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?