers. “My daughter dropped out of high school, has a $3M stock portfolio and a full tuition to MIT for a popular 99-cent iPhone app she wrote in three days.”

“My son is 27, drives a Maserati and is retired because of the revenue he earned selling your honor roll student ecstasy and meth for just 3 years.

Oh, all right, if the truth be known, there was one semester I did fall off the honor roll wagon. We got two grades for every class: an academic grade and a conduct grade. There was one semester I got all A’s in all classes academically and in conduct with the exception of one conduct grade, in which I received a “D”.

Really? A “D”? In my whole academic career I had never, nor would ever again receive a “D”, conduct or otherwise. The teacher had never taken me aside and warned me that if I didn’t behave myself I was headed for a bad conduct grade, and I didn’t act any differently in that class than I did in any other.  I went up to this so-called teacher the day after the report cards came out and asked him if there hadn’t been some kind of computer error. He looked down at the sea of A’s for that semester and arrogantly said, “Oh no, there’s no error. Talking. Too much talking.”

I was outraged! Anyone in that school who knew me knew I was not a talker. I would write until my hand turned black. But I was the quiet, shy, keep-to-myself kind of guy I was the eat-lunch-by-himself-friend-of-few boy. So thank God they didn’t give out bumper sticker pennants back then. My mother would have been driving around with one that said, “My child got a D in conduct at Wilson Junior High School.” How humiliating.

Other Bill reports that in Maryland schools they did not have conduct grades. “God,” he told me once. “Grades for behavior? That is so Southern.”

These days some people in their big SUV’s form giant crop circles on their back windows with these look-at-me-my-child-is-smart annoying displays of pride.  Personally, if you have multiple smartypants children, these circles can block your rear view and be a driving hazard. So I want to do a few ride-alongs with some cops at work and have them pull these safety hazard stickers off their cars and give them to me.

I will re-adhere them to a large cardboard cutout of the letter “D”, and when it is covered, front and back with these stickers, I will anonymously mail it to a Mr. William Bush, my American History teacher from Wilson Junior High, the only teacher who ever
arbitrarily gave me a D.

He won’t have a clue what it means. But I’ll feel vindicated.

Creative Commons License by Bill Wiley is licensed under a
Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States