Friday, June 16, 2006

Soylent Green is People (Chinese People)

Remember ice cream trucks? Where I grew up in Western Massachusetts the ice cream truck was a summer staple. Everyday, though we never new just when, we would hear the jingle as the gleaming white van made its way through the streets of our neighborhood. As the jingle got louder we knew the van was getting closer. We would practically mug our mothers for change, and then wait anxiously at the curb for the arrival of the truck.

The truck drove slowly down the street so as not to kill any potential customers. As it pulled up in front of us our eyes scanned the myriad signs plastered on the side of the truck announcing just what was inside the coolers that day. Popsicles, Push-Up Pops, Creamsicles, Fudge Bars, Ice Cream Sandwiches, the list seemed endless. And the guy dressed in white pants, shirt, and sailor-like paper hat was the master of ceremonies. He worked efficiently, never loosing his cool. I wanted to be that guy.

My cousin Bob actually drove an ice cream truck for a while. The envy of many of my friends, but his route was far from our neighborhood, so having a family member in the business did nothing to lower our personal ice cream expenses. He loved that job. I bet he would do it again, given the chance.

I read today that the Chinese have something similar. Or not so similar. The twist is that, in China, they are not selling ice cream, they are killing people. The Chinese van, which looks just like the ice cream trucks of my childhood, is a deathmobile that comes to your neighborhood to inject convicted criminals with lethal chemicals and then cart away the bodies in the back of the truck.

Critics of the idea say China uses the trucks to increase their harvest of body parts to sell on the black market. Not a bad idea. If we did this profits could offset the costs of trials, or be given to the families the criminals have harmed. In fact, we could harvest body parts from living criminals. We could offer a reduced sentence to criminals who would give up a lung or kidney or eye.

I am thinking about writing to the Chinese embassy to suggest that they could get more out of the vans if they let the drivers sell ice cream out of the back of the trucks. They already have coolers to keep the newly harvested organs fresh, so why not start the day with the coolers filled with ice cream. Rather than sitting around waiting for a criminal to kill, drivers could cruise neighborhoods and sell ice cream, stopping for an occasional lethal injection, and careful not to mix the deadly serum with the butterscotch topping.

I am not saying we should have deathmobiles, or that the Chinese should sell ice cream. It isn’t my place to tell other people what to do. It is just that if we did do it maybe my cousin could get a part-time job driving one of the trucks in my neighborhood so I could get a free hot fudge sundae now and then.

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