Ever since the ill-conceived and ill-fought war on terror began, rightwingy types are always going on about how what the US really needs to do is bring torture back, “hand matters to some of our less-squeamish allies,” turn everyone who refuses to graft the stars and stripes onto their gums into homo sacer. Well, I’ve got just the machine for you! In Kafka’s masterpiece of a short story, “In the Penal Colony,” much of the action centers on a contraption called The Apparatus, which is a unique and elaborate execution machine that straps the homo sacer onto a bed of sorts, gags him, and then uses a series of pointy objects to poke onto his body a synopsis of his crime, the idea being that the condemned then slowly bleeds to death through fleshly incarnations (pardon the pun) of his crime itself.
All of this got me thinking–what if I had my very own Penal Colony apparatus, and I could use it to spell out whatever I wanted on whomever I wanted? Well, I’m not some kind of sadist, so that kind of thing really doesn’t appeal to me, but…well, all right, if someone had a gun to my head or something…Ann Coulter would get “MALICIOUS VITRIOL-SPEWING HAG.” Donald Rumsfeld would get “WHICH GUARD OF THE GATES OF HELL WAS SNOOZING WHEN THEY LET ME OUT?” Jeff Koyen, “editor” of the NY PRESS, would get “WORLD’S BIGGEST HEMMORHOID.” You get the idea. These ideas and more may be mulled over in an issue of the L near you, but I’m already feeling guilty. People with sould shouldn’t let themselves entertain gruesome fantasies like this–after all, think about what happened to the Officer in “In the Penal Colony”–he went even more bananas than he already was, jumped on the machine himself, and was impaled without even the courtesy of the machine working properly to impale him.