Dreamers, fools and losers
What would you do if you won $100 million (after taxes) in the lottery? Even those of us who don't play the lottery can sit and spin off the wonderful scenario of what we would do. That's an easy decision -- so much money there's no end to our generosity: pay off the house, get a new car, quit my job, a million for my church, one for my community, one for cancer research, one for heart research, one for the homeless, one for the starving in Somalia, one for Haiti, one for the school, one for education in America and one for the poor children in America.
Let's see, I still have almost $90 million left. One for each of my kids, one for other relatives (based on need rather than greed), one to live on and none to anybody who calls and asks for some -- they would be coming out of the woodwork. The generosity goes on and on -- what a wonderful person I imagine (in the one in many million chances of winning) I would be. Finally, to set up a trust fund for the balance to be managed and distributed by somebody wiser than me. Most people who win the lottery are broke within five years, but no, not me.
Here's a much tougher decision. If you were on death row and could have anything you wanted for your last meal, what would you order? That was a decision faced last month by Lawrence Russell Brewer, a white supremacist gang member convicted over 10 years earlier of a vicious, brutal, hate-murder. Brewer seems to have ordered everything he liked: Two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat-lovers pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts.
What would you order? Assume your appetite would not be affected by a haunted conscience because you believe you were innocent -- framed by your best friend who has been tearing around with your wife all these years you've been on death row. And your wife hasn't divorced you because she's waiting for some widow's benefits. It wouldn't be a very exciting opportunity if you were a vegetarian (because they live longer) would it? I would imagine that sirloin steak and lobster would be at the top of the list. But my research shows me the most popular food in the world is pizza. In the United States, the top five favorites are fried chicken, roast beef, spaghetti, turkey and baked ham. The second five are fried shrimp, beef stew, meatloaf, fish and macaroni and cheese.
How about Lawrence Russell Brewer, on death row in Houston, Texas -- did he eat all that stuff he ordered? Prison officials said he didn't eat any of it. None? I have to believe he nibbled at the okra just a little bit.
Texas has a slogan, "Don't Mess With Taxes." It is really part of an anti-littering campaign, but it's more than that -- it's a real attitude. In Texas the execution department operates like an assembly line. How did they get even with Brewer? Well, you can't really do much more than what they already intended. So they put him to death on an empty stomach.
But Texas has a history of excessive demands by prisoners entitled to a last meal. In one week last month they had two requests. Cleve Foster asked for two fried chickens (most popular meal in the U.S.), French fries and a 5-gallon bucket of peaches. He got a temporary reprieve so the meal wasn't delivered. Steven Woods requested two pounds of bacon, a large four-meat pizza (favorite food in the whole world), five fried chicken breasts, two drinks each of Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Root Beer and Sweet Tea, two pints of ice cream, five chicken fried steaks (wasn't he worried about cholesterol?), two hamburgers with bacon, fries and a dozen garlic bread sticks with marinara on the side. Two hours later he died with garlic still on his breath. Years ago, one Texas inmate even requested dirt for his final meal.
Don't mess with Texas. After Brewer didn't eat his ridiculous order, they changed the rules -- no more accommodations for final meals in Texas. From now on, the condemned death-row guys will get the same meal as the other offenders in the unit.
The moral of the story for readers of this column is this: don't worry about what you'll do if you win the lottery or have to order a last meal; only dreamers, fools and losers need to concern themselves with those issues and you're not any of those.