February 10, 2004

Finding Fish, Finding Justice

I woke up at 2 a.m. with a terrible pinched neck, and couldn't sleep, so I got up and read a book for a while: "Finding Fish," Antwone Fisher's memoir. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie that bears his name. It makes me want to volunteer to be a social worker and visit foster children and make sure they're happy and being treated well. I think a lot of crime would be prevented if child abuse could be eradicated. Convicted D.C. sniper John Muhammed and all his siblings were beaten regularly within an inch of their lives. His uncle actually beat a mentally retarded teen to death at the state school. How can you be a productive member of society when you come from that kind of terror and misery?

When I think about how many people are just aching to have a child, and then how many children are unwanted, and treated that way, it just makes me sick. But obviously, there are no easy answers. Even though I was wanted, and my parents were well educated and reasonably enlightened, somehow, it just wasn't in my mother's nature to intervene on my behalf with my father, even though treating a 7-year-old like an adult, and making her stay inside and study for hours at a time was completely inappropriate. I don't know why educating people about how to, or maybe more importantly how not to raise children isn't more important. Shakespeare is wonderful and inspiring, but child development classes would also really be useful for a lot of people with kids. I guess everyone wants to be free to raise their kids in their own way, but whatever religion you follow, and however else you want to indoctrinate your kids, you shouldn't be beating them or telling them they're no good.

It seems that parents who attend child-rearing programs should get some kind of tax break. Why can't the Health and Human Services administration come up with guidelines on what should be taught—basic coping skills for different situations and for children with different personalities. Not a simple task, I know, but what is more important? School teachers shouldn't be expected to do the parents' job. And you can't do much with a child whose parents refuse to get involved. I feel so impotent; I just wish our priorities in this country would change. How can we be talking about sending people to Mars when we're not getting things right here on this planet? It seems a lot like having dessert before you've finished your vegetables. Why do politicians keep skipping the meal?

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