Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Intervention and Parents Rights

I've been listening to old episodes of the Non-Prophets Radio podcast. (If you're not listening yet, it's your own fault. I've linked and embedded tons of Atheist Experience videos. Okay, okay, I forgive you. Go subscribe to the feed now and let us never speak of this unpleasantness again.)

The issue of intervention keeps coming up. When does the government, or we the people, or the US, intervene in how a family raises its children or how another nation treats its citizens? One of the four hosts, Shilling, (no longer on - I told you, these were archives) essentially takes a non-interventionist stance the majority of the time. He suggests the long-range approach of educating a culture, and essentially waiting things out for self-correction. He cites the decrease in racism and homophobia in younger generations as an example of this working in practice. And I have to say I agree with him up to that point.

Because I think the long-range plan is important and I do think it will work. I think history in a large sense shows that, our culture at least, is getting progressively more liberal and egalitarian. Neato. Swell. But in the meantime, if we use only the non-interventionist long-range approach, kids aren't getting vaccinated. Unassisted childbirth is killing mothers and babies.* Honor killings are happening in the United States. Parents treat their kids with unproven "natural" remedies rather than with FDA approved medicines. A little boy gets named Adolf Hitler (and his sister is named Aryan Nation.)

When are we gonna stop talking about parents rights and start talking about kids rights? I think part of the problem with the debate is that we act as if the two interested parties were the parents and the government. And of course, we object to the idea of a government raising its children - that falls under the domain of parenting. But the real nature of the issue is between the rights of the parents and the rights of the children. The government acts as attorney on behalf of the child, not as a direct antagonist to the parent. I get that now.

I was raised to fear HRS, so when they came to do an investigation, I lied. When my friend's mother told my mom I wanted to live with them, my mom told me she was playing arm chair psychologist, and that it was a common problem among psych students. That it didn't mean anything (like trying to get hit by a car when I was six didn't mean anything; or saying I needed therapy or I was gonna kill myself at 14 didn't mean anything; or saying that I had an eating disorder and that I was going to die if I didn't get help at 25 didn't mean anything).

I have to intervene for the kids right now. Fuck the long-range-only plan. Well-meaning high-minded secular and moderate religious people who were trying not to step on anyone's toes or interfere with anyone's parental rights let me get beaten, brainwashed, and Bible-fed. I didn't get to form my own personality and identity as a human. I was raised in a cult, like being a borg or a clone. I'm having to figure this shit out (who I am, what I value, what my own personality is) now and I'm 26 and I have a 4-year-old kid. It's kind of terrifying sometimes to realize how little I know and how far behind I am. I got cheated out of a childhood and it's seriously affecting my adulthood. And now I find out there's no afterlife, so this is the only shot I'm ever gonna get.

We can't sit by and let other kids have their psyches destroyed. I can't really express enough just how crazy I am and how uncomfortable the inside of my brain is. I have a really high IQ. (I don't remember the number; it was over ten years ago. I was in Mensa but we quit paying dues.) If I'd been raised in a healthy home, I'd probably be a doctor or a lawyer or a civil rights activist or married. Not unemployed and semi-agoraphobic. This isn't a pity party. I'm good at getting through shit - I have a lot of practice. (And hey, unemployment checks are the bomb. I consider that my salary for writing on my book.)

It's just that I can't not care. I can't pretend kids aren't dying from medical negligence homicide (AKA "prayer"). I know there's this huge Quiverfull generation coming up now, and a lot of those kids are growing up in abusive homes; they're learning misogyny and rigid gender roles; and they're not getting a proper education. Let's stop that. Let's stop the people who do that. I don't want go so far as making people get a license to have a kid. I get why we can't do that (examples: majority Christian licensing board = no atheists getting baby licenses; eugenics). But we have to get these religious exemption laws off the books. We have to stop acting like it's okay for people to pray, when we know that prayer prevents positive action. We need to recognize and vocalize that faith is not a virtue. Faith is a vice.

* Both those stories are in Australia. The homebirth movement in Australia is largely due to my grandmother (and here)and Nancy Campbell. (On Nancy's Facebook she asks for money for a broken arm; yet she rolls with faith healers.)

** I have no idea what language the image captions are in. But it translates to: kids have a right to food, clean water, an education, passport or national identity (refugees), family, I think happiness?, exercise/entertainment, and to be clean; and a right to not be amputated, armed, enslaved, or abused. I think it speaks across culture and language - don't you?