There’s been a lot of coverage of the death penalty in the press this week. Because I spend a good part of my day listening to NPR, the kids often hear things I may not want them to … or may not be ready for them to hear. To wit, this week there was a piece on the effect of obesity on a couple’s sex life. I know it was irresponsible, but it was also late in the day. I was driving the kids home from school. My mind was addled… sort of the like the beaten up mint in a mojito. Five minutes into the piece I changed the channel and quickly found some music. Too late apparently, because Francie called out from the way back of the car, “Why did you turn off that news story? What was it about?” I was too tired to come up with a response, so I cranked up the music and ignored it. Seconds later, Bennett looks up at the rear view mirror, to make sure I can see him, and says, “Because she didn’t want us to hear it, that’s why.” And then he smiled and me. And winked. Terrific.
Back to the death penalty. In addition to hearing pieces about it on the radio, I gather Bennett has been following it in the newspaper. I thought he was just checking the sports scores in the morning. And frankly, given the blase attitude of some people towards the issue, he might as well have been (wherever you stand on the issue, promise me you’ll never applaud for the number of men a governor has put to death). Anyway, a few days ago, the questions began: Why do they kill them? How do they kill them? I explained some of the methods to him, and the reasoning behind it, especially the deterrence explanation, and then I let it sit for a while. But the questions keep coming. He is especially hung up on the lethal injection. How do we know it doesn’t hurt if they the guy is dead and can’t tell us? I made something up about rats and experimentation. Gotta love parenting on the fly.
He’s also been asking about prison a lot. I don’t know where he heard about solitary confinement, but I’ve spent a good amount of time this week answering questions about what it looks like, how big the room is, what happens when you are released.
Then he asks about my clients. I tell him what I’ve told him before, that I don’t do capital cases, so I don’t deal with the death penalty.. and that many of the people I represent have committed smaller offenses, and I listed some… for some reason I included assault. “What’s that?” he asked.
“That’s when you hit someone.” I reply.
“You can go to prison for hitting someone?”
“Depends on the situation, but yes, you can.”
Silence. And I can almost smell the smoke as his little brain works overtime to process it all: assault, prison, solitary confinement, lethal injection.
I know it’s my job to clarify all of this heady information and reassure him that even though hitting your sister is wrong, you won’t end up on death row. But I don’t. I let it sit and marinate for a while. Maybe I’ll tell him tomorrow.