Button, button: Kilgore's pushing our fears


The HooK: ESSAY- Button, button: Kilgore's pushing our fears

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ESSAY- Button, button: Kilgore's pushing our fears

Published January 13, 2005, in issue 0402 of the Hook


Recall, if you will, the Twilight Zone episode wherein a man has a chance to win $200,000– all he has to do is push a button.

But there's a catch: pushing that button will cause a person to die– a stranger, not someone the man knows or loves. Nevertheless, somebody will die if he pushes the button.

An opportunity like this reveals character. You want something: How far will you go to make it happen?

What if you could push a button from a remote location and kill a cat? Would you kill a cat for, say, a good job? Not your own kitty, of course. Some cat you never met.

Now, for a great job, we'd have to increase the stakes. If you wanted to be, say, governor of Virginia, would you push the button to kill a human being?

That is, after all, what campaigning is about: pushing our buttons. Push the "fear" button of your fellow citizens long and hard enough, and you can scare up the votes to win any race.

Jerry Kilgore, our current state attorney general, apparently has decided that the salient difference between himself and Tim Kaine– his likely opponent in this year's race for governor– is their respective opinions about the death penalty.

Kaine has expressed a faith-based, moral objection to capital punishment. Nevertheless, he has stated that, as governor of Virginia, he would uphold the death penalty despite his personal objection to it.

Aha! Behold the tender underbelly of Democrat Tim Kaine: Kaine is soft on death.

In sharp contrast, we have the GOP candidate for governor who is willing to implement the current death penalty whole-heartedly– and then some.

Incredibly, Kilgore has proposed a "Death Penalty Enhancement Act" which would, among other things, increase the population on death row to include someone who didn't pull the trigger, but was involved in the crime. As it stands now, prosecutors have to follow the "triggerman statute" and prove that the defendant was the one holding the weapon.

Under Kilgore's proposed law, you wouldn't have to actually kill anybody in order to be sentenced to death in Virginia.

Apart from Mr. Kilgore's desire to occupy the governor's mansion, is there any need to enhance our death penalty? If there has been a clamor from Virginians advocating the killing of criminals for lesser crimes, I haven't heard it.

We had best brace ourselves for a nasty campaign, with images of murderers and their victims spread across our TV screens and newspapers, "Willie Horton" style.

Mr. Kilgore and his posse will surely pull out all the stops in their effort to scare the bejeebers out of us, hoping that the only way we'll feel safe is by voting for Virginia's version of the Grim Reaper.

Never mind that the real problems facing the people of Virginia are under-funding of education, lack of health insurance for the working poor, and lack of decent jobs for the un- and under-employed.

Those problems are boring, and way too hard to solve. So, go ahead– push our buttons! Arouse our fears and our lust for vengeance, and the governor's mantle is yours, Mr. Kilgore!

But at what price? And who will pay that price? Not you, sir, but some unlucky dope driving the getaway car in a burglary gone horribly wrong.

Jerry Kilgore– welcome to the Twilight Zone.

Janis Jaquith is an Albemarle parent and frequent author of essays for NPR and other radio networks.

Jerry Kilgore



2nd st nw . charlottesville va 22902 . 434.295.8700 . fax

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