Friday, October 13, 2006

Let's Give God a Break

A twenty-year-old mother in North Carolina suffocated her 9-month-old twin boys on Wednesday because they were crying and she didn't feel well. Those babies were on the bed next to her when she murdered them. Then she rolled over and took a nap. Authorities found the body of one boy on the bed, the other on the floor. The mother has been arrested on two counts of homicide by child abuse.

So here we have the ruined lives of three people, not to mention other family members. Obviously (to me, anyway), this woman never should have become a mother. She was not equipped to deal with the harsher moments that go along with parenthood. I don't know a mom alive who hasn't had to deal with needy children when she herself did not feel well. I don't know one of them who killed her kids over it.

I don't know any further details of this story. But based on the few I've mentioned and some other pieces of information I've gleaned from news reports, I can imagine she was a single mother, low-income. Uneducated, unskilled, perhaps unemployed. No one ever explained to her the resources available to her and her children. No one paid any attention to her, at least not when she needed it most. And now two innocent lives have been snuffed out.

This is just one of hundreds of similar stories that unravel throughout this great nation every day. Maybe they don't all end the same. Instead of death, children suffer sexual and physical abuse, emotional such an intense and irrevocable degree that they would rather die. But they don't die. So then they seek escape by turning to gangs, drugs, prostitution, get the picture.

I can't imagine a life like that. I hope my kids can't, either, though I would sometimes like them to understand that the life they have isn't unfair simply because I expect them to help with chores around the house and do what I ask the first time I make the request. I'd like them to have at least an inkling of what it's like not to be them because being them seems (to them) to be a rip-off when I don't just hand them money for no reason, or when I hold them accountable for their actions. Sometimes, being a parent really blows. It means being the bad guy, the nag, the one who says No when saying Yes would be so much easier.

But although we require training and licensing for driving motor vehicles, obtaining certain jobs, and constructing buildings, we don't provide mandatory training for parents-to-be. Oddly enough, some counties require a course for parents who are divorcing, to help them smooth the transition for the kids and remember that they are the adults, regardless of the circumstances. So we are, according to law, trained to handle divorce, but not parenting.

I wonder how that North Carolina mother might have better handled her frustration had she received some assistance (and I'm not talking welfare) before her babies arrived. Or, perhaps even better, before she got pregnant. Instead, we have folks who want to ban sex education in favor of abstinence-only rhetoric AND outlaw abortion. Where is the logic in this?

The idea of having an abortion fills me with unutterable sadness. Really, I can't put together words to express how devastating the thought is to me. But in a world filled with thousands of unwanted children who endure unbearable suffering at the hands of those who are supposed to love and cherish them most, I can't find the logic in revoking one of few options available. To the young girl who is repeatedly raped by her dad or brother, or the woman who is abused in every manner by her psychotic husband, abortion is, perhaps, the only ray of hope. I don't know; I've never been in such a situation. But I can't for one moment pretend that I know what is best for someone who has had this experience.

I want a presidential administration that values everyone, not just the rich or religious (but it has to be the "right" religion), the white or powerful. Everyone. If that were the case, there would be little need to ever discuss the rights of the unborn vs. the born. We would all get what we need, those basic necessities such as education, food, shelter, health insurance. If life weren't a dire struggle for so many hundreds of thousands of people just to survive, maybe there would be more time to devote to bettering ourselves so that we might just be able to give our kids what they need.

Instead, we have mothers barely out of their teens, suffocating their babies and facing life in prison. And we have young boys and grown men storming our schools and terrorizing our children, murdering some and traumatizing the rest for life. We have young girls and grown women dying from self-induced abortions and those performed by back-alley pseudo doctors because men are passing laws telling us what we can and cannot do with and to our own bodies. Everyone in these scenarios is a victim, from the dead babies to the suicidal, gun-wielding maniacs.

I'm an idealist. At various times in my life, it's been the only thing between me and a very bad choice. I believe in the overall goodness of the human race, that there still exists the possibility that things can change for the better. I need to believe that something new and improved lies just beyond the horizon, because the news I read yesterday and today, the headlines I will surely read tomorrow, are soul-crushing. They could easily rob me of my hope and determination if I hadn't already spent more than forty years learning how to detect that sliver of potential in the mountain of disappointment.

The family of the slain boys say they're giving the situation up to God, that it's in his hands. Maybe if more people here on earth would take responsibility for what happens not only to themselves but to their neighbors, we wouldn't need to keep giving God so much to do.

In the meantime, our simple leader has made us the police of the world, and we're spending billions of dollars we don't have fighting a war we can't seem to bring to an end for a reason we can't seem to remember (oh, that's right; there wasn't [a real] one) while our own people suffer needlessly and endlessly due to poverty, ignorance, and destitution. Then, that same simple leader and his henchmen pass laws that are rapidly making second-class citizens out of anyone who isn't white, straight, wealthy, and male. Despite my idealism, I can only predict that this will end badly.

Abortion. War. Poverty. Murder. Foreign policy. Parenting. Ignorance. Politics. You may think these concepts aren't related, but they are. In its simplest form, everything is related in one way or another.

And it isn't God who provides the common thread. It's you. And it's me. And until we truly understand this, every effort we make is destined to fail.


Judith K. Witherow said...

"I don't know any further details of this story. But I can imagine she was a single mother, low-income. Uneducated, unskilled, perhaps unemployed. No one ever explained to her the resources available to her and her children. No one paid any attention to her, at least not when she needed it most. And now two innocent lives have been snuffed out."
These are unfair assumptions when we think about Susan Smith driving her children into a pond, etc. It can no more be blamed on the ones you described than God. You are blessed, but so many in this world were never taught to be parents. This runs the gamut of every race, class and culture we can think of. Men are now killing their children and wives on a regular basis. I wonder why they don't just kill themselves first, but nothing is ever that simple where emotions are concerned. Two women in MD have been set on fire with gasoline because they wanted a restraining order because of violence, and the judges made fun of both of them. (One judge was a female) There has never been a time when many feel totally hopeless and helpless, because the so called "programs" are now fueling a war to kill untold numbers and erasing options that once existed. It's understandable that many are now becoming immune to violence. Not acceptable but understandable. If anything is going to change we have to keep doing it on an individual basis. It's not enough to just teach our children and grandchildren. We have to watch out for those of every age whose life we just might be able to make a difference and save their life or sanity.

Rebecca Valentine said...

I think you may have misunderstood me. In the few reports that were written about this incident, no father was mentioned. The mom lived with her grandma in rural NC. Going by these scant details (plus those I've already written about), I don't think my assumptions are unfair.

I totally agree with you, and I thought I was clear on that: So many have not been taught how to be parents, and we all are to blame for that.

Mary A. Shafer said...

I think you'll catch a lot of guff for this column, but I'm glad you wrote it. Though this kind of scary stuff has certainly happened before, I do think that a great deal of the kind of despair people feel that causes them to do these horrific things is linked to the larger movement toward the disenfranchisment of anyone who isn't the "right" kind of people, according to this sorry excuse for an administration.

The hopeful news is that these warmongers and power grabbers are finally, through all the scandals, being exposed for what they are. I just hope it's not a realization that has come too late.