There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth this spring when a Kentucky family ran an Ohio marathon as a group, which included their six-year-old son.
The morning shows rounded up pediatricians to discuss the effects such an effort might have on a youngster. Dr. Alok Patel told Good Morning America, “If a young child were to run a marathon, I’m worried about electrolyte abnormalities, nausea, vomiting, heatstroke, all these signs and symptoms that may not be that clear in a young child.”
The family, crossing the finish line holding hands – and not dragging the six-year-old – finished the race in eight hours, 36 minutes, which figures out to almost exactly 20-minute miles, considered a determined but not desperate adult walking pace.
Some concerned citizen(s) turned the family into Child Protective Services, accusing the parents of child abuse, and the authorities arrived to interview all of the kids. The lack of a follow-up story probably means that the parents have been exonerated.
At the end of May, a Mets fan was caught on camera – they’re everywhere, they’re everywhere – making a one-handed catch short-hopping a home run ball while holding a child with his other arm. This again elicited child endangerment cries from outraged people – they, too are everywhere waiting for their chance to scream.
While the running family might be considered publicity hounds willing to risk injuring their son, there has been no evidence of such harm. Parents sending their children to school, Sunday school or the grocery store in our gun-crazed society can also be accused of exposing their offspring to peril.
The dad at the ballgame knew his abilities as a fielder and snagged the souvenir.
Isolated incidents create spikes of awareness. We pause, asses them. This means we can’t help but judge them since judgment is part of perception.
They can also lead to further considerations along the same topic. There are other types of child abuse, many of which fly below our everyday radar.
There are parents raising daughters to believe they are inferior to males. Some of this educational abuse is embedded in doctrine to the point that limitations are placed on the extent of their schooling.
Other misogynies are more tacit – until theocratic legislators enshrine women’s second class status through statutes denying women the same rights men enjoy to make personal medical decisions.
Another instance of overlooked child abuse involves the parents perpetuating their racism by indoctrinating their children. In South Pacific, Lt. Joe Cable points out the obvious when he sings: “You’ve got to be taught how to hate.”
The notion of white supremacy is scientifically bankrupt: not one ounce of evidence in its favor. Our klanazi neighbors would do well to remember that the Japanese we fought in World War II also believed in their inherent superiority. We were the inferiors – with exactly the same amount of supporting evidence – none – that our bigots lack.
Racism is a taught behavior and child abuse as it raises new generations pursuing hatred and divisiveness in a world more connected than ever, a world requiring cooperation that can only be achieved through mutual respect. Proud racists stunt their children’s intellectual development as surely as if shorting their rations.
But, no one will ever investigate them or the home-schoolers who use textbooks depicting “the world after Noah’s flood.”
In both cases, the parents are treating their children as objects to be manipulated for the parents’ goals instead of the subjects they are who should be encouraged toward total self-completion.
Children as angry or ignorant as their parents – or both – bode ill for the future of the republic, especially since many of their parents’ ilk have already tried one coup.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party. Longer versions of his columns can be found at scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/.)