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AFTERWORD Executioner’s Soundbite BY PHILIP BRASFIELD ICOULDN’T HEAR what he was lying about this time, but the message came across loud and clear anyway. Mark White wants to be governor of Texas again. And he wants it real bad. Other candidates in this year’s gubernatorial free-for-all seem content to amuse themselves with promises of no new taxes, support for a state lottery, threats to have the likes of this writer bustin’ rocks out in the boondocks of West Texas, or the assurance that early release programs will stop while another 25,000 prison beds are hastily constructed. Even the woman with big hair wants her would-be constituency to believe that she, too, will be tough on crime and that she supports the death penalty. It’s enough to make you wonder if those thousand points of light shining somewhere out there in this kinder, gentler country aren’t the eyes of the public glowing in the dark. But never in my 40 years has the hysteria and hyperbole that surround every race for public office reached such a level of blood lust as haS ol’ Mark White’s current campaign of self-promotion. To the average viewer and potential voter who never knew James Autry or Rudy Esquivel, Charlie Rumbaugh or Jay Pinkerton or any of the other 30-odd Texans put to death in the last eight years, White’s message may be more reassuring than threatening. That’s the point. Others may talk about being tough on crime and in favor of the death penalty, but talk \(tmlike political campaigns and other forms man knows. Mark White hopes that his actions as governor will speak for themselves, with the understanding and, one concludes, the logic, that the public, will forgive and forget all the things he doesn’t say, doesn’t dare remind us of. His stroll down memory lane, past the billboard-sized enlarged photographs ‘ of executed sons, brothers, fathers, and friends \(as those men must surely be remembered, as Philip Brasfield is the author of Deathman, Pass Me By: Two years on Death Row articles and poems published in number of periodicals in the ,United States and overseas: 1990 marks Brasfield’s 13th year in the Texas Department of Corrections. gratitude for his being such a tough hombre, in all our names, and to pluck the taut string of Texas machismo so the folks at home can feel a little better about themselves and let Mark White continue in that vainglorious puddle of -political power for yet another little while: I HOPE. he’s wrong. I hope potential voters’ instincts are not as base as Mark White and ‘his ad men believe. I hope that people of common sense realize that none of BILL LEISSNER Mark White my now-dead friends from Death Row were ever proud or boastful of having taken other human beings’ lives. I hope some politician, someday, has the courage to understand and help others understand that most of those on Death Row have lived marginal lives notable for histories’ of abuse, poverty, poor education and lousy role-models, and that most fell through the cracks of society long before society decided, via trial by jury, to kill ’em and he done with ’em. The death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent to violent crime, but it isn’t. Statistics poirit in the opposite direction. The death penalty is also said to somehoW instill a reverence for other human lives; but how can killing people teach others that each person’s life has intrinsic worth? The death penalty has been said to make society safer for everybody. Yet if that were true, the crime rate would have gone down by now. It hasn’t. As the paid political advertisement for Mark White’s re-election flashed across the screen, the noise of a hundred or so people around me never dropped a decibel. The domino games, like the mindless, loudmouthed conversations, kept right on going. The dice game on the floor by my seat maintained its swift pace as bars of soap, envelopes, bags of coffee, and other kinds of prison legal tender were wagered, lost and won. A freckle-faced youngster sitting next to me asked me what time it was. I almost told him it was the beginning of the end, then spared this kid my attempt at an irony that he’s too young to appreciate. He leaned forward and told another prisoner, who passed the word along and eventually, mercifully, the channel was changed. I didn’t have to sit any longer and endure the exploitation of executed friends of long-gone road-dogs Mark White now seems to consider trophies. The noise abated and the dice game folded when the movie began. My fellow transgressors against the peace and dignity of the state settled down and behaved in semi-civility until rack-time,. hushed and entertained by yet another sexploitation rerun with lots of guns and fast cars and portrayals of formula violence, as Chuck Norris kicked, jabbed, punched, shot, choked, burned, and maimed the bad guy in Silent Rage, finally managing to throw the sumbitch down a deep ol’ well. As the credits began to roll, Chuck embraced his love interest and the camera panned down into the murky depths what would surely be, in real life, a watery grave. Just at the end, however, the bad guy’s head bursts forth from the water, and I again thought about Mark White’s campaign and about politicians in general.. If all the images of dead men do for Mark White what fear tactics and tough talk did for George Bush \(when the Willie Horton factor lieve anything much will really change. Politics, like bad Hollywood films, relies more on smoke and mirrors than on substance, after all. Yet it’s frightening to consider what ploys will be used to win votes for aspiring public servants in the years to come, when it’s obvious that slamming a few prisoncell doors just doesn’t hack it anymore. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23