Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Beyond Vigilance

A freakishly perverse scene unfolded in the neighboring town last week when, according to newspaper accounts, a man cornered a six year old child at knifepoint and proceeded to remove the boy's shoes and socks and slice his shoelaces. All this played out in full view of several neighbors, who watched as the boy extricated himself from this attempted kidnapping and ran home. At that point, the child's father and some neighbors went into action.

The perp made a few deluded turns around the block in his pick-up truck before the group was able to stop him, using their bodies as human shields. The Norwich Bulletin newspaper attributed this quote to the boy's father: "He would've had to run me over in order to get away."

In a relatively small, rural region riddled with convenience store robberies, parking lot hold-ups, and attempted kidnappings, I am freakin' freaked out. Drugs feed part of the problem in this area, which serves as a convenient rest stop not only between Providence, RI and Hartford, CT, but between Boston and New York. Poverty eats at it. Mental illness is an issue everywhere, and we've got no lack of it here.

I have no idea what to do. This community is sick. How do you start to treat a disease with myriad causes and seemingly infinite symptoms? I realize this is a bigger question than any one community; any one state; any one nation. It is, I think, one of the biggest questions of all.

Mine is a small family. Mine is a small child. If I can see the big picture, that doesn't mean I have any idea what to do about it. It doesn't mean I have a clue where to start.

So, tell me. I really need to know. What's the game plan, people? How can we keep our children safe?


Whirlwind said...

Uggh just thinking about this makes me sick. I actually posted a similar article today on the same subject! and to make matters worse, it was WAAAAY to close to home for me. I thought I have just gotten it figured out with giving the two older ones a little more freedom, but now I don't know anymore.

toyfoto said...

Oh, boy. *deep sigh.
The first thing we have to realize, I think, is that we can't keep our kids safe.

There are dangers for sure. We can take precautions. But the precautions most of us turn to - LEGISLATION - just rely on police, which in my humble opinion isn't offering much.

The big picture includes adequate social services, intervention when necessary and a heaping helping of trust. We have to start voting for folks who realize crime has a genesis that needs more than jails as a solution.

We've distrusted enough, and in my way of thinking all it gets us is not being able to see the real dangers.

This situation you've shown us, though scary, was handled without incident. No one was injured or killed. People took charge and that's exactly what should have happened.

Can we feel safe? No. Can we feel empowered? You bet.

Jene said...

Move to Ft. Lauderdale. We don't have any of those problems here. HA! Just kidding.

I think it all goes back to the family structure. Parents need to set the appropriate models of behaviors (and expectations) for their children. The at-risk middle school kids I work with (facilitating leadership training) constantly remind me through their interactions with each other that they don't have an understanding of how to respect others because they don't respect themselves - because they don't live in an environment of respect. They live in an environment of anger, distrust, violence, drugs... So they model the behaviors they have learned at home, which often are not good behaviors and will not help them to become successful in any aspect of their lives. Something needs to give in these environments, or nothing will change.

And although ultimately the parents are responsible, I think the educational system needs to do more to create positive opportunities for these kids to grow and develop into responsible adults.

Mary-LUE said...

Gosh, ecr, I wish I had an answer for that. There is some good wisdom out there on thing you can do to help but some things cannot be foreseen and we can't keep our kids cooped up and totally dependent on us. It is a difficult thing, for sure. I experience as much for my 14 year old as I do for my 6 year old.

jen said...

it's a terrifying thing...and it seems to be swimming around the blogworld today - the fear that comes from our lack of control. it's a heartbreakeningly surreal process, akin to ripping our hearts out of our bodies and sending them off on a bus, and expecting all of us to survive on our own till we get home again, day after day.

ECR said...

Toyfoto, I agree completely--in fact, that was what I was trying to get at. But what I don't understand is what I need to feel empowered to DO. There are just so many issues that feed into the problems in any given town. So, I have the same question: where do I start? How do I know what to do?

Mrs. Chicky said...

Does it sound too corny to say love your kid? Probably. But I'm banking on the fact that if I love my child enough to do as much as I can for her, to keep her safe as I possibly can, be vigilant and educate her, then maybe we'll all live a relatively peaceful and happy life.

Other than that? I'd say move to a safer community but I don't think there is such a thing.

toyfoto said...

I think you've already started by asking the question. The next step may be seeing the world not as a terrible place, but as a place that we can make better. I was reading somewhere today where a mom was wondering how to explain things that are scary to children without terrifying them. Like lightening. Sure we shouldn't be playing golf in it, but we don't have to sit and cower under our beds either. To look at this particular situation and say "WOW, people acted and the outcome wasn't disasterous," might actually be a better way to see it than "sickos are everywhere."

Changing the way we look at things I think has to be a first step.

Ruth Dynamite said...

I read your post just as that particular news story ran on the morning news - again.

As parents we have to be vigilant at all times, and we have to teach our kids to be vigilant, too. Not paranoid - just aware. I role play with my kids all the time (probably because I'm the one who's paranoid). No matter where we live, these sorts of scenarios will continue to play out.

mothergoosemouse said...

That's what I really don't understand. People are more than willing to intervene when they see a mother yelling at her child in Target, but when a child's life is in immediate danger, they stand by idly.

Why is that? Are we afraid to put ourselves at risk to help someone else for fear that we may be hurt physically ourselves? Or worse, are we afraid that in trying to come to someone else's aid, they may turn it around and sue us?