When mediator Lucy Moore saw pony-tail man’s BMW idling longer than she felt was appropriate, she indulged in “revenge” fantasies of sticking a potato in the exhaust. Fortunately, unenvironmental car idling has yet to be made a killable offense, so there was no option of calling the cops on the miscreant.
Not that Lucy would have done so. It was just a fantasy. Enough of a fantasy that she felt the need to write about it and tell people of her secret desire to do harm. But she says should would never actually do harm. I have no reason to dispute her.
When the “victim” of the person doing something you feel is wrong is a child, however, there is not only a basis to invoke the wrath of government, but a moral imperative. At least, that’s the justification proffered by the well-intended.
We headed back to the car. My husband walked ahead with my son while my mom and I high-fived at what a great day it had been. It was the first time we had left a park without him fighting us, and she was marveling over that. We looked up and noticed two police officers striding toward us. I assumed they would keep walking past us, but one of the officers stopped and removed his sunglasses.
“Can we talk to you a second,” he asked, “about your son?”
My husband called out over his shoulder, “He’s autistic,” and kept walking my son to the car.
What about her son evoked a need to call the cops? His hair was a mess. His pants were too small. He was enjoying a day in the part with his family anyway. He wasn’t doing the unthinkable, playing without a parent hovering within arm’s reach. But there were knots in his hair. To whoever cared passionately enough about children to feel compelled to call 911 on them, this gave rise to sufficient concern of parental neglect.
The officer’s face burned with embarrassment. I assumed he was getting ready to inform me that rock-throwing wasn’t allowed, but he said, “We got a call about your son. The people who called were worried that because of his hair, and because of his pants, that you weren’t taking good care of him.”
Now my faced burned with anger and my stomach was sick with shock.
The cops were cool about it. This time. And the child’s parents were prepared enough not to be flustered, but rather to announce that their son was autistic. The 911 caller could have saved the potato.
There is no compliment more damning these days than to call someone “well-intended.” It’s the excuse of the woke to impose their feelings on others. When it results in a confrontation with police, however, the potential for catastrophe arises. If the boy’s parents responded with gestures that appeared threatening to the cops, and they reacted poorly, there would be no parental neglect question. There might be no parents. Wouldn’t that be special?
Protecting children with autism from the police presents serious problems, some of which have been chronicled here. There aren’t always pleasing solutions, but the primary concern is to keep them alive until the cops grasp the problem. Indeed, programs that are flawed, unduly intrusive, stigmatizing and completely unacceptable under other circumstances, serve this purpose.
Whether it’s good enough to save a life is unclear, but it beats the hell out of losing an autistic child.
But what more needs to be done to protect a child from the watchers, the scolds, the sniffling busy-bodies who are so certain of their own righteousness that they will call the cops when they see someone doing something they feel is wrong? Should parents of autistic kids buy clothing that says “I’m autistic. Leave me alone!” Not to belabor the point, but children on the autism spectrum aren’t all non-verbal incompetents; and that still doesn’t mean they won’t freeze up when given commands by cops. They may need some extra processing time, but those few seconds can cost them their life.
And all for the sake of some smug scold indulging the belief that they’re entitled to not merely have a world that meets their most sensitive vision of propriety, but entitled to act upon it to the detriment of others.
But what’s wrong with being concerned for the welfare of a child? An archaic notion comes to mind: Mind your own business. Is it that hard to distinguish between serious concerns, like seeing a parent beat a child or burn one with a cigarette, from wearing pants you feel don’t fit well? Well, yes. And the reason is that we’ve not only created a narrative of entitlement, indulgence, where every twinge of feeling is a justification to demand action.
The other piece is the narrative of complicity. It’s not enough to not engage in parental neglect yourself, but to not be complicit in the neglect of another by not doing something about it. This is the same “complicit” used to demand White Knights to come to the aid of a damsel in distress, as no good man can stand by when a woman screams “sexist”!!!
Yet, there comes a difference when it’s not about signalling virtue, but about the life of a child. It’s not the same to play the fool on twitter as to call 911 and ask cops to enforce your vision of proper child rearing.
You don’t know what goes on with other people. You don’t know their reasons, their circumstances, their problems or their solutions. You may feel confident that whatever nonsense you project onto other people’s lives is right, because all your friends agree with you and support your narrative, but you don’t have a clue no matter what they tell you. You don’t know.
It’s bad enough that this has become the narcissistic indulgence when it comes to revenge fantasies for ponytail guys who let their cars idle too long, but when your self-indulgence goes so far as to make you feel that calling the cops on other people, on the parents of a little boy whose hair isn’t as neatly combed as you would desire, then you’ve become the danger. If harm befalls the child, it’s not because of parental neglect, but because of good intentions.