Next week the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh,will be executed by lethal injection. McVeigh waivedall appeals of his conviction for the 1995 bombing.The attack that killed 168 people and injuredhundreds more left a deep scar on this nation, butare we really prepared to compound the injury byturning McVeigh's death into a Roman circus?

Apparently so. From the look of things in TerraHaute, you'd think the circus was indeed coming totown. Mayor Judith Anderson says her phones have been swamped; she's besieged by shop owners and vendors who want to sell T-shirts, buttons, and trinketscelebrating McVeigh's death on May 16th.

Unfortunately, the city can't stop them from hawkingtheir goods. "We have no control over what theysell," Anderson says. "We're just asking that it bein very good taste." Right!

Execution T-shirts are already being offered on theInternet's eBay auction site. One shirt features asyringe and the words: "Hoosier Hospitality/McVeigh/Terre Haute/May 16, 2001/Final Justice."The owner of Little Cee's pizza parlor across thestreet from the prison wants to deliver pizzas topolice and security guards working the event. Withall the extra security, business should be good. Andanother man, who owns a downtown restaurant, said,"We've never had an execution. We don't know what toexpect!" Well, restaurants in Terra Haute are gettingready for a windfall!

The city is in a frenzy, preparing for an onslaughtof protesters, camera crews, reporters, sightseers,and visiting entrepreneurs. More than 1,300 membersof the media have already signed up for presscredentials. Articles are being written, T-shirts andbuttons are being sold, and hotels and motelsthroughout the region are booked solid..
Some of the national TV networks have been callingLarry Taylor, a man who lives across the street fromthe prison, wanting to rent his property as a parkinglot for 40 or 50 of their vehicles. And the publicschools are closing, too, giving Terra Haute's 16,000students the day off. The McVeigh execution is thebiggest thing to hit Terra Haute in a decade.

In his Confessions, Augustine tells the story of ayoung man named Alypius, who vowed to avoid thebrutal gladiatorial contests that were so popular inCarthage and ancient Rome. But one day his friendsdragged him to the arena. He tried closing his eyes,but when he opened them, Augustine says, "his soulwas stabbed with a wound more deadly than any whichthe gladiator had received in his body." Alypius wascaptivated, drunk with bloodlust.

The Roman poet Seneca warned that those who makesport of human misery and death lose their virtue,becoming less than human. The rush by the media, thesouvenir vendors, and even those who'll be watchingon TV -- making sport of Timothy McVeigh's finalmoments -- tells us that Seneca had it right.

I believe in capital punishment in cases where thecrime is egregious; justice demands it. But we shouldcarry out the law saddened that sin has caused such adreadful crime. If we enjoy the spectacle, we mock justice, trivialize sin, and coarsen our souls
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