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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.



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