Friday, December 26, 2014

“Bear There” Blues

"...make no mistake: It's a major loss. Those moments and nooks in your life that permit you to be your messiest, stupidest, most heedless self?They're quickly disappearing if not already gone"—Frank Bruni, The New York Times.

All around, gray sand.  Across to the west, and beyond.  Sand covered the soccer fields, the baseball diamonds and the parking lots.

And it wasn't just Nebraska.  Gray sand had climbed the banks of Iowa and spilled onto Interstate Highway 29.  Road crews had pushed it back and took it away, but just to the edge of the road.  Townsfolk followed it like a carpet down to the river’s shore.

The flood of 2011 hit hard.  Dakota Dunes, South Dakota was flooded too; as was South Sioux City, Nebraska, and Sioux City, Iowa.  Many other communities along the river were hit hard also, but locally the river swelled up and took much of its land back after years of flood control.

Out on the “Dakota Dunes,” for example, where teenagers once drove dune buggies around in the endless sand, the river flooded just as it had for centuries; the fancy homes and cul-de-sacs, built on the shifting sands, now vacated (the residents forced to find lodging elsewhere).

The flood had followed record snowfall in the Rocky Mountains, according to news reports, and along with the near-record spring rainfall in central and eastern Montana, engineers at major dams along the Missouri were forced to release water in order to prevent overflow.  It was a nightmare, and folks are still trying to recover. 

But ... this is not just about a flood.  It is about a teddy bear caught in the floodwaters, flushed downriver and found buried in the sand.  It’s about a man who wanted to write a book, but had no children.  Could he watch another's child to learn about kids and write his story?  No, probably not.  For men everywhere, it is often best to avoid children; even parents these days risk life and limb if they tamper too much with the new rules. 

“Once upon a time,” he outlined, “a divorcée (or perhaps a bachelor, a single man, grump or something), walked along the river to look at the sand.  The river had returned to normal, but the man’s lady (an ex-wife, bad-tempered person or something) remained in the car.  The man took his daughter (or perhaps a niece), and together they found the teddy bear buried in the sand.

“Oh look,” his niece said, “there’s a bear there!”

And so there was. 

Thus Bear There” was carefully dung out of the sand, brushed off and put in the trunk of the car.  There it stayed for months and months, and every time someone opened the trunk, “Bear There” was brushed off, bopped gently on the nose, brushed off again. bopped on the nose again and gingerly placed back in the trunk. 

Eventually Bear There was brought into the house.  (A true story)

The book might get written, but behavioral observations are, sadly, problematic for a lot of men.

Of course, public reaction to any injustice against a child is always justified, but how so?  There are a lot people in the media, in law enforcement, in our neighborhoods, hospitals and schools on a Crusade.  Just look at all the reports of authorities overreacting to the behavior of parents, and others, that just a few short years ago would have sparked compassion and understanding (not lawsuits and jail time).  In Omaha, for example, a man working with children decided to comfort an upset little girl.  He put her on his lap and found himself accused of sexual assault.  The charges were later dropped, but being stupid was not.

In Belle, West Virginia, a man was arrested by state troopers and charged with child neglect, causing serious risk of injury.  He had run briefly into a pharmacy, but unfortunately, had left his keys locked in his car.  An employee at Rite-Aid called police to report the man had left the baby in the car for about 15 to 20 minutes.  It was not reported if the locksmith (a person the man had been searching for, no doubt, and called from somewhere), was told what had happened when he arrived too late to help.   
To be fair, it’s not just men.  A woman, who ran into a store after her child soiled her clothes, was arrested for purchasing the 4-year-old a clean shirt.  As reported in the Orange County Register, the arresting officer said: ‘"Like with any other crime…we take into account all the elements of a crime, and then all the totality of the circumstances…."’ 

If the car had been parked in the shade, for example (the officer said), it might have been different.  But she was harried, and not thinking properly. Darn!  The 39-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment, booked into Orange County Jail, and held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Another example comes from Facebook; and while not involving children, certainly shows how being unguarded anywhere can be problematic. Rhonda Lee, a black female meteorologist, found herself fired from an ABC affiliate in Shreveport, La., after she responded to a remark posted by a viewer on the station’s Facebook page.  Her response was measured, professional and insightful.  But she was fired anyway.  Read what she wrote at the Maynard Institute website.  It's laughable. 

What is happening?

It is impossible to cover every injustice here, but one that stands out is the terrible scapegoating of parents, caregivers and others taking care of babies.  I recently learned, for example, of a young family who lost custody of their baby, reportedly because of bruises.  There were other issues, perhaps, but.they struggled to keep their family together.  Should it have happened?  The Carroll County prosecutor believed abuse occurred. But it truth, today, parents are punished for behavior that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow 20 or 30 years ago.  A football player raises a switch to his boy?  Does anyone remember the dads of yesteryear?

If there is real wrong perpetrated against innocents, fry that person.  But reason must overcome emotional, kneejerk reactions.  Even in Iowa, the concern has been noted.  A judge here, for example, recently blasted a doctor for misdiagnosing Shaken Baby Syndrome, a crime everyone is quick to condemn others for, even with little or no understanding of the issue.

According to the Associated Press, in an article published in the Omaha World-Herald, December 26, 2014, a doctor at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics mishandled an investigation regarding an injured baby.  Prosecutors failed to prove that a former Davenport, Iowa, resident abused his 3-week-old child, whose injuries to the brain and bones may have been caused by other medical conditions, District Judge John Telleen ruled.

“’Frankly, I have some serious doubt whether a crime was even committed here,’” said Telleen from the bench in October after overseeing the trial, finding the defendant not guilty of child endangerment charges. 

This is a welcomed surprise, and especially coming from Iowa City, Iowa, where even far-left conservatives are eaten for breakfast (it's an art form there).

Frontline, on PBS, has aired an exceptional report on Shaken Baby Syndrome.  This report is a must for anyone who takes care of children, and especially babies.  It first aired June 28, 2011.  There is a second story included on this Frontline program, but it is the first story that reports on pediatric forensic science.  The investigation offers real depth and understanding on an emotionally charged subject.  It explores the death of a baby, and a falsely accused caregiver, but it is also applicable to "would-be" abusers.  The video is not complete.  It will continue (in a new window) for those wishing to see the complete investigative report. Please watch this.


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