Archive for January, 2009

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What a long strange trip it’s been…

2009/01/15

I have trouble concentrating on just one thing, so I am trying to keep on track at work by having various DVD’s playing in the corner of my huge monitor here. I finished Season 6 of Friends this morning, so I am now back to Seasons 1 & 2 of Quincy, ME. I loved this show when I was growing up, and I remember many a conversation with my mother about the things brought up in it. I remember Quincy being very provocative, as well as entertaining, but it’s been years since I was able to watch any of it. These DVD’s have been an eye opening experience.

 

While watching “A Good Smack in the Mouth,” I was overcome with such a sense of shock and awe. I am practically beside myself right now. The episode deals with child abuse. This is always a horrific topic in these things, but with a 2009 brain, a 1978 issue has left me flabbergasted and appalled by the world in which I was raised.

 

In the episode, Quincy meets a young boy after a car accident. The boy ends up being a runaway, and in trying to determine the boy’s identity he discovers obvious signs of abuse. After getting the doctor to show him the boy’s X-Rays, Quincy concluded there was concrete physical evidence to prove the boy had been abused over a long period of time.

 

In 2009, this is where social services swoops in and takes the child into custody as the police haul the parent(s) off to jail. No questions asked; this is what happens now. But this has not always been the case.

 

In 1978, things were very different. X-Rays, old bruises, a history of injuries, and the behavior of the child all mount up to a hill of “nothing we can do” in 1978. They had to get eye witness testimony and “proof of present abuse” before they could even investigate a claim of child abuse back then. Even then, a conviction was almost unheard of, except in the most severe of cases, but at that point it was almost always too late. And the convictions were not for abuse, but manslaughter or murder, because it came after the death of the child in question.

 

Hospitals, doctors, clinics, police officers, school teachers, none of them were required to report suspicions of abuse, and in fact they were scared to death over even considering it. They were all convinced it wouldn’t stick and would come back on them in the guise of a costly and lengthy lawsuit.

 

It’s no wonder abuse of any kind seemed to run rampant for the people of my generation. It wasn’t so much the shame of anyone knowing (as it had been for generations before me), it was a climate of fear from reprisals that kept the masses at bay. And that fear only served to let these children wither and die under those conditions.

 

Child abuse protections in 2009 may not be perfect, and I cannot even begin to count the number of abuses that have occurred as a result of some of the changes in the laws, but I will never hearken back to a simpler time. Simple it may have been, but it is a dark and dismal land I never want to see again.

 

These old TV shows coming to DVD are far more than just a source of entertainment. They are an archived representation of the world we once knew, the place we all came from. And maybe, just maybe, they can also act as a lesson.

 

Past experience, if not forgotten, is a guide to the future. – Chinese Proverb

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