“Under His Eye”: The Pandemic, Hulu, and The Death Penalty

Tialisha Lumpkin

Like most people, the pandemic forced me to spend more time at home, inevitably watching unnecessary amounts of television. One of the shows I found myself watching an episode of was The Handmaid’s Tale. I can’t remember my initial attraction to the episode, maybe the vague memory of required grade school readings, maybe my fascination with books turned to movies, more than likely it was the lack of anything else to watch. Nevertheless, I like thousands of other newfound Hulu subscribers was logged on and locked in.

What held my attention beyond the on-screen storyline was the conversation that played in my head, connecting the dots quickly forming after every “under His eye” line. You see, dystopian movies always have eerie resemblances, not just to what the world could be, but what it actually is sometimes. I remember stopping the show after the main characters headed to the river to view the hanging hooded bodies of recently executed prisoners. Walking the river path, less out of support and more so out of conformity and routine.

It wasn’t that the characters supported the executions, on the contrary, they were against the executions. Still, they never spoke their disapproval to one another for fear that they may be seen as supportive of the accused’s crimes. The government’s indoctrinating idea that the punishments were for the greater good of society and in support of the citizens’ views helped to shape the silence. Each day they walked in silent opposition to the bodies “executed in their name,” never speaking that either was thinking with the same aversion.  And so it went, each day another body added to the wall.

The hints of reality rang true in my head, as the Co-Director of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and a victim family member, I know all too well how states carry out death sentences in the false name of their citizens’ support. Citizens, who for many reasons dislike the death penalty but remain silent for fear of standing out on something that’s been made to appear as having mass support. But we must start those conversations, creatively, intentionally, respectfully meeting people where they are.

The episode unintentionally did that for me with the phrase “under His eye.” Popularly voiced by officials to promote a sense that the government was acting as a benevolent watchdog with the people’s best interest in mind, the phrase brought me to similar conversations with elected officials in reality. Kentucky officials who wield half-read bible verses to support the fact that they are laying death at the feet/religious conscious of citizens with each capital case. We are in fact under his eye, but I’m not speaking of big brother or the government.

As a people of faith, we cannot afford to have silent awareness that our states execute human beings in the name of ‘justice,’ for our sake. The silence and fear of standing against the false narrative that the death penalty is supported by the masses can no longer continue. America does not have a taste for the death penalty, the government does. This is why I and KCADP members stand up, question, and oppose those who say they represent our thoughts when they do not mirror them in legislation. By educating others, exposing falsities, correcting the narrative, and working to change legislation we can end the death penalty. Silence is not opposition, we cannot allow ourselves, family, or our communities to continue to bear witness to such biased and barbaric justice.

Not in my name and not under his eye.

Tialisha Lumpkin is the Co-Director of Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty