A Glimpse At Our Children's Future
Our country is rich with the footprints of our fore fathers. Those that have come before us have left a great legacy. Even difficult times have taught us much. Experience, as they say, is a good teacher. As a baby boomer I have had the privilege to see such great things come to fruition and wonder what my legacy will be. Is it presumptuous to believe that I as an individual can leave behind a legacy? I believe we all have that potential. In fact, even the most common among us will indeed leave behind a legacy for our children and their children to live through. For most of us it is our children and who they become that will determine the legacy we leave behind. They are after all our future.
As a Social Worker and student of psychology I have unfortunately seen the darkest trace left on some of our children today. I believe that if we do not start paying attention, our future will be one filled with more violence and tragedy than we are witnessing in the present.
The reality of child abuse and neglect is something we assume does not affect most of us. We are sadden each time we hear of a case of abuse but feel that the particular child or children will be protected now that the abuse has been revealed.
What about the ones that we are not aware of? What of all the abuse we find out about after that child has become an adult? Recently we heard of the abuse of Michael Jackson as a child. For the sake of this article I ask that you put aside MJ's eccentricity and controversial media coverage. This was a man who lived his life in pain and rage due to the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father. His behavior, if you understand the effects of trauma will no longer be a surprise.
Child abuse comes in many forms and too many times is not revealed to others. We walk through life surrounded by adult children in pain. As human beings we all need the same thing. Babies, toddlers and children need their basic needs met, need to feel protected and secure, need love and need to feel a sense of belonging. Throughout my years in this field if I’ve learned anything it is that there is a great deal of seemingly insignificant things that determine the physical, emotional and psychological health of a child. A child that is negatively affected by neglect or abused will grow to be an adult living with those same effects if significant intervention is not provided.
It has been quite a year for all of us and a particularly significant one for us “baby boomers”. We have lost several folks way too young and disturbingly too close in age to many of us. What is most concerning about some of those deaths (e.g. Michael Jackson) is that they are a reflection of our generation. We might want to kid ourselves and believe that it is their lifestyle and fast lifes, but the truth of the matter is that their lives, confessions and deaths tell of very human issues. Abuse and emotional “brokenness” does not come from a glamorous life. It comes from broken families, parents and a society. Although deeply sadden I was not surprised to learn of the manner in which Michael died. Nor was I surprised to hear other “self-medicating” related deaths like Anna Nicole Smith and Heath Ledger. We are quite adept at ignoring the cries for help that face us every day through the media, our neighbors, family members and friends. The fact remains, however, that too many of these sad and hurting people have suffered trauma in their childhoods and that fact will not go away.
Just yesterday Larry King interviewed Mackenzie Phillips who has just written a “tell-all” book relaying her experience as a victim of incest and subsequent drug addiction. Again to someone that understands trauma and the effects of abuse it is not surprising to hear of her experience. Where there is smoke there is usually fire. When I hear of someone taking drugs (of any kind) and alcohol in excess the first thing I wonder is what they are numbing. Collectively, we have a tendency of asking what is wrong with some of these people, when we should be asking "what happened to them?". I am almost certain that there is always a story there. It is rare that someone becomes an addict (i.e. Street drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, food, sex, etc.) on happenstance. The same can be said for many disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, personality disorders and so on. We can focus our attention on a chemical imbalance all we want but when all is said and done something triggered that imbalance.
My ongoing fear and concern is that as a society we treat these cases as undeserving of too much support and tolerance because it is seen as a choice and shame on you if you just can’t get over it. The level of indifference is all well and good if we don’t mind watching our future decompose before our eyes. It is, I contend, extremely significant that our children are self-medicating, joining gangs, stealing to survive or hurting others. It is our children that concern me most because we all know that they are not at fault for the “sins” of their parents, family, etc. Yet we decide that as a society we will not tolerate “unacceptable” behavior or what we might deem laziness or taking the easy way out. And if the kids suffer as a result then too bad. We shrug our shoulders and think “Oh well, this person should not have had children. As long as it’s not my kid”.
These days I bet many are tired of the doom and gloom, so as I write this I wonder if readers will sigh, shake their heads and think…”yeah, yeah, we know”. Self preservation is quite understandable and we all have enough problems right?
So why do I write this if I know that might be the response? I write it because throughout my career I have seen the importance of providing services and effective strategies for victims of trauma, abuse and neglect even though the reality is that it is of low priority when it comes to our investments. From my experience this is mostly due to us believing that this issue is only deserving of attention every now and again when and usually requires a democrat in office. And if we won’t pay mind to “those” people that make poor choices or get themselves in a bind perhaps we will pay more attention when we witness those that we “know” and care about effected by trauma and it’s ramifications. Let’s take care of our children, our future.
By Evelyn Rivera (c) Copyright October 2009