Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Elian Times 437

Starting in 1983 the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, CA became the center of the largest, most expensive criminal trial in U.S. history. Three hundred and sixty children were deemed by the State's social workers to have been victims of abuse at the hands of the McMartin family. Lurid tales of satanic rituals and sexual abuse made international headlines. After seven years and $15 million dollars not a single conviction was obtained. The entire thing was a hoax, claiming the livelihoods of the McMartins and the innocence of the children involved.

On April 19, 1993, a Federal raid on the Branch Davidian home in Waco, Texas resulted in the deaths of 87 people when the building was burned to the ground. The rationale behind the raid was alleged to be the illegal stockpiling of weapons, but what brought in the tanks and the Bradleys was an allegation of child abuse. The Davidians midwived and homeschooled. Their children had little to no contact with those representatives of State authority euphemistically referred to as "the outside world." There was no way to prove the children had been or were being mistreated. It was impossible to make that determination from their charred remains.

Fifteen years later we have Waco without the flames. On the basis of a now-discredited allegation of abuse the State of Texas has raided the home and ranch of Yearning for Zion, a fundamentalist Mormon group in Eldorado, Texas. A phone call to a family violence shelter (not the police) purportedly from "Sarah Jessop Barlow" alleged sexual abuse was occurring at the ranch. After removing 437 children from the custody of their parents -- in some cases lying to mothers and children about where they'd go and if they'd stay together -- "Sarah Jessop Barlow" has yet to make her presence known. This is in spite of several identifying characteristics, such as her pregnancy, she gave to authorities. A 33-year-old woman in Colorado Springs is currently being investigated for placing the call. I thought I'd get that into print as it has already dropped down the memory hole.

Of course the State's argument for its thuggery is "It's for the children. We must protect the children." Towards that end Social Services has removed them from the only life they've ever known, interrogated them without benefit of counsel, separated them from their support network, and plans have been made to scatter them in a diaspora that encompasses the great State of Texas. They've promised to "try" to keep siblings in foster care together. That seems unlikely, as in many cases there are five or more siblings. An argument can be made that since the children were raised communally -- by the village, as it were, that all 437 of them perceive themselves as siblings.

The life of a foster child is very stressful. You know that at any time you can be returned like a pair of shoes by people you've grown to trust who are much too nice to tell you why. You're like a leased car; you receive the bare minimum of required maintenance and no improvements. If your table manners are abysmal, if you're lacking in the social graces, if you can't make heads or tails of Algebra, it's no matter. Your grades or behavior won't reflect upon your foster family since everybody knows you're not 'theirs.' In a few months you'll be someone else's problem. And if you're not lucky enough to get placed with a family you get to live in a group home, an experience I need not describe to anyone who's read "Lord of the Flies." It is a soul-eroding grind of a life for which you are perpetually expected to be grateful. There has never been designed a more mentally abusive system than that orchestrated by the State under the guise of protecting children.

This farce will continue into the indefinite future. The children will never be returned to the only home they've known. How long do you suppose it will take to perform 437 DNA tests? Most of them will be grown by the time the State can even figure out if it's been the recipient of a prank phone call. But the State's objective has already been accomplished: to remove those children from the weird scary Christians. That's why there's been nary a peep from the thousands of communes, group marriages, same-sex unions and polyamorists. They believe being raised in a fundamentalist Christian manner is more damaging to kids than being raised in foster care, and the State seems to agree.

The purpose of all those DNA tests is to determine which if any of the children were the result of a union with an underage girl and an adult man. In this setting a pregnant teenage girl is evidence of a crime. Let the exact same pregnant teenage girl turn up at Planned Parenthood for an abortion and she is embraced. No one would dream of asking her who drove the car she rode there in, much less who knocked her up. And polygamy is horrible and oppressive, unless the women are in charge. Cloaking the practice in religion is despicable, unless they're Muslim.

In fifteen years all the further we've come is nobody gets set on fire this time. The kids at Waco may have had it better, though. They got to stay with their family until the end.