That damn kid. There he was again. 4:30 am and whining from his room down the hall wanting to come into our bed. We had been holding the line. He’s four, for the love of Van Winkle. He can sleep in his own damn bed. I went in and scolded him. He said he was afraid, he couldn’t sleep. “You have nothing to be afraid of!” I told him. “Go to sleep!” I walked back down the hall, pissed off with him for waking me from my own deep slumber and climbed back into bed. But there it was…
That damn video. That “father” beating his daughter with a belt over and over and over. The day before I had come across it on the internet. It had become quite the sensation. The girl, a regular victim of her big, tough “dad’s” beatings, had set up a video camera and captured it in all its gory. Some six years ago, it turns out. I had been on the phone listening to a nice-guy vendor drone on and on about that which I didn’t care much and had clicked on the “Yes, I’m 18” link and then on “Play” and didn’t hear much else the nice guy said. I watched for a while, my blood going from 98.6 to boiling point in no time flat. This “man”, this “father”, was whipping his daughter with a belt – did I mention over and over and over?
Apparently he is a Texas FAMILY LAW judge (the flaccid “Don’t Mess with Texas” tough-guy slogan manifest in this sad peon). I wanted to reach in and rip that twisted pathetic scrap of garbage’s throat out and shove it down his, well, throat. I quickly turned it off feeling as if I’d been smacked around for about an hour. The nice guy finished his spiel, I think, and it was over. But it wasn’t. That damn video’s been stuck in my head ever since.
It’s all so complicated. His violence inspires my deep wish for his incarceration in the Texas prison system and many, many tortuous years as both bitch and punching bag to the biggest, meanest men there. As a Texan and judge, you can bet he claims to be a deeply religious Christian man, which can be a) appalling to enlightened Christians, b) explained away as “Hey, none of us are perfect and he just needs to repent, and receive the full-on forgiveness of the Lord”, or c) “Well, the Bible does tell us that we’ll spoil the kids if we spare ‘em the rod” (or belt, I suppose).
Then there’s the technology/shame aspect. This kid absolutely schooled the old tool with a video cam and YouTube. I would encourage every child who receives these sorts of physical or emotional beatings to do the same. Drag the cowards (who, of course, perpetrate in the privacy of their own homes mostly) right out into the open. Let the neighbors, the friends and family, the clergy, the teachers, and everyone else with internet access see exactly who they are but are too afraid to show. The WikiLeaks of child abuse.
Then there’s the sad fact that probably won’t help much either. There are 7 billion people on the Earth as of Monday (or so they say), and if we take an incredibly conservative estimate and assume that 10% of these 7B people would do the same to their children for whatever personal, cultural, or religious reasons, we’ve got 700 million people who belong in stockades in the town square covered in loogies and hurled feces by my reckoning. That’s a lot of stockades.
So what can a guy do?
There was nothing I could do about the tiny Texas coward – or any others like him, I don’t think. They have their rods and fists and belts and terribly low self-esteem and tiny penises and whatever, and they have their privacy and they even have their supporters. They will never go away. They will beget and subsequently beat another who will very often do the same to those they beget. These things tend to pass on through generations like crippling disease, until someone is strong enough, smart enough and kind enough (and fed up enough) to stop the cycle and raise their own children with the sort of power not of violence but of intelligence and compassion (and a fair amount of parental trickery, to be honest).
I couldn’t sleep now. I just laid in bed thinking about all this when there he was again. My four-year-old whining. I got up and walked down into his room. “You can’t come in our bed,” I said, firm with breaking this bad habit his mom and I had created for ourselves, and climbed into his bed. I could see in the half light his surprise as he laid his head down on my shoulder and threw his arm over my chest. His breathing slowed, then turned to tiny snores.