13 December, 2005

Running With Scissors

"Get me the wooden spoon."

Those were words to die by in our house when I was a kid. If you heard them, that meant the next thing you'd hear would be the sound of a spoon cracking against your skinny kid-butt. (Ah. Life's irony is that I didn't have a fat arse until well past the time I outgrew spankings.) Around six or seven, you knew the rules. Some things got you a time-out before the days when the trendy parents called them that. In my house it was called "Sit on the kitchen chair until you hear the timer buzz." I like that better than Time-Out, actually. One sounds like a break in a busy, fun game, accompanied by Gatorade and spirited hugging. The other is definitely a punishment for some stupid thing your dumb six-year-old self did. Sassing back, slapping your stupid brother Dave (who had it coming for being a big smelly stupidhead), running in the house when you'd already been told to stop--that all got the SOTKCUYHTTB or the dreaded Wooden Spoon. I knew we were stepping up in the world when the phrase later became "Bring Me The Ping-Pong Paddle". I also knew why we didn't get the pinball machine. You can't smack someone with those flipper-things.

It may sound like my parents were cruel, but they weren't. They knew life was hard and that actions had consequences. With four kids, you learned as much from your siblings' punishments as your own, and I doubt any of us were spanked more than five times, ever. It was the threat of it as much as the stinging thwack that kept us unruly bastiges in line. You knew the Spoon was waiting if you didn't stop pulling your sister's hair in the backseat.

There is much handwringing today about Tookie Williams being killed by the State of California. I don't know much about Tookie Williams, but I do know that he spoke English. I'm pretty sure he watched television. I'm darned sure that he knew what a 187 is. And what the penalty is for that crime. Yet he decided he'd take someone's life. I'd really like to be mad at the State for sullying the hands of its citizens with ritualized murder. I'd like to wring my hands in despair about how sad it is for us to sink to Tookie's level. I'd like to kvetch about how much money the execution costs the State, and fantasize about China--where they bill your family for the bullet. But I'm not. Anyone knows that the penalty for ending a person's life can be death.

We don't keep the Death Penalty a huge secret. It's always there, like the wooden spoon in my mother's kitchen. You don't want it used on your butt, then don't earn it.


At 3:43 PM, December 13, 2005, Blogger Exador said...

Many people talked about how reformed he was. Maybe he was, and maybe he wasn't. I think there are some deeds that qualify for you turning in your boarding pass as a member of the world. That's not to say there's any moral high road there. It just comes down to we (meaning the rest of society) have collectively decided that if you do this, we (who are much stronger than you) are not going to tolerate having you around any more.

There's no morality or holiness to society's laws. It's all just a macrocosm of a tribal structure. We have banded together and agreed upon a "you watch my back and I'll watch yours" set of rules. One of those rules is that, if you kill one of our members, we're going to come after you. The details get blurred when you include cops and a penal system, but it's basically the same thing.

At 9:16 AM, December 14, 2005, Blogger jag said...

You don't want it used on your butt, then don't earn it.

Yep. In my house it was a yardstick, fly swatter, or chair rung. The chair rung hurt a little more, but the yardstick had a good 'thwack!'

At 11:01 AM, December 14, 2005, Blogger melusina said...

It was the flyswatter for me. For my brother's it was the belt.

I tend to agree with your assessment of the death penalty. I've always been on the fence on the issue, I don't have problems with the punishment as it is, but perhaps in some cases it seems unwarranted. As far as Tookie goes, well who knows. He killed four people and was the gangleader of a well known gang.

But lets all call him Tookie so maybe we won't be as inclined to want him to die. Sheesh.

At 3:40 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another spooner here--or would it be spoonee? Mom would never annouce her intentions, instead we would be alerted to danger by the very specific sound of the spoon be pulled from its canister and rattling the spatulas and wire wisks. And loud footsteps coming our way.

Nice post.


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