Tuesday, January 28, 2014

for a child

last night i had a panic attack at about one am that manifested with my usual- thinking about small children in abusive homes with no one to protect them. i lay in bed in the dark trying to sleep and imagined a two year old lying in the dark in their room and they wake up and cry and someone comes in and screams at them and hits them on the face and leaves them in the room crying and locks the door behind them, just to make sure, you know, that the child doesn't follow them. so this is horrible to think about, horrible to write down, horrible to read, and i don't give a shit, because it's a million times harder for the children that have to live like that. and there are so many of them. the worst of it, to me, the worst offenders ( because we like that word these days) are the people who suspect or who KNOW, and do nothing. the abusers were often abused themselves and are also often drug addled- addled is the right word, because what hard drug use does to a person's brain is turn it into something less than human. if you watch a movie about what addiction does to the brain, the brain damage done, it's illuminating. you understand the de-humanizing nature of drug addiction, like severe mental illness. what do you think will happen to those little babies anyway? you think they'll be hit and hurt and abandoned over and over and have their tiny hearts broken in a million pieces and then grow up and be good mommas and daddies and make 'good choices'? well everyone reading would say, no, mostly, but we don't really believe that. we don't really integrate that knowledge, because the cycle of outrage/inaction continues. it's easy to be disgusted, horrified, hateful, revengeful. but to pick up a phone, to bang on a door, to offer help when it's inconvenient- those things are hard. those things are what have to happen. you want to know what will help that little baby? someone brave enough to be uncomfortable, and scared- just one tiny bit the percentage of scared we expect that child to be and still behave properly at school, right? the hypocrisy of adulthood can make children more embittered than whatever hurting thing is happening to them. i know because that's what happened to me. all the sadness i felt, the fear, the pain- the worst, most dulling part of it was the complete lack of loving outreach, compassionate conversation, or courage on the part of the adults in the peripheral of my life. i remember every kind look and word that an adult gave to me as i struggled through those years, and there were not many. certainly no one said 'do you need help?' because maybe i would have said yes, and then what? 

maybe you remember when i went to Target, and that guy was ripping into his little boy, just emotionally abusing the hell out him, screaming in the middle of the toy section on and on and on and on, so that any reasonable person could see this wasn't about some guy having a bad day and he'd feel awful about it in a minute, this was a father who didn't know- if he ever did- how to draw a line between his internal fuckedupedness and his child. and no one in Target felt able to draw themselves up and say 'hey, stop it. stop hurting this child.' i mean, i didn't feel comfortable, and i understood that child so well. i did it, and i'm glad i did. but i'd be a lot happier if every other grown adult had not left the entire toy area, so that this man and his pitiful child and myself and my kids were not the only people left in the entire toy aisle of Target.

so last night i lay in bed and a slow and enormous horror filled me until i had to get out of bed, go downstairs and pace in the kitchen and cry. it will be ok, i said, to myself, to those children, to no one. but it won't. for many children, it will not. i think about the amount of suffering that we could change, if everyone who suspected a child was being hurt made a phone call, reached out to the family, to the child. yes i've done it, and yes, sometimes the results sucked. but not nearly as much as the hollow despairing knowledge of doing nothing at all. and to that child, even a very small child, seeing, even from behind a half closed door, the face of a stranger in their hallway, talking about something they can't quite understand but knowing it's for them that that person fights- the power of that is not trite, or useless, or pointless. it's everything.
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