Had I been caught on camera administering an admittedly vigorous hiding to my daughter, my first instinct would be to flee much like Madelyne Gorman Toogood did. Toogood’s unflattering film debut was broadcast repeatedly nationwide. To flush her out, trumped-up charges were brought against her sister, who was taken into custody and held for three days.
Toogood relates how she was afraid to surrender because she feared, justifiably, that the law would remove the children. “I left with my other two children and flew to my mother,” she explained. Anchorwoman Paula Zahn donned an inquisitor’s cap on her severe, helmet-shaped hairdo: “You obviously changed your hair color,” she interrogated Toogood. “Were you trying to avoid being caught?” Well, duh.
The power that allows the state with impunity to usurp the parents as the primary agent in the lives of children is the judicial doctrine of the state as parens patriae. Knowing that the state has the right to kidnap my child and replace me as a parent, without much ado, might also have me scampering for dear life, my daughter in tow.
Toogood is a member of the migrant community of Irish Travelers. That, and her lack of penchant for self-pity and psychobabble, did not bode well with the media. (I wonder how they would spin it if she were a Mexican migrant.) When she emerged from hiding, Toogood was so obviously overcome with sorrow—for her child, not for herself: “My baby is with people she doesn’t know…my little girl is probably terrified now, please give her to someone she knows,” Toogood pleaded, relating how little Martha, whom doctors have pronounced unblemished and in perfect health, is accustomed to snuggling in mom’s bed nightly. Just the kind of idiosyncrasies I’d be agonizing over. (The thought of possible sexual abuse, the incidence of which is increased in state care, would have been enough to drive me to distraction.)
The assorted execrable commentators, however, nonchalantly spoke about the need to place Martha with a loving family. In most situations and despite human fallibility, children love and need their parents more than anything, and vice versa. Does the state or its intellectual bootlickers in the media and therapeutic community believe that a child can be jettisoned into a new family and habituate to it like a hamster or a dog? Who loves a child more than a parent?
The same anchors and experts, whose vigorous defense of child killer Andrea Yates began while Yates was still rounding up the kids for their deadly dip, and who tirelessly promoted Yates’ imaginary disease—the same people who daintily avoided describing the gruesome Medea-like savagery Yates inflicted on her children—were merciless about Toogood: “What kind of a monster would do what Toogood did?” And “have we stumbled on a career criminal,” they gobbled.
Pinko liberals almost always plump for the state, but get-tough-on-crime so-called conservatives are not much better. First, they fail to understand that the law must protect people from—not subjugate them to—the formidable power of the state. Mock conservatives also ignore the vital role the family plays in countervailing the power of the state, as are they oblivious to the demise of the once-implicit right of parents to raise their children free from undue intervention from the state.
Commenting on the American conservatives’ embracing of the liberal “children’s rights” movement, Kenneth Anderson discusses how this movement has aimed “to break down the autonomous family into children on the one hand, who are ultimately wards of the state, and parents on the other hand, who are regarded as something like low-level civil servants raising children according to the state’s therapeutic directives.” The “best interest of the child” standard, notes Anderson, is simply a license for the state to substitute its own judgment for that of the parents.
The behavioral “scientists,” who adjudicate the “best interest of the child,” are invariably proponents of anti-authority, progressive, child-centered upbringing. Precisely the kind of upbringing that churns out narcissistic, indulged, ignorant, and violent youth who—thank heavens—have robust self-esteems.
With the mother now effectively removed from the family and disallowed unsupervised visits with her children, the Toogoods have been forced to reside separately. If it means getting Martha back, they say they will even consider separation. If the family breaks up, the children will be more likely to suffer poverty, delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, academic failure, and violent crime, to say nothing of commencing a life of on-and-off welfare dependence. A now-independent family unit could, because of the actions of the state, become dependent on it. Big Bully will have rendered asunder a once intact—if imperfect—family.
©By ILANA MERCER
October 2, 2002