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It was the day they killed a mass murderer. What he had done in a moment of passion was coldly deliberated upon by the state till it had decided to rid the world of him in a unilateral and final sense.

Being an American with British colleagues, I couldn't avoid the subject. Sooner or later, they were bound to ask, when I phoned in for the latest sales figures, "So, have they done that man yet?"

"Done whom, done what?"

"That fellow convicted of killing all those people. Have they electrocuted, lethally injected, drawn and quartered him yet?"

"Ah yes, the barbaric American practice of capital punishment. Yes, they killed him this morning."

"Just wretched."

"Hrmmm?"

"I mean, to kill a person for killing people...don't you think that's a bit hypocritical?"

"He killed them horribly. He killed them en masse. Society wants its revenge. Justice is revenge cloaked in a socially accepted ritual. We, as a people, didn't just kill him--we thought, deliberated, and agonized over it for years. Then we stuck a syringe full of toxins into his artery and removed him from the gene pool. Next question."

"It seems rather unyielding. Rather final."

"Oh, it is. Don't get caught killing our citizens--if you're one of us, we'll kill you back. If you're some damned foreigner, we'll bomb your cities. Simple people, simple justice. That's America. Fear it."

"Oh, I do."

"Good. Fine. How about those sales figures, then?"

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