December 23, 2005

Commentary:

What did The Terminator Teach Our Children?

By Ernie McCray

“I’m an advocate for our children,” I once heard Arnold Schwarzenegger say. But he sure didn’t act that way based on the other day when he, right before our children’s eyes, held the life of a man in his hands and then coldly let the man die. What advocate for children would ever do such a thing? It’s sad to say but in that moment in time the governor was as much the Terminator in real life as he was on the screen.

Oh, what an opportunity he missed to teach our children how to love. All he needed to do was simply leave Tookie where he was, locked away in a prison cell, separated from society, never to breathe the air of freedom again. Why is such a punishment not enough revenge for us?

And, as to the usual “It’s for the victims” excuse we use for putting some criminal to death, isn’t that because we’ve convinced ourselves that our society doesn’t care about victims of heinous crimes? But deep down we must know that’s a lie when just about every night on the 11:00 News we find ourselves symphathizing and empathizing with people whose lives have been shattered by the atrocities ruthless thugs perpetrate against us. Don’t we literally heave collective sighs of relief when down the line we see the culprits being pushed on their heads into the backseats of police cars on our TVs? And we pretty much feel in those moments that no punishment is harsh enough for these creepy homosapiens who threaten the wellbeing of our communities.

But we must realize when we try them and condemn them to die we stunt our children’s growth as moral beings because there is no discernable moral high ground for them to ponder when the state kills those who kill.

It’s so sad that the governor didn’t look to his inlaws, the Kennedys, for guidance regarding how to show mercy and how to forgive. A man named Sirhan Sirhan killed Bobby Kennedy and Teddy Kennedy wrote a letter, in behalf of his kin, asking that his life be spared. Of this, his nephew, Christopher Kennedy Lawford, wrote in his book, Symptoms of Withdrawal, that at age thirteen he “was made to understand that this was a gesture of the highest human compassion and reflected a belief the family held that it was wrong to take a life for a life.”

How life affirming it would have been for Arnold Schwarzenegger to show our children, by example, an outpouring of human compassion by sparing the life of Tookie Williams instead of spouting empty rhetoric about how he had to die because, basically, he didn’t say he was sorry. Now what in blazes would his “I’m sorry” do for somebody whose life he’s ruined by taking their loved ones from them? And if apologizing is so vital for redemption then it seems that we, as a society, as people of the state, need to say “We’re sorry” and atone for all the senseless and brutal executions that have taken place in our country’s history by ending such barbaric practices.

I wish the governor of my state was truly an advocate for children, in both words and deeds, someone who is willing to show them how to treat people in ways that can help them gain levels of human understanding in the 21st Century that weren’t reached in the last 100 years. They have to create a hopeful and just world out of a horribly troubled hateful world. But if we persist on perpetuating ages old “eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth” philosophies we lessen their chances of ever becoming the kind of decent and compassionate human beings required for such a task.

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