Becoming a parent should be a joyous event in everyone’s life; however circumstances surrounding a birth are not always ideal. Some of us are products of rape or incest. Some of us were born into poverty or dysfunctional families. No matter what our circumstances, if you’re reading this blog today, it’s safe to assume you’re alive. You’re here. You exist, and you matter. For that, you have a parent or guardian to thank.
Being a parent is hard work, but it has been my experience that being a parent in America is 400 times harder than anything I ever imagined. Everyone is so insular. Community support is virtually non-existent. The government is perpetually in your family’s business, gathering the most minute details of your existence in order to build a profile around you, and everyone – and I do mean everyone – has an opinion (but rarely offers tangible support) about how you raise your child(ren) or conduct your daily affairs.
Despite all the social structures, amenities and checks and balances we have in this country, parenting is a hard task. Perhaps it is because of all those so-called checks and balances that raising a family is so difficult in America. It gives a false sense that life is foolproof and that absolutely nothing can ever go wrong at any time under any circumstances. This is nonsense, of course. America is not Heaven and it is inhabited by humans. It’s not perfect. However I truly believe that a large swath of Americans have deluded themselves into thinking this is the case: individually, they think they are perfect and that therefore everyone else is perfect. These are the folks who wantonly use the terms “always” and “never” in the comments section of the news and on radio.
They aren’t very bright, but they can’t be ignored because they exist in such large numbers.
Four years ago I wrote a blog entitled Judging Shaquan Duley which was about the young mother who smothered her toddler children before driving their lifeless bodies into a lake. In this post I talked about the gloomy side of motherhood – the side that doesn’t make it onto pastel-prismed television commercials or glassy magazine ads. Poor, Black, single motherhood is hard, and it requires a level of mental fortitude that not all women possess. Ms. Duley’s children paid the ultimate price for her frailty. Reactions were swift, condemning and predictable, calling Duley a monster who should be “hung from the nearest tree”, all of which I documented in the blog.
Recently, a mother stopped at a gas station in Houston and left her 8 month old baby in the car while she went inside to pay for gas. As I understand, it was pretty late at night, and the baby was sleeping. As she waited to be attended to, a male suspect took her car (which was still running with the keys in the ignition) and drove off with her baby which he later abandoned in the woods. Again, social reaction was quick and condemning. “No one” could understand why “anyone” would leave their child in the car! Some wanted the mother charged for negligence. Again, some suggested killing the mother for retribution for what she had done. I read with disbelief, although I shouldn’t have been shocked. Why was none of this ire reserved for the criminal who stole the car? The mother and her child were the victims here. I can completely understand why she left the car running: it was Texas. It was probably hot as hell, and she didn’t want to leave her child in a hot car while she went inside to pay for gas! But you know, Americans are ‘perfect’ and when things are not done the way in which they approve of…
Speaking of hot cars, I want to return to Justin Harris’ case. A friend of mine copied me on a CNN report showing breaking news on the developments within the case. I am here to state unequivocally that I support Justin Harris and that I believe in his innocence. I have never met Mr. Harris, but I know him. I’ve met people like him in various forms in my life.
If you live long enough, you will encounter all kinds of people. You’ll meet folks who are introverts, overachievers, slackers, simpletons, douchebags, saints, opportunists, narcissists and prodigies. You will also meet people who are just plain forgetful, and I truly believe Justin Harris is the lattermost. First of all, he’s a man – and it is the nature of men to forget. I am by no means knocking men, but if you’ve ever dated or raised a man, you know that they do forget things rather easily: dates, anniversaries, socks in the trunk of the car or to pick up dinner on the way home. Forgetting any of these things is annoying at worst; no one ever got hurt because dad forgot to pick up the Hamburger Helper on the way home. But when dad is absent minded or easily distracted by nature, we see in baby Cooper’s untimely and sad death how the results can fatal.
Why do I believe Justin Harris is the victim of a witch hunt in a self-absorbed society? In the CNN report I mentioned, the reporter(s) states that Mr. Harris did a search on how long it takes an animal to die in a hot car “before leaving his son to die in his hot vehicle” (the article has since been edited). What the report failed to indicate was when this search was done, and if CNN or its staff had an ounce of integrity, they would admit that this search was done in 2013 in relation to a police officer from a Georgia K-9 unit who had left his dog to die in a hot car! But no, that would not be sensational enough to satisfy a blood thirsty American populace looking for a modern-day lynching. The obvious intent in printing this sentence was to lead public opinion, not to report accurately.
I guess at the heart of it, this is what’s pissing me off about the way this whole story is being handled. It’s a story being built on half-truths and whole lies, and that charge is being led by the media. Journalism was to be my profession had I not chosen PR, and to know that the likes of Victor Blackwell, Devon M. Sayers, MaryLynn Ryan and Joe Sterling over at CNN – as well as hundreds of other crap reporters working for lesser known organizations who are sullying the foundation of journalism – could be named as my colleagues makes me grateful that I am not included in that number. It’s DISGUSTING. It pains me to see this power being abused this way. At the end of every headline, paragraph and comma, a man’s life hangs in the balance…but you can’t report the story without a slant for the sake of sensationalism and ratings? If I could come by your office and take a dump on all your desks I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. You deserve nothing but scorn.
What’s even more stomach churning is the behavior of the police in this matter… as though they as a unit or as individuals are above error or reproach. Did you know that in Douglas County, within days of Justin Harris forgetting his son in the car on that fateful day, an entire DIVISION of the police left two teens in a holding cell for nearly three days because someone “forgot” they were there? Left them with nothing but a toilet and a sink over the weekend. (Douglas County is 28 minutes away from Cobb county where Justin was arrested, by the way.) So you see, even the police can forget. Although in this case, they have the luxury of calling it an “oversight” because thankfully neither of the kids was hurt.
I am frightened MOM Squad. We live in a world where people think they are entitled to every bit of minutiae in your life in order to sit in judgment of and eventually try to crucify you with it. We live in a society that allows no room for human error. What’s even more unsettling is that so many of these people demanding perfection themselves lack critical thinking skills, the power of deduction and more importantly, compassion – and these are the folks who are fueling and steering the engine of our society!
This is what scares me as a parent living in the Land of the Free. One wrong Google search, one unexplainable scrape on my child, one moment spent doing something in haste and I too could find myself accused unspeakable, unfathomable things.
I will continue to keep the Harris family and all families in this country in my prayers.
Are you a parent? Do you feel supported by your community? Have you had the opportunity to raise children in different parts of the country/world? How does it compare? Discuss!