Monday, June 23, 2008

Open letter to Virginia Governor Tim Kaine

While walking Virginia’s roads this morning, thinking of the scheduled execution of Robert Yarborough, I found myself wanting to talk with Governor Tim Kaine. Perhaps ‘way will open’ for us to talk with him or someone else in his office. In the meantime, here’s an open letter to him.

Governor Kaine,

I’m writing to let you know that we’ll pass through your neighborhood today and it would be nice to drop in for a visit. I’m part of a group walking from Raleigh, NC en route to Washington, DC because we see how wrong and damaging the death penalty is and we want it abolished. Today our group includes five Virginians and we expect more along the way.

In the past few years, we have come to know families of people on death row and families of murder victims, and we’ve learned that the death penalty harms them all. This is very personal and important to us; thus we are walking the 300 miles to spread the word.

One of our many objections to the death penalty is that it is one of the many ways that our society gives lip service and empty promises to families of murder victims instead of helping them toward actual healing and learning to live with the horrible losses they experience. Another objection is the way it inflicts on yet another family the insult that we say is so horrible for anyone to inflict. It simply adds more senseless and tragic violence to situations that are already far too violent and senselessly tragic.

We walk to remember murder victims and their families and to call for real support for them rather than lip service and illusions of ‘closure.’ We walk to remember the families of people on death row who are not guilty of any crime and yet pay such a cruel price. We find that the families on both sides have an amazing amount in common in the loss and suffering they endure. We need to do more to prevent the losses of the former. We, and you, can do everything to reduce the losses of the latter.

There will come a time in the not too distant future when society will judge capital punishment as harshly as we now judge slavery. It took devoted people of faith and courageous political leaders to lead us to abolition of slavery. They took great risks and now are considered visionaries and heroes. I invite you to be one of the visionaries and heroes who lead us to abolition of capital punishment. This week, before Virginia executes its 100th person of ‘the modern era’ of capital punishment, is a great time to lead up that path.

Thank you for hearing us. We arrive in Richmond this afternoon between 4 and 5 PM. We’d value the opportunity to meet with you face to face either today or tomorrow at your convenience.

May the peace and courage and compassion of God be with you,

Scott Bass
2008 Pilgrimage of Remembrance: Making Strides toward Abolition and Reconciliation

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