Sunday, November 13, 2011
They do not belong to you.
(I almost feel as if I should apologize for this in advance. Almost. But I won’t. I warn you, this piece is rough. I hope perhaps you’ll finish it with some idea of the pain that gave birth to this essay/blog post/emotional rant. Just don’t forget it if you do read it. Don’t forget them.)
Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat. Jerry Sandusky is a rapist, and the people around him who did nothing while children were being raped are enablers at best and co-conspirators at worst. The full extent of the law should and likely will be thrown at them. I wonder if Sandusky will use the excuse that he cares about kids. That’s bullshit. Anyone who cares about kids wouldn’t hurt them the way he did, with threats and coercion and force. That’s not caring; that’s predation. There’s no excuse for causing that kind of hurt, ever.
That has to be said first, because that is not why I’m writing this.
I’m going to skip over my thoughts on a voyeuristic country that hates child abuse but seems so anxious to hear about it; a hypocritical populace that despises child molesters but can’t get enough of the sordid details on Oprah or TV newsmagazines and such. We’ve all heard the details about the boy in the shower, and it’s as if we can’t wait for that boy and others to come forward and tell us the rest (I listen to NPR and the other evening, believe me, they could hardly contain their anticipation). At this moment (5:29 p.m. central time on 11/12/11), there are over 31,000 articles about the Penn State case on the Google News aggregator. That’s staggering. And it’s sickening. But I’ll spare you that opinion, because that is also not why I’m writing this.
I’m writing this because of a misplaced fury. I’m writing this because I’m tired of the smugness, the certainty, the assuredness of those who think they’re not culpable. I’m writing this because the other day I read a news commentator who described the rape of that young boy in the shower as the “most heinous act” one could commit against a child. But you know what? I think torturing and murdering a child are far worse. And the family homes of America are filled with parents and guardians who do just that (at least the torture part), and we fail to get outraged. We look the other way because “that’s just the way people discipline kids.”
No, I think the betrayal that occurs when a parent turns vicious on you and beats the living shit out of you is far worse. (In my case, it was for being an incorrigible girly-boy.) That is torture far worse than anything physical because you know what? The betrayal of a child’s love by a parent is far worse than any physical torture. It’s a torture that, for lack of a better concept, affects the very soul of the child, the very innermost sense of self and love and happiness that belongs to that boy or girl. The boy in the shower with the rapist Sandusky may have felt betrayed by a trusted and respected friend, but he didn’t have to feel the immensely deep and heart-shattering betrayal of his own father lashing out violently at him.
You may disagree with me if you wish. But you had better have some good goddamn backup for your opinion, because I LIVED THAT TORTURE AS A CHILD. I’m not going into details here about my father’s repeated beatings of me. But I will say this: the day my father died was the happiest day of my childhood.
I remember it as vividly as if it happened yesterday, being awakened early in the morning by a ringing telephone and asking my mother who had called. She told me the news. I went back to bed and cuddled up under the covers with a little smile on my face and repeated to myself, over and over, “I’ll never be beaten again; I’ll never be beaten again.”
I was saying that mantra about my father. MY FATHER. You think that what happens when a child is raped is worse than the depths of betrayal felt by child whose parent turns against him? I invite you to think clearly about this. I am so sick of the rage people express over cases like the one that kicked off this post, but seem to think nothing of it when parents rip out their children’s hearts and stomp on them repeatedly. We don’t treat children as lives in this country, we treat them as possessions. Why else would a threat to one’s child and a threat to one’s car elicit similar reactions from many parents in this country?
I know; many of you hate the sort of abuse I speak of as much as what happened to the boy in the shower. But get some goddamned perspective, people. The mob mentality surrounding the Penn State case is sickening. You’re castigating the enablers at Penn State because their betrayal and failures hit too close to home; because experiences like I had probably go on in your neighborhoods all of the time, if not in your own homes. You pillory the sexual abusers because you know if the spotlight was ever turned on you and/or your neighbors and extended family, you would not likely survive the revelations. Could you live with yourself if I and everyone else in the world had a window into your relationship with your child when no one else was looking? I wonder. I wonder because I know I grew up in circumstances which could not have borne that light. And honestly, what happened to me wasn’t anywhere near as bad as some of the other horrifying tales I’ve heard.
If this all seems too harsh, too widespread in its accusation, it’s because when you grow up as an abused child you begin to suspect all of the adults around you as colluding with your abuser. That’s what I believed: they all know. They all know daddies beat their boys with so much hatred and fury. It’s the secret of the adult world; that kids are there for adults to punish and hurt as they please. They all know.
Try growing up with that fundamental idea of society stuck in your mind. It’ll fuck you up big time.
I’ve gone on long enough, but one more thing needs to be said before I go. Get a grip, people. And, as I ranted on another occasion when sanctimony threatened to overrule decency and acts of actual benefit to others, go find some way to help kids who are in trouble NOW. And realize that the sensational cases, the ones that make the evening news and get splattered all over the Internet, don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the horrors that children have to live through. Somewhere in this country, a child cried himself to sleep tonight the same way I once did. And that is one child too many. And YOU need to stop your self-righteous, feel-good, “goddamn, I’m better than that fucking child molester” bullshit and make this world a better place for kids. Goddamn fucking NOW. Children are not your possessions. They are their own LIVES.