The other night, for the second time in a week, I watched the TV Ontario documentary A Hard Name.* No doubt I’ll watch it again. This is unusual behavior for me, but I know I’ll realize something new yet again, and be moved, yet again.
I was so affected by the “doc”, that I find myself still searching in my mind for what to do. For something must be done, to save children from going through what the eight subjects in the documentary went through. They had unbearably brutal childhoods. The kind that makes your jaw hang open in shocked horror that a human being could do such things to a young child.
It made me want to find the newborn infant long buried in each of these people, and hold them and comfort them tenderly – as if it were possible to somehow erase the pain that caused them, in turn, to inflict pain on others.
Each time I think of it, I want to cry again. But that would be a powerless act, and I want to take power, and take action. My first act, is to ensure that I don’t forget them, or the lessons from them – if I have to watch that video every month “til kingdom come”.
One of my own recent changes has been in how I see pedophiles. I never imagined that I could one day have sympathetic feelings toward someone who committed any act against a child. But twice in the past month (once during the documentary) I have felt that way, having seen the undeniable pain of the pedophile.
The documentary also brought back an issue I had forgotten about, which has to do with removing young children from dysfunctional or abusive parents. Judges who give too much importance to biology when “protecting” children sometimes cause extra emotional damage through their decisions. Often babies or very young children are removed from a mother’s home because they have already been a victim of cruelty or serious neglect by that mother. The child is placed in a foster or group home, and the mother is told she must work on her problems in order to get the child back.
It’s not like the judge appoints some fine social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc. to help the mother sort out her life; no, she’s expected to go off and, despite a dysfunctional childhood herself, straighten herself out – somehow. And then six months later, she’s given another chance. Sometimes this goes on for years before the judge finally decides it’s time to place the child in a permanent home – where he or she is now a traumatized person instead of an infant, and that little person will be dealing with this unstable beginning for the rest of his life.
There are so many ways to wound a child; and those wounds are eventually multiplied through that person’s life.
The producer of A Hard Name, Alan Zweig, was shocked over and over again to learn of the horrors perpetrated on these eight victims-turned-villains. The only thing that shocks me is that so many people will never know, because they avoid exposure to anything that’s painful to watch. “It’s just too unpleasant”. Or, “I just can’t bear to watch”. I do understand this, as one who never watches horror movies.
But there are innocent children going through the same nightmare right now. Don’t we owe it to them?