People come to an author event for Mike Farrell to hear some pleasant nostalgia about M*A*S*H's Dr. B.J. Hunnicutt. They get that - but they also leave with a well-reasoned earful about why we need to end capital punishment. As the President of Death Penalty Focus, Farrell is one of the foremost U.S. opponents of the death penalty.
At his appearance at Book Passage, Farrell was happy to talk about M*A*S*H. He brought hysterical tales of the antics of the cast and crew. He talked about his fascinating biography, Just Call Me Mike. Folks who were there to hear about Mike Farrell, the actor, got a look at Mike Farrell, the humanitarian leader. By the end of his talk we sold piles of his books, and Death Penalty Focus, the organization he chairs, gathered a long list of new volunteers.
A couple in the audience told us they hadn't thought much about the death penalty until they heard Farrell at Book Passage last year (on his hardcover tour). Now they are strong advocates of the movement to stop capital punishment. They recommended the film, At the Death House Door, about Carroll J.Pickett the former Texas prison chaplain who counseled over 95 people who were executed. At first Pickett thought the death penalty was just, but over time, he changed. He saw innocent people put to death. He saw a system full of error, and he realized that we have to find a way to stop stooping to the level of the perpetrators.
Farrell reminds us that prison will still be the place for the guilty. "Some people are so broken that they can't be trusted to be with other human beings." He got a laugh when he said "think Dick Cheney for example".
Farrell thinks we should reinstate the draft, but not just a military draft. In Farrell's draft, every student who graduates high school would commit to a period of public service, and after that, the government would pay for 4 years of college. He spoke of the late Father John O'Donohue whose book, To Bless The Space Between Us was published just after his death. A social justice activist who worked tirelessly against the death penalty and for human rights, O'Donohue said "The duty of privilege is absolute integrity".
Farrell points out, "All people want love, attention, and respect". People who don't get these three things become twisted. He quoted a man he met years ago who told him, "Rehabilitation--bullshit, most of these people have never been abilitated in the first place."
Never preachy, but always articulate, Farrell found time to make us laugh, to give us the scoop about the cast of M*A*S*H, to tell us about his family, to hear our questions and comments, and to inspire us to get to work now to stop state sponsored killing.