The Hooded Figure of the Executioner

Eric - Gages Lake, Illinois
Entered on April 24, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: democracy
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I believe in the hooded figure of the executioner. Underlying all society is the threat of ultimate punishment. I don’t wish to imply a belief in the goodness of capital punishment. I am only stating my belief in the irrationality of man and the necessity of authority.

The perverse and violent nature of Man—the true nature of Man—is veiled under precious layers of culture, religion, and morality.

Putting aside the countless examples provided by history, I have come to this conclusion through my own personal experiences while deployed to Iraq as a United States Marine. At first it did not seem real. My young and fertile mind–even though properly indoctrinated with Marine Corps training–had only witnessed a setting similar to war-torn Iraq in the Mad Max movie series. Unfortunately, Mel Gibson never appeared in Iraq. Over the course of my deployment I started to piece together the puzzle that would eventually be the basis for my beliefs today. I saw the ruthlessness of man, regardless of which country or organization they belonged to. More than once we were the unfortunate recipients of improvised explosive devices, whether they be hidden on the road waiting in solitude for their unsuspecting victim or delivered to us by a young man, similar in age to myself, packed in the back seat of his mid-eighties sedan making one last stop before his visit to Allah.

Even though I was not present for the initial invasion, I was able to witness what happened when society broke down and humans were left to their own devices. Iraq had plunged into anarchy but I saw no absolute liberty for each individual. For the majority, one form of imprisonment was traded for another.

Something became clear to me: as authority—the image of the executioner—vanished, so did all ties to civilization. Order gave way to chaos and the layers of society peeled away, exposing Man’s imperfect nature. However, I am not making the case for an authoritarian government such as Saddam Hussein’s. First, any government must consist of those same imperfect human beings. Second, it is not government that makes the bonds of society. Those bonds must emerge organically, created by the collective virtue of individuals. Otherwise they are planted in dangerously shallow soil.

Society is held together by an unspoken contract. These inexplicable bonds are the reasons that you do not commit random heinous acts of violence to your neighbors or why Americans flash a smile at strangers on the street. Their strength determines the quality of society. Yet without any way of enforcing these values—when the subconscious awareness of authority disappears from the minds of individuals—they begin to disintegrate.

Ordered liberty is what I believe our Founding Fathers were trying to create in the United States. When you have an authoritarian government, the executioner is plainly evident. Under anarchy, he is missing. Under democratic authority, the executioner doesn’t live down the street from you, nor is he completely omitted. He remains, lurking, and without him we paradoxically would not be free at all.