There was a moment some twenty-plus years ago when I thought my wife was losing it. We loved taking our daughters to book stores, and when I was caring for them while my wife saw clients, I often took the girls to Barnes and Noble to browse or, when it was still existing, our local, independent “Open Book.”
“You watch them every minute, right?” my wife asked.
“What do you mean, ‘mainly?’ Don’t ever leave them alone in a public space like that! Anything could happen!”
I would bring the two girls into the children’s area, get them a book each, and ask if they minded if I went browsing for a while. Of course they didn’t. They were eight and four. The Barnes and Noble children’s area had a stage and playhouses. They loved the time and freedom.
I was never gone more than ten minutes.
Thankfully nothing happened, and I understand how lucky I was. How lucky we all were.
I stopped leaving them alone anywhere when something happened at a Books-A-Million. We were all there that afternoon, my wife included.
I was browsing as usual, and she was with the girls in the kids’ section. Her back was turned momentarily, and when she looked back, a man was there. He wasn’t doing anything specifically. Just standing there.
Another mother had observed him, and together with our children, both women strode to the cashier’s desk and alerted the workers to this man’s presence. Before anyone could do anything else, the man walked out of Books-A-Million and into the rest of his, and God knows, others’ lives.
In our country, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. But so many of us also know that when we alert the police to our feelings that we are being watched or stalked, they might become suspicious and more watchful, but they also tell us bluntly that they cannot do anything until the stalker/predator actually commits a crime.
And the crime, of course, could be kidnapping. Could be touching. Seducing a minor. Rape. Murder.
I am not trying to dictate to other parents what to do. I don’t know what experiences others have had in the areas I’m discussing here, and God knows I don’t want to judge or make anyone paranoid.
But there are things I understand about the horrors in our world, and things I don’t.
I understand that pedophiles exist to prey upon innocent children. I understand that most of us can’t tell a pedophile by looks alone. I get that many, many pedophiles are people we know, people who are part of our family. People who are prominent and even respected in their own daily lives.
I don’t understand, however, why we insist that things are really all right when they aren’t. Why when evidence mounts and good people are brave enough to point out the predator in our bookstore midst, we don’t get, at the very least, alarmed? Why we don’t ask questions? Why we attack those who were the children themselves, the ones who suffered and can never forget what happened to them at the hands of someone they were told to trust?
What do these victims have to gain by coming forward?
What have they already lost?
You knew this was coming, right? You knew that after a few days’ break, I’d bring it back here. To my home state, Alabama.
And to its former judge-turned-Republican Senate nominee, Roy Moore.
This, from today’s New York Times:
“Should Mr. Jones [Doug Jones, the attorney and Democrat who is running against Moore] win, Democrats would need to take only two more seats in 2018 to regain a majority in the Senate — still a difficult task, but one nearly unimaginable just a month ago. A victory for Mr. Moore could be just as punishing for Republicans, because it could taint their candidates across the country by association with a man accused of child molestation.
Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist close to Mr. McConnell, said the race had developed into a no-win situation.
‘Either we’re saddled with a Democrat in a seat that ought to be Republican,’ Mr. Jennings said, ‘or we’re saddled with a brand anvil that’s going to drag down the president, drag down the Senate, drag down the party and plunge the Senate into immediate turmoil when he gets there.’
For its part, Mr. Moore’s campaign is thrilled to have the president’s tacit support and is promising to highlight it.
‘We’re going to make it clear to the voters of Alabama that Roy Moore is the candidate to help President Trump get a conservative Supreme Court and cut taxes,’ said Brett Doster, a top Moore adviser. ‘That will be included in our ads, definitely.’”
So much to parse here. I get that conservatives want control of the Supreme Court, and that many want to do so in order to abolish Roe v Wade so as to make abortions illegal again.
I’m not the first to ask this, but I’ll go ahead and chime in:
So, you want to protect the unborn, and your vehicle for doing so is a man who preys on the children and adolescents who are born, while they are still children and adolescents? And you see no irony, no paradox, no sense of decency, or inconsistency in your morality?
I feel dirty. But I feel dirtier when I consider the other statement, the one where Scott Jennings, Mitch McConnell’s strategist, talks about their “no-win” situation, and that the Republicans will be “saddled with” either Jones, a Democrat, or Moore, a “brand anvil.”
I can see that for many Republicans, a choice between a Democrat and an anvil would be amusing, and perhaps a no-brainer.
I can also see that when we struggle to find new and improved descriptive analogs for “pedophiles” we allow a certain normative sanitation to creep into the case, the situation. It’s like a fog, a smokescreen. Like Oz hiding behind a cover, leering at Dorothy.
“No-win. Saddled. Brand Anvil.”
When you hear these descriptors, how much of your mind, your outrage, and your caution fall away?
Do you think everything will just be fine, be “all right,” if Moore is elected? Even if he is not technically a “pedophile,” and I’m not saying he isn’t, but even if it’s technically not so, and he’s still a man who cruises malls and has a thing for underage girls, you honestly think he’s more morally acceptable than any Democrat?
I am a Democrat. I am a father.
I was once naive. Stupid, even. Selfishly blind.
But that, thankfully, was long ago.