Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is this world really getting worse, or is it just an illusion? Or does it even matter when our children are under assault?

At one time, somewhere around the middle of the semester I always assigned my freshman writing students a writing prompt designed to facilitate the development of their skills in composing a written argument. That prompt asked them simply,

"Is the world really becoming a more morally corrupt and dangerous place to live, or is this an illusion created by the ever increasing number of media and speed of communications which allows more information to be communicated across greater distances in a shorter period of time?"

This prompt came to mind recently when I sat down to compose a post commenting on the Richmond, California, case in which a number of people raped a fifteen year old girl following a homecoming dance as many watched and some even took pictures.

Even as I began that post, I still struggled with attempting understand the death of Somer Thompson. Somer Thompson was a seven year old girl who lived not far from me who disappeared on her way home from school. Police found her body several days later in a Georgia garbage dump about fifty miles from where she was abducted.

I think the Somer Thompson case really hit home because she lived so close to me, and from the moment authorities announced her disappearance, I and the rest of the community hoped against all hope that she would be found safe and sound. However, I think the discovery of her body shocked and dismayed the whole community.

And my mind went back to that prompt when today I learned of the fate of five year old Shaniya Davis. Shaniya’s mother reported her missing about five days ago, and after an extensive search, police found her body off a road near Sanford, North Carolina. Later it was revealed that she had not been kidnapped as reported, but instead her mother had sold her child to be used as a prostitute. According to reports, the actual police report states that the mother, “‘[K]knowingly profide[d] Shaniya Davis with the intent that she be held in sexual servitude’ and she ‘permit[ted] an act of prostitution’.”

I believe reports such as these affect us all; however, these reports are especially frightening, especially alarming to those of us who have children or even those of us with grandchildren or young nieces and nephews or any young people in our lives who we care for deeply and worry about incessantly.

Every since our children were babies, my wife got into the habit of getting up suddenly and frequently throughout the night and walking the entire length of the house to look in on the children, to see them, to touch them, to determine if they were still there and were alright.

And I teased her about this habit. But lately I have been making my own trips down the entire length of the house, and often we pass each other, one going and the other coming. Nevertheless, we continue our journey just so we might see for ourselves that our children are still there and they are safe.

When they are away from home, we don’t speak of it, but I know that in the back of each of our heads, we are wondering just what they are doing at the time and if they are okay. And when they are only a few minutes late arriving home from school, the panic begins to rise. We begin to peek out of the windows, and if necessary, walk to the end of the drive.

They are older now, and we would like to give them more freedom. We would like to see them explore the world, learn of the world on their own. After all, we will not be with them always, and in just a few years they will be out of our house and on their own. But even then I don’t think we will ever quit worrying about them, fretting about their safety.

But is this world getting worse, or is it just an illusion? At one time I would have chosen the latter. At one time I sincerely believed that we are no worse off than before, that we now simply have access to so much information that in the past we would never have known that we simply are imagining a monster in every closet, under every bed. However, I don’t know now; I really don’t know.

Perhaps, it has happened previously, but I don’t ever recall a fifteen year old being raped while others looked on and took pictures. I honestly don’t ever recall so many children disappearing only to turn up dead or never turn up at all. And certainly, I have never heard of a case when a mother sold her own five year old child into prostitution.

Perhaps, I am simply growing old. Perhaps, I am just becoming more cynical. Nevertheless, I cannot help but be frightened for my children. I cannot help but be frightened for all children. Maybe it is an illusion. Maybe it is not. But what difference does it even make when our children seem to be under assault from all corners?


E.Payne said...

I am deeply saddened and troubled by this. On the heels of watching the movie Precious which graphically details what can occur (short of death) when neglect and abuse is rampant behind closed doors we get to see and feel the reality of it with Shaniya Davis except this story isn't fictional...Even if she didn't look almost exactly like my own daughter I can see my daughter's face in her face her happiness and joy at just being a kid. I simply pray that God took her back before she had to suffer too much. This is just awful.

Anonymous said...

This world is definitely getting worse and it is a sign of the times. We do have this steady stream of information now but we also have the reality of what is going on in this world. This world is wicked. The people reflect this.

Even the young people have begun to take on animalistic traits by raping and killing each other. And it's not just the murders and violent acts themselves it is the manner the fashion in which they are committed. It is the thirst to see pain on the faces of others. It is the greedy immoral appetites of sexual predators online, in your neighborhoods, on television. It is the mental attitude of regular people who kill as a response to any conflict in their lives.

The bible foretold these events and for years people have shrugged these words off as merely fantasy. But, the reality, Max, is here..now. And it is not going away. Sadly, we haven't even seen the worst of it. It is only beginning.

Kim said...

such a tragedy.


I don't even know about animalistic to describe some folks
I stated early that man is suppose to be the "higher animal", yet too many times we see humans, Mom/Dads not only fail to protect, but bring harm to their own children, yet you can't get within 20 ft of a bears or a lions cubs without her ripping you to shreds...makes you wonder who the savage animal is.

LoudPen said...

I really wish I would've written Kim's comment. Like really, it was soo on point.

And Max, as always thanks for keeping it real. I know my parents still worry about me all the time and I'm 24 yrs old, so I can understand how & why you worry about your own children. My parents get upset if I don't call them at least once a week & they still lecture me all the time. Since I've recently realized how blessed I am to have that, I usually oblige to whatever they ask.

The Uneasy Writer said...

When a show like Toddlers&Tiaras is considered ‘family programming’ you know in your heart of hearts that this world is not safe for our children.
(I really hate that show and any show that exploits children so I tend to bitch about whenever possible! Sorry I couldn’t spare your blog!)

Kids have become very flippant about sex, mostly because it’s everywhere; TV, movies, video games, music social networks etc., etc. Mostly though, they’re flippant because a lot of parents are afraid to turn off the TV--that would mean they would actually have to do their jobs.

At the end of the day, no matter how screwed up this world is, if you have a good, supportive family, you’ll be ok. And you most definitely won’t be a person that would stand by and watch a young girl get raped while recording it on your Smartphone. That story is unbelievable.

In the wise words of my friend (a mother of 3) when I sent her an article about a Pole Dancing Doll sold at Toys R Us she simply replied:
‘We live in a f*cked up world’
Yes, we do.
And as long as the world keeps getting more and more flippant about sex, our children are in danger of being exploited…or even worse.

Pedophiles are living their dream right now for this is the world they want: an unconscious one.

Max Reddick said...


I have not had the opportunity to see Precious yet. However, I could tell even from the previews and trailers I have seen, this will be a very emotional movie. And it will perhaps be even moreso emotional because in working in the community, I have met many Precious'. Sometimes I am completely overwhelmed by the things we do to our children.


As much as I am loathe to admit it, it does seem to be getting worse. On the one had, it seems as if a lot of good people of simply given up and given in, and on the other hand, it seems as if we have too many people who are too holy to see how they contribute even more to the madness.


You know I never thought of it that way, but it does make a lot of sense. I remember we had a dog who had puppies, and she wouldn't let anyone even get near her puppies. Perhaps, even as we claim to be more civilized, we are actually becoming more barbaric, more animalistic.

@ Loud Pen

I have a blog post planned about worrying parents. I am in my 40's and if my mother calls and she can't get me, she will call out the National Guard. My wife complains because she says my mother and my aunts treat me like I am still a child. And this may be true. But it sure feels good to know that you are still somebody's child.

@ The Uneasy Writer

I have been planning a blog post about that Toddlers and Tiarras for ages. Isn't that the biggest mess you have ever seen in your life? They are sexualizing kids, some of them baby's. That show makes me want to throw up.

The Uneasy Writer said...

Please do a post about that disgusting show! Please! I could never do it justice--it makes me so mad. I can't seem to get the words together to blog about it.

md20737 said...

I say keep checking on them.. Follow your instincts.. I am so scared that I still allow my 3 yr old to sleep with me.. I know its a bad habit but I cant sleep with the thought of him at the other end of the apt.. I keep thinking what if.. And every sound scares me.. Maybe its the first time mom in or im a nut either way he sleeping with me for now.. I think that the family in general is under assualt making it easier to hurt the kids because we are not focused on the kids.

Denisha said...

I think some people (esp youth) have become desensitized to a lot of things they see outside their 'hoods. I can't remember a time when people would stand around and watch others fight, get raped, and capture it all on their video/camera phones. I don't think the world has changed...I think we have changed as people becoming accepting of some many things. When we accept it as just another headline then it's not shocking news anymore.

Keith said...

I am horrified by all the news of kidnappings, rapes, murders, you name it that we are seeing. I've had some say that we aren't getting any worse, but that we are just seeing it reported more these days. I don't know. It sure seems like it's much worse now. I never remember hearing many of these things back when I was a kid growing up in the 70's and even 80's.

Denisha said...

I thought about what if we didn't have smartphones which offers a video/camera & direct upload to the internet in 10 mins flat...would this still be widely reported and horrific that youth (and ppl in general) are more into capturing it than reporting it? I thought about lynchings and the photo ops while the person was still hanging from the tree with burned flesh at time like someone had just caught a grand ole fish during a family trip. Any difference?

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