Thursday, August 05, 2004

No little sin 

Eugene Volokh is a great thinker (and law professor). I have read his work with interest. However, his recent article on Mary Kay LeTourneau misses the mark.

He speaks of the damage done to the 12-year-old boy. Commendable. But he first dismisses the initial wrong. In his article, he points to Letourneau's conceiving a child (and later a second child) as the actual harm done to the boy. By having children, the boy is harmed in Volokh's view. What 12-year-old is ready to be a father? The all-too-common caveat of gender reversal is played. If it were a 35-year-old MAN and 12-year-old GIRL, then it would be bad.

WRONG!!! A 35-year-old having sex with a 12-year-old is never right. Gender does not matter. For arguments sake, say a child was not conceived (and later a second child was not conceived). Is there a problem with a 35-year-old woman having sexual intercourse with a willing 12-year-old boy? Do you want your 12-year-old son to have sexual intercourse with a 35-year-old woman who then goes on to publicly express her love for your son and then later stalks him in violation of a court order and probation agreement? Remove all the emotional baggage. Do you want your 12-year-old son to have 'recreational' or 'casual' sex with a 35-year-old woman?

NO!!! As much as we can make sly remarks about no boy ever complaining about having sexual intercourse with a lovely older woman, it is still wrong and there is still harm done. The boy will carry his experience into his future relationships. He will have a warped sense of sexual relations. Like many of today's youths turned young adults, after years of chasing empty sexual experiences, he will hopefully waken one day to realize that he has squandered years of his life. Hopefully, at that point he does not have children or a sexually transmitted disease. Do you have a daughter? Do you want her husband/partner/whatever to have been sexually active since he was 12-years-old? Is sexual intercourse part of a healthy, adult, committed relationship? What does it say then that we as a society are willing to allow a 35-year-old woman to have sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old boy as long as no child is conceived, diseases are transmitted, and the boy understands that the relationship is meaningless?

To believe that a 35-year-old woman having sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old boy is not harmful, we would have to accept some fantastical proposals. #1 That a 35-year-old woman is just hypothetically wandering around with no emotional baggage looking for a 12-year-old to engage in meaningless sexual intercourse. #2 That a 12-year-old boy understands that he has just won the sexual fantasy lottery and that the experience he is about to have has no bearing on reality or his future relationships. #3 That no one else is harmed by #1 and #2 (Her family and children, his family and his children).

Conceiving children is just another damning part of this mess. But as rational adults, we have to step up and say that adults having sexual relationships with children is ALWAYS WRONG because the best of all likely outcomes is still DAMAGING to the child.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Children in public places 

You should read this article by Martin Booe.

I posted earlier that I had the opposite experience. (Read Toddlers and Flying).

But, I was at a funeral last week with a toddler two pews back over my left shoulder. There was a nursery for all children offered. Yet, this mother kept her unruly child with her during the service. Why bring a 3-year-old to a funeral?

There are two lines of thought I would like bring up. I will post more on both later.

#1 If dining out involves a waiter at your table, you are not in a restaurant intended for young children. GO HOME. The issue is that young children are asked to attend social functions that are intended as adult programs. You would not take your elderly relatives to see a G movie. They would balk at the idea. Do NOT take your young child to an event that he/she is too young to appreciate.

My wife and I have left numerous restaurants with our daughter. We misjudged our daughters level of energy, mood, or patience. Rather than suffer through the meal, impose on the other restaurant patrons, and ask our daughter to perform a task she is incapable of, we simply left. If food had been ordered, one of us waited on the boxed meals while the other took our daughter outside. GO HOME.

#2 Discipline and guidance of your young child is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. If you are not around, unavailable, or inattentive, do not become alarmed when others step up to the task. If you do not like the adults methods, then attend to your child. Or GO HOME.

More later.

Keep children out of politics 

Dennis Prager has an interesting analysis of the recent Democratic Convention. His focus is the speech given by Ilana Wexler, a 12 year-old from Oakland.

I have to admit that I get most of my political news from the reading. What political news I watch is on the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. When I saw this young girl addressing the convention, I got angry quick. Why bring a child on stage? It is exactly as Mr. Prager explains. A child can say something that adults cannot and get away with it. A child is precocious. A child is innocent. You cannot blame a child. Well...

The adults in that room were cowards for hiding behind a child.

And children should not be used as political pawns. Ever.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Words are meaningful or meaningless 

The senior minister at our church told me of a recent committee meeting in which he was scolded for using the wrong words. Our church is a member of the United Methodist Church. Our pastor kept referring to "conference askings" and was gently corrected to use the term "fair-share apportionments" in the future. A little later and out of habit - not intent, our pastor used the term "askings" and one of our revered retired ministers took a stern voice and corrected him publicly.

Big deal? Just words? The implication of conference askings is that the UMC is ASKing the local churches for support. The implication of fair-share apportionments is that the local church receives services from the UMC and the local church has a BILL to pay. Which implication would leave the most maneuver room for a congregation struggling with finances? Supporting someone else or a bill?

When I have taught childhood discipline and guidance, I have taken very careful steps in selecting words and phrases. Unfortunately, many students still misunderstand my message. I am from the Deep South. We use the term "beat" as a relatively non-valued term. A loving parent will beat their kids when they need it. That kid needs a beating. You may not like the word because of your background and the implications of the word "beat". It would be a different point to talk about a pop, paddling a child, swat a child on the rear-end, corporal punishment, or any of the numerous other wordings for applying a mildly painful stroke on a child's bottom. If we all witnessed the same event, yet used different wording, a third party would come to a different conclusion based on the wording. If you say "he beat his child", then he broke the law and will end up in our legal system. However, if you say "he sternly yet lovingly corrected his child", then he does not go to jail and could be a candidate for father of the year.

All that to say....

The use of children in news stories is appalling me. In Knoxville, last week we had a successful use of the Amber Alert system to find a "kidnapper". You should read the article here.

Is this really a case of kidnapping? Do most kidnappers leave their 4 children behind to kidnap 1 child? Do most kidnappers take the abducted child to a bar (dive, juke-joint, or honky-tonk would also be acceptable terms)? Do most kidnappers appear in public with the abducted child? Do most kidnappers drive a stolen car to the bar with the abducted child?

Without knowing the people in this story personally and having only seen the mugshot, I feel I am on solid ground asserting the following. Barfly 1 & 2 claim they left their child with Barfly 3. After drinking all night and arriving home in the wee hours, Barfly 1 & 2 went to bed. The next morning, Barfly 3 drove the car of Barfly 1 & 2 to a bar. Barfly 3 probably knew Barfly 1 & 2 had been drinking the previous night and expected them to sleep late. The other children were old enough to care for themselves, but Barfly 3 took the infant with her to the bar to care for it. Barfly 1 & 2 wake up, count their children and notice they are missing one. They call family, friends, and fellow barflies. After not finding Barfly 3 and their child, they call the police. The police have no term for "hungover barflies looking for child left with other barfly" so by default the incident is ruled a "kidnapping."

Sound harsh. Read the article again. In your mind, do you think that she would have returned home from the bar with the child? If not, then it was kidnapping. If you believe, as I do, that she would have returned home with the child, then the story here is nothing. The media has to cover the story and call the case a kidnapping because you cannot have breaking news if the headline reads "Barfly wanders off with child and found in bar".

Do you read the rather large set of warnings and instructions that are included with each prescription medication? Why? You could easily say that you trust your doctor and if he/she prescribed the medication then you are comfortable taking it. But medical mistakes killed more people in the US than gun violence. Even if you did read the warnings and instructions, chances are you would not understand most of it due to technical language. Yet, lawsuit after lawsuit, we are here. What was once easily printed on the bottle ("Do not take on an empty stomach" or "Do not take with milk") has now become a 40 page fine print maze. We all disregard the warnings on medication that could kill us because we have become immune to the effects of medical labeling.

The point - we need to use the right words at the right time in the US and we need to quit letting the presence of children in a story to cause us to lose common sense. If we yell "kidnapping" each time a child is missing, then the lesson of the boy who cried wolf is not too distant. Yes, we have the Amber Alert system. But we need to be mindful in our society of its use. If every child incident brings up an Amber Alert, the effectiveness of the system will decrease rapidly.

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