—I have a solution for crime.
—What is it?
—Yes, we must crucify criminals.
—Yes, there is no other way, really. All else is diversion and lies when it comes to what to do with them. There is nothing humane about punishment, and punishment cannot be ignored, cannot be avoided. You must always do what is right, but what is right cannot be weak and insipid. There is Justice, but it often lies beyond our understanding.
—It’s interesting how you’re always talking about Justice lying here, lying there, lying everywhere or anywhere . . .
—You think not, you think otherwise, you imagine yourself having an understanding greater than the needs of Justice—and she has needs . . . I know you are marked by compassion. It’s one of the stigmas of our humanity. But what you propose we do would be a mistake. Crime deserves its punishment, and not to punish a crime is yet another one, against Civilization. Civilization versus Nature; animals do not crucify one another.
—You believe what you are saying?
—I know so. It’s not a matter of belief. Knowledge is more certain than belief. I don’t trust faith.
—So you think we must hang placards from their necks in public.
—Yes, in Public—before everyone there is . . . to see or not to see.
—Line Broadway from the Battery to Fort Tryon Park . . . and you will see a change.
—From one end of the island to the other?
—It’s the only way. I don’t go for Guillotining. French sophistication, but the first instrument of totalitarian slaughter. It’s only a few steps from the Jacobins and the guillotine and the Nazis and the Concentration Camp . . .
—I don’t know if I can get there, accepting this.
—There are many people who feel as you do. But we have to see the writhing broken bodies if public morality is ever to be corrected, instructed, made right for all. And instructed it must be. Good is not of nature—in fact, there is no good or bad in nature. But the last thing a civilization needs is to be natural—that’s our mistake. We want things more natural.
But Nature is red in tooth and claw . . .
Our humanity has little to do with our nature as a species of animal, Homo sapiens. You don’t think the Romans were barbarians, do you? People must distinguish between the animal we are and the human we can be.
The Romans were not barbarians—in fact, there were no citizens of any country anywhere in the world for two thousand years who were as protected by law and who lived as free as Roman Citizens, even under their Imperium. Crucifixion was an instrumental tool in Roman civilization, and do not think that it was not. Crucifixion was as much a bearer of this civilizing force as Roman Law, Roman Trade, Roman roads and aqueducts, baths, monuments, et cetera.
—But do you think that you can instruct public morality?
—Instruct it this way, of course, I do. There is no other way to impart morality except by instruction—don’t think that chimps have any morality, don’t think that any animal in any jungle or forest has ethical considerations.
The theater of the cross is an effective tool, an effective method, as theatre has always been. I mean Crassus had Spartacus and his army of seven thousand slaves crucified from Brindisium to Rome—and don’t think that that did not help, it did. He saved Rome, didn’t he? No other rebellion for five hundred years until the fall of the empire in the west. Darius of Persia understood. Charlemagne did too. Darius glorified Persia as Charlemagne saved Christendom from pagans and infidels. Do we need more?
—I don’t think there could be more.
—I know what you’re thinking.
—Yes, but do unto others as you would have them do unto you is exactly the point, just before they ever get the chance to do to you, that’s all . . . always.
—This sounds insane.
—The Truth often does. Our ears are so unaccustomed to it
Let’s get a cup of coffee.