Meditations: Child Abuse a Crime Against Humanity
Child Abuse is a Crime Against Humanity
Jason, my six-year-old nephew, is an impish, mischievous, athletic, and sensitive boy. I haven’t seen him since he was a year old, so I am a new person to him, as he is to me. It is fascinating to see how he has developed, and to observe the influences on him.
As a baby Jason had petit mal seizures, and was put on mild sedatives for most of his first two years. When they took him off the medication (babies usually outgrow seizures), all the pent-up energy in his little body exploded in often-unmanageable behaviors, at home and school.
His mother, my sister, has been very patient with him through many trials, and he is learning where the limits are and how to regulate himself. Spanking is rarely if ever applied, though firmness is often demonstrated, to a positive effect.
When Jason really acts up, or gets carried away with the roughhousing (which is oddly encouraged and engaged in by all three of my brothers-in-law), a stern word by his mother usually halts the bad behavior. Then Jason gets a rascally look in his eye, but relents.
It’s clear that spanking would have the opposite affect on him. Hitting a child causes a suppression of bad behavior, and an inculcation of external control, rather than internal regulation. Unfortunately, suppression, whether through spanking or other means, is the rule in America, and the legendary violence of this society is a direct result.
As boys grow older, the vicious cycle of violence begetting violence intensifies (delinquents are usually boys, though more and more girls are demonstrating anti-social behaviors as well). Criminality is met with increasingly harsh measures. ‘Build more prisons, and throw away the key,’ is the hue and cry. For example, California’s infamous “three strikes” law commands an automatic life sentence for any third felony.
Given that half the marriages in this country end in divorce, and the culture has completely gone to hell, most children are emotionally abandoned, leaving untold numbers of them to raise themselves. Then society turns on them, demanding they act like responsible adults (as if the adults they see are responsible). At the extreme end of this mad cycle of abuse and neglect of children is the trend toward executing younger and younger offenders.
When an eleven or twelve year old boy kills or rapes, it is not the child that is responsible, but the parents and society. Putting the child to death is the culmination of the violence and sickness that permeates society.
When a society breaks down, the majority of people react, while a minority responds. Reactionaries call for a return to the good old days, when family and religion were the purported pillars of a supposedly orderly society. Adults who are responsible acknowledge the new circumstances, and seek intelligent solutions that fit the new conditions.
All over the world, traditions are breaking down. Appealing to, much less insisting on, halcyon days of order and discipline that never existed only hasten the breakdown.
What makes a family? Is a family a function of the qualities that imbue it? Or is it a structure legalized by the state and sanctioned by religion? Certainly the qualities of caring, affection, protection, and empathy define a family, and not the structure.
The state cannot legislate parents to care about and take responsibility for their children. “Public policies that affirm the formal lifelong public commitment of marriage” are no basis for a marriage, or a society.
Children are not the property of their parents. Child abuse is a crime against humanity, and child protection is a universal right.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.