Every Monday from 5 to 6 p.m., there is a small gathering of death penalty protesters outside Central Prison. Coming from getting the boys from school or going to a practice, we pass them every Monday. Sometimes we get stopped at the traffic light and get a good view. In late August, Gregory, 8, asked what they were doing and what the signs meant. I explained to him and 5-year-old Grayson that it is a prison. Some people are in there for killing people and the government puts some of these people to death because of their actions. These people protesting think it’s wrong for the government to put people to death, so they are expressing their views.
Gregory asked me what I thought. I said, personally, I don’t think the government should kill anyone, but I can understand why some people believe it is deserved if the crime committed was so bad. You can make your own opinion.
Gregory says, “I will think about it, Dad.” Grayson says, “I like waving to the people with signs.” And indeed, they wave back.
About eight weeks go by. It’s October now, and once again we are stopped at the light on a Monday.
“Dad, why are the people there?”
Remember, it’s a Monday and they are protesting the death penalty like they always do, I say. In his “Dad is an idiot voice” he replies, “I know that, Dad. But why are they still here? It’s been like two months, hasn’t the government stopped killing people yet?” Gregory, I say, it takes a long time for the government to change laws. These people need to get tons of people to agree with them and get the politicians to change the laws. Social change unfortunately takes a long time.
“That’s confusing, Dad. Don’t kill people. What is hard to change about that?”
Let’s put social change in the hands of 8-year-olds; the world might be a better place. Meanwhile, Grayson smiles and waves to the protesters.
Now it’s February, and a quasi-moratorium due to legal wrangling about cruel and unusual punishment is in place. Executions have been stopped, first by a judge and then by the governor while they basically figure out a way to still put people to death. But nonetheless, those protesters must certainly feel some joy for their efforts. It’s on the front page of the paper this week and Gregory sees the headline.
“Dad! The people with the signs did it! Now they don’t have to stand out there every Monday!”
Grayson looks sad.
“But Gregory, I like waving to them. They won’t be there to wave back anymore?”
Well, boys, it’s just a temporary stop, not permanent. I suspect that our favorite protesters will still be out there.
“Yay! I like the guy with the real big sign!” cheers Grayson, and from Gregory a simple sigh. “Adults are complicated, Dad. Can we go throw the baseball?”
If life could be as simple as playing catch with my Gregory. But hopefully the day will soon come when there won’t be anyone to wave to.