Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Modern Day Barbarism

By Alan Burkhart

The case of a missing four-year old girl named Madeleine McCann has brought attention to a horrific problem not only around the world, but also here in the United States. The young British girl named Madeleine was snatched from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in Portugal on May 3 and her family has been tireless in keeping her in the headlines as the search continues.

Her mother is now considering giving up her job as a doctor to campaign against child trafficking and raise awareness about missing children. Maddie is still missing and police are complaining that the trail has gone cold.

That case amplifies what is happening each day. News bombards us with assaults, murders and mayhem; Not by terrorists, not in a war being fought in some distant nation, but right here at home. Our children are being misused, abused and killed with horrifying violence and frequency. Consider only the most recent examples of wrongdoing against young people:
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee Police in northwest Georgia have rescued a boy from a hot car where his mother's companion is accused of tying him up.
Ringgold, Georgia, police say a Cracker Barrel restaurant employee called police after seeing Raymond Minchew take the six-year-old out of the restaurant and return without him -- then finished eating his meal. (FoxNews 06.13.07)
LEAWOOD, Kansas A message of hope, love and salvation words chosen by Kelsey Smith herself will intertwine with stories from those closest to her Tuesday at a memorial service for the 18-year-old who was abducted and slain a little more than a week ago. (FoxNews 06.12.07)
SAN DIEGO, California A former respiratory therapist pleaded guilty Tuesday to molesting young, brain-damaged patients at the hospital where he worked for 25 years. Wayne Albert Bleyle, 55, admitted to eight counts of forcible lewd acts upon a child and four counts of exhibiting a minor in pornography. (FoxNews - 06.12.07)
FORT WORTH, Texas A 9-month-old girl who was the lone survivor of her mother's attempt to hang herself and her four children will live temporarily with an aunt, attorneys said Tuesday. (FoxNews 06.12.07)
DALLAS, Texas -- A cheap, highly addictive drug known as "cheese heroin" has killed 21 teenagers in the Dallas area over the past two years, and authorities say they are hoping they can stop the fad before it spreads across the nation. (CNN 06.12.07)
LEBANON, Missouri Missouri prosecutors charged three people with murder Tuesday after a wild brawl sparked by text messages left a teen brutally beaten to death with a baseball bat and another critically injured. (FoxNews 06.12.07)
WICHITA, Kansas A woman whose two stepdaughters were discovered last year in an advanced state of starvation has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison. Jennifer Wood's abuse of the two girls was so severe that they could have died if there had not been intervention, District Judge Douglas Roth said. (FoxNews 06.09.07)
SEATTLE, Washington The firefighters who tried to save 3-year-old Ashley McLellan, unconscious after being pulled from a pool on a winter night in 2003, noticed something strange about her stepfather: He was calm, mostly dry and never once asked them if she would live. She didn't, and Joel Zellmer was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of killing her in an attempt to collect on a $200,000 insurance policy - just one accusation in a string of accidents that investigators say Zellmer concocted to befall the young children of the women he dated. (FoxNews 06.08.07)

Our young people, be they teens, toddlers or infants are faced with a wide array of dangers, and it seems that few youngsters can truly feel safe anymore - for some, not even with their own families.

From where do these dangers originate?

Illegal Drugs...
"You know I've seen a lot of people walking 'round with tombstones in their eyes. But the pusher don't care if you live or if you die."
From "The Pusher" - Steppenwolf

A Drug dealer is a natural predator of thrill-seeking teenagers. Teens constantly explore their world. Each day is a new adventure, and like all adventures a teen's world is fraught with danger. I did my share of drugs as a teen, and for the most part I emerged unscathed. But that was 30 years ago in a small Central Texas town.

The typical drug dealer of today neither knows personally or cares about his customers. In the mind of a drug dealer, the country's youth are no more than expendable assets to be used for his own advantage. When one dies, there is always another to take his or her place. Today's drugs are far more potent than the home-grown weed I burned as a teenager. Methamphetamines, heroin, and the various "party drugs" available today constitute a poisonous buffet of deadly choices, and constant vigilance by parents, school officials and law enforcement is needed to remove those choices.

Tons of illegal drugs move across our border with Mexico and through our nation's sea ports. Add the local meth labs and marijuana farms spread across the country and you have a deadly situation. This is made worse by the fact of the violence that goes hand in hand with the drug culture.

Worse, our elected leaders do little more than pay lip service to the problem even though thousands of dedicated law enforcement officials across the country risk their lives each day to keep our children safe. The phony "War on Drugs" isn't just a sham. It's an embarrassment.

Sexual Predators...
"If I do escape, I promise you I will kill and rape again, and I will enjoy every minute of it." Statement to the court by convicted sexual predator Westley Allan Dodd.

The motivations of sexual predators vary widely from one to the next. For some, it's the feeling of power achieved by dominating a weaker, younger person. For others, it's the innocence of a young child that generates the attraction. Still others see only an "object" with which to fulfill their twisted desires. Regardless of the forces that drive a sexual predator, the results are the same. Many of their victims are brutally murdered after being sexually assaulted, and those who survive are scarred for life.

Predators come in all shapes, sizes and ages. They can be male or female. They can be heterosexual or homosexual, and in some cases bisexual. The sexual predator in your neighborhood might be the obvious creepy old guy down the street, or an attractive female high school teacher. Maybe the leader of the local Boy Scout troop, or the preacher or the pizza delivery guy. The point is, you don't have many ways of knowing unless you check the sex offender registry. If you have a suspicion, regardless of how unfounded you believe that suspicion might be, isn't it worth the effort to check it out? I'd much rather hurt the pizza guy's feelings than risk my daughter's well-being.

Of course, not every sex offender is listed in the registry. "Your" sex offender may be looking to commit his first offense, or maybe he simply hasn't been caught as yet.

Consider this terrifying tidbit from an article by Clint Van Zandt at MSNBC:
"The U.S. Department of Justice has indicated that 'the average child molester,' as if any such two-legged monster that could be considered 'average,' commits 380 acts of child molestation during his lifetime. A 1992 study in one state looked at almost 800 child molesters and rapists who had completed psychiatric treatment as part of their sentence, and noted that these 'graduates' were arrested more often for new sex crimes than were those who had not been treated. An international study found a 43% rate of 'known' recidivism among child molesters, with the more violent the offense, the greater the chance for repeat behavior, while another study indicated that a group of less than 250 known child molesters had admitted to attempting over 55,000 molestations involving almost 20,000 victims. And finally, California Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth indicated that there were 33,000 sexually violent felons missing or unaccounted for in that state, a sure recipe for future crimes against children and others."
Scared yet?

Abusive and Careless Parents...

MEHL: OK, is it a regular sized bathtub or is it a big one?
YATES: Regular sized.
MEHL: How far did you fill it?
YATES: About three inches from the top.
MEHL: About three inches from the top, um, after you drew the bath water, what was your intent? What were you about to do?
YATES: Drown the children.
From the transcript of Andrea Yates' confession after she killed her children
(Houston Chronicle)

Andrea Yates, Susan Smith and Joel Zellmer are but a few on the long list of parents and step-parents who have abused and / or murdered innocent children. And while these tragic incidents have always happened from time to time, recent events indicate an upswing in occurrences.

In Zellmer's case, it appears that the man has made a career of becoming involved with single mothers, then attempting to kill or injure their children to collect insurance money. The term "Monster" seems appropriate here.

Susan Smith was infatuated with a wealthy gentleman who did not want a relationship with a woman who had dependent children. So, she rolled her car into a lake with her children belted into the back seat. Andrea Yates believed she was a bad mother (no argument here), and decided to punish herself by drowning all five of her children in the bath tub.

Gilberta Estrada hung her four daughters, ranging in age from 8 months to five years, in a bedroom closet before hanging herself. The 8 month-old is the only survivor. According to ABC News, Estrada may have been suffering from post-partum depression and also the stress of being recently separated from her husband.

Stress, anger, depression, guilt and greed all seem to be motivating factors for parents and guardians who kill their children. Equally tragic is the fact that so many children have died a tortuous death after being left in a hot car while Mommy runs a quick errand. How many? From 1998 through 2006, 330 young children literally cooked alive in hot cars while a parent shopped in air conditioned comfort a short distance away. As of June 11, nine have died thus far in 2007 (ggweather.com).

To all of the above, add school shootings by other students, assault by peers outside of school, workplace violence and the tendency of many teens to self-destruct by way of driving under the influence or some other risky behavior. The risk of injury or death to our nation's youth is rapidly reaching the point at which we must consider it a crisis, and "crisis" is not a word I use lightly.

How did our society fall into such a sorry state?

There are many answers due to the fact that there are so many different sources of danger to our young people, but there is one common denominator for all of them: We live in an "anything goes" society. A society can be best defined as a group of people living within a set of laws designed to inhibit unacceptable behavior. It is human nature to push whatever envelope that confines us. So as the rules governing behavior are gradually softened, the inevitable result is a general worsening of behavior by all people, especially among people of poor character. Our permissive society has spawned a generation of people who have little or no concept of personal responsibility.

What to do?

Draconian enforcement of drug and immigration laws is desperately needed. Tons of illegal drugs and thousands of sexual predators cross our border with Mexico each year. Research by "Americans for Legal Immigration" shows that as many as 240,000 illegal alien sex offenders currently reside in the USA. Could your gardener be one of them?

An overhaul of the legislation pertaining to sex crimes is also needed; Genarlow Wilson of Georgia is fighting for his freedom while true sexual predators are released to ruin (or end) yet another young life. If you're not familiar with the Wilson case, there's a link under "Related Reading" below. Genarlow is guilty of doing exactly what ninety-nine percent of all teenagers have done. He had consensual sex with another teenager. Genarlow was sentenced to prison for ten years while the Catholic Church busied itself in covering up mass child molestation by its clergy and dozens of sexual predators were released from prison to rape and murder yet again.

Most importantly, Americans must return to the moral and societal norms of past decades. Our proud nation survived a brutal civil war and broke the chains of slavery. We fought and won two major wars against totalitarianism and later broke the back of the Soviet Union. But in our quest to become the freest nation on Earth, we have also freed those among us who would do harm to some of our nation's most vulnerable citizens, and we have lost the sense of personal responsibility that governs the actions of otherwise good people. It is not a loss of freedom or civil rights to penalize irresponsible behavior. It is not "cruel and unusual" to lock sex offenders and drug dealers away for the rest of their lives. By keeping repeat offenders in prison, we are protecting the rights of those who might otherwise perish in the dead of night while their families try in vain to find them.

We are constantly told by our so-called leaders that we must be tolerant and understanding of those who behave or believe differently from the rest of us. To a point, I agree. But when our young people become targets of opportunity, the line must be drawn.

Tolerance is a two-edged sword. The more tolerant we become, the more we will be expected to tolerate in the future. I don't know about you, but I'm done with being tolerant. I want my country back.

Related Reading:

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