Monday, September 06, 2004

Un-crossing Jordan: Changing our standard to children not gold

This essay may be a bit disjointed. Bear with me. What with the blowing up of the children in Russia, this topic is urgently important and if I didn't get it exactly right, please go out and write a better one yourself!!

There was a gold rush in California in 1849. People sold their very souls for gold. Nothing has changed. It's still like that. Wall Street hangs on Alan Greenspan's every word. Billionaires are worshiped like gods. Our stocks and bonds are protected in vaults. Money appears to be the most important thing in the world.

But that's not true. Children are.

Children are the human race's most precious commodity. Children are more precious than gold.

But do we have Brinks trucks guarding our children? Do we spend 60% of our national treasury protecting our interests in them? Do we have whole sections of our newspapers devoted solely to them? Do we hire armed guards to keep them safe? Hardly.

What would happen if someone abused your gold? You would be OUTRAGED. Gold is never abused. Yet, globally, we have children being blown up in Russia, butchered in Darfur, sold for sex in Afghanistan, living on the streets in Detroit and San Francisco, exploited in Mexico and Asia, enslaved in Africa and starving in India.

How come there is no Fort Knox for kids?

Sure, people get upset and take to the streets if fetuses are harmed. But real, live children? No.

What would we do if all the gold in the world suddenly disappeared? In its place, we would think of something else. But what would we say if there were no more babies in the world? The phrase "Deep dog dookie" comes to mind. Children ARE more precious than gold.

There is only one country in the whole world that puts children first. Their education, well-being, healthcare? Top budget priority! How does our government feel about having this wonderful example being set? America has been at war with this country for 40 years. What country am I referring to? Come on now -- half of Miami will immediately know what country I'm talking about.

When Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, had a choice between negotiating with rebels or blowing up 1,000 children, which did he chose? As one father put it, "It would have been different if they had been Putin's children." Guess what? They are ALL our kids.

Maybe my daughter's friend Jordan is not being blown up in Russia (the rebels from Chechnya were apparently teenagers themselves -- coming from a place where having one's childhood playmates killed by Russian soldiers was everyday stuff.) Maybe Jordan wasn't working in a sweatshop in Haiti or living in the gutters of Baghdad. But he is an endangered child that I know -- an endangered American child. In a land of milk and honey, even among the rich, children are still abused -- psychologically if not physically. (Wouldn't you just hate to have a stern, critical and cold-hearted mother like, say, Joan Crawford -- or even our own Barbara Bush?)

Jordan's birth mother couldn't afford another child and gave him up for adoption at birth, hoping to give him a better life. "Money isn't everything," she was just about to learn.

The new parents were respected medical professionals. On paper, they looked very good. The new father was secretly abusive and the new mother was a secret drunk. But their bank accounts balanced and that's what counts.

By age 12, Jordan's father had put him in a half-way house for abused children and his mother was forced to have a liver transplant. BUT. Everybody admired this couple. They were career professionals. AND they owned their own home.

The father, told by child protective services to cool it with the hair brush, had turned to psychological abuse instead. It didn't leave a scar. Being a psychologist, he systematically tried to convince Jordan (and us) that his son was insane. "My son is severely disturbed," he told us, "and should be locked up." Not true. Jordan was normal -- only understandably suicidal.

I begged Jordan's father to read John Gray's book, "Children are from Heaven". It is my child-raising Bible! The father wasn't interested. Having a happy, well-adjusted and well-behaved kid? Where is the drama in that? No excitement. Not attention. No Munchausen Syndrome.

Finally, when the father sent Jordan away to yet another desert boot camp, I called protective services for help. "Sorry," they told me. "You are not the parent." I already KNEW that! The parent is the PROBLEM! "And," they also told me, "without evidence of actual physical abuse, there is nothing we can do." Nothing we can do? Nothing we can do? This child is being psychologically herded over a cliff and there is nothing we can do?

"Wait until the child turns 18."

"If he lives that long."

"I'm sorry. There's nothing else we can do. He has to show signs of RECENT PHYSICAL abuse." Oh. Only fresh blood will do?

I told all this to my daughter. "No problem," she said. "The last time his father sent him to one of those desert boot camps, he came home with scars all over his back."

We may not be able to save children in Darfur or Kabul but we just might be able to save the child down the street from us.

And that's money in the bank.

Acknowledgments: Wayne aka Punditman at