Grant Clemency to Tookie Williams

Open Letter to Governor Schwarzenneger:

I write this letter on faith that you are not, at core, the Terminator, for we know that the Terminator would not hesitate to execute people in cold blood, and my appeal to grant clemency to Stanley “Tookie” Williams would fall on deaf ears. As you know, Crips co-founder, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and writer, Tookie Williams is scheduled for execution on December 13, 2005.

I write with the conviction, rather, that you identify with Kindergarten Cop-hard when necessary, soft when humanity requires it.

Crimes against humanity are the terminator’s reason to be: terminators are the non-human state’s means of eradicating human imperfection, and nothing is more imperfect than violent, gratuitous homicide. The movie that made you famous teaches us that human beings are morally superior to robotic terminators. We do not terminate imperfect human beings; we embrace them-we embrace ourselves. When (we) people sin, we forgive them (ourselves), we show mercy. Kindergarten Cop understands this. Kindergarten Cop has a big heart.

It’s the Terminator who coldly endorses capital punishment, the Terminator who, like George W. Bush when governor of Texas, shows no mercy. The Terminator loves our practice of terminating human beings who, by committing homicide, have taken human imperfection to the limit. Actually, one needs only be convicted of homicide, since justice, as it happens, is as imperfect as the people who dispense it. Guilty in fact, or guilty by conviction-the mark of imperfection either way.

To the terminator, Kindergarten Cop himself is a jumbled mess of emotions and, therefore, does not deserve to live. If the Terminator had his way, you would not be Governor sitting in final judgment over the lives of condemned men, and I could not be appealing to your softer, human side. Thankfully, the original Terminator was terminated before he could execute Kindergarten Cop.

Whether Stanley “Tookie” Williams is innocent, as he claims, or guilty, as determined at his original trial by (an imperfect) jury, or whether he deserves all the attention, awards and honors-including a 2005 Presidential Call to Service Award by merciless George W. Bush– bestowed on him for his Herculean efforts over the past two decades to dissuade kids from joining gangs and embracing violence-these question are beside the point.

Kindergarten Cop knows that systematic, cold-blooded termination of people is wrong. If one of his kindergarten munchkins were to hit the kid who hit her, Kindergarten Cop would tell her that violence is not the way to solve a problem. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We don’t kill people just because they kill us. We talk to them, we tell them how their killing us made us feel; we give them a very long, maybe (or often) even a permanent time out, but we do not kill them back. Our restraint makes us human; we are civilized.

As you make your decision, the civilized world will be rooting for the strong but compassionate voice of Kindergarten Cop to drown out the heartless, violent screeching of the Terminator and his kind.

Please, Governor, do not sign off on yet another American crime against humanity. Help the state of California and the nation regain the civilized high ground.

Grant Stanley “Tookie” Williams clemency now.


TOM KERR teaches writing at Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY. She can be reached at: