Ken Lay deserves outrage for his corrupt tenure at Enron, but it's fair to say there is more outrage on the left, as liberals tried desperately to connect Enron to Bush in the 2002 election cycle. In the Washington Post today, in a piece titled "Ken Lay's Last Evasion," Style section essayist Henry Allen channeled the rage that Lay cheated the world by dying with an overwrought revenge fantasy:
But now that he's died of a heart attack in the luxury of his Colorado getaway while awaiting sentencing for his crimes, none of his victims will be able to contemplate that he's locked away in a place that makes the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel look like Hawaii; that he might be spending long nights locked in a cell with a panting tattooed monster named Sumo, a man of strange and constant demands; and long days in the prison laundry or jute mill or license plate factory, gibbering with anguish as fire-eyed psychopaths stare at him for unblinking hours while they sharpen spoons into jailhouse stilettos.
He will not be ground into gray jailhouse paste by listening to the eardrum-scarring symphony of 131-decibel despair that is the Muzak of penitentiaries, by gagging on the dead prison air, by choking on the deader food, by watching the blue sky taunt him with freedom over the exercise yard, and by feeling his nervous system rent by the cruel grenades of memories -- explosions of nostalgia for the days when he knew he'd be swanning forever through the comfy laps and cool lawns of luxury and infinite possibility. Sweet Gulfstreams through sweet skies, the pools, the jewels, the Maybach limousines, a life in which he didn't just pimp his ride, he pimped the entire world as he knew it.
Allen acknowledged the "strange and vicious outrage" was not admirable:
...so many people may well have responded to the news of Lay's untimely death by feeling cheated, by saying that death wasn't good enough for him, by sensing a frustrated craving for revenge burning in their backbrains like a fire in a tire dump.
Is it possible that a micron below the surface of our liberal and enlightened beliefs lurks savagery? Was the French Enlightenment wrong about our essential goodness, and were the medieval churchmen right about our innate depravity?
We should consider these things in days to come, so that Ken Lay may not have died in vain.
Yes, the churchmen are right. It's clear that the worst temptation of evil doings is the way they tease out the evil inside us. Funny how liberal essayists sometimes fail to ponder whether there's punishment after death. Allen concluded with less charity, confessing that "depraved as we may be," he wanted Lay's super-size crimes to be avenged with some super-size earthly torture before death.