Monday, April 18, 2011

Parental Rights

I did my seminary internship in Santiago and Peñalolén, Chile. During my first week there, I attended a memorial for the September 11 attacks -- not our September 11 attacks -- the ones that occurred in Chile in 1973.  Upon walking home from the memorial, I wandered into the downtown plaza only to find myself confronted by rows of military police and 6 or 7 army tanks.  They were policing the area, apparently disseminating crowds and seeking out controversial mourners (like one of the women I befriended while in Chile, whose brother was one of the desaparecidos).
When I shared this story through letters with my American friends, most were understandably appalled by what seemed like a police state.  Indeed, Chile was only 5 years removed from Pinochet's regime at the time.  For all intents and purposes, it was a police state (back in 1995) and many vocal protestors, including my aforementioned friend, employed body guards on a regular basis.
My friends back home wrote that they were glad they lived in a country where such atrocities could never happen.
Except they are happening -- and over far less than a 17 year dictatorship that cost thousands of lives.
It is happening right now over one mother's attempt to wean her daughter off of a medication prescribed for an undiagnosed condition that was making her very sick.
Read that again.
You can find the full story in timeline form here.  Some might disagree with a few of Maryanne Godboldo's concerns and assumptions, but the fact remains that she was acting in the best interest of her daughter (with medical "permission", as if that were required). I encourage you to google the name Maryanne Godboldo for more stories.  There are currently so many versions out there that it is hard to get all the facts straight.  Some say she fired at the police, one says she fired at Child Protective Services (CPS), others say she did not fire at all.
I am not in support of firing at police (or at anyone, for that matter).  I am, however, appalled that tanks, SWAT teams, even helicopters were involved in the first place.  For that matter, why involve CPS?
Additionally, we have to consider whether or not Ms. Godboldo was treated so harshly  because she is a woman of color (Yes, yes we do have to consider this. This is what it breaks down to in our country: when there is an inexplicable, unparalleled, clearly unbalanced response to something done by a person of color, we have to ask the race question -- because more often than not, the answer is that race did play a part).  How many white, suburban moms (raises own hand in admission of being one too) face a stand-down with artillery-laden SWAT teams for deciding not to give their child their prescribed Ritalin because it changes their personality?
How many times have you made a decision regarding your child's health that did not agree with the generally recommended medical guidelines because your 24/7 observation of your child's behavior and symptoms led you to that conclusion?
What's next?  Will CPS be coming after parents who are late in making appointments for their child's yearly well-child?  What about families who do not see the need for a yearly exam for their healthy child?  Those who choose to wait out a fever before administering medication?  I dare not even dip my toes into the controversial waters of vaccinations.
The point is that the past 10 years have seen a major shift in the freedoms we have in this country. These days, in many cities in our country, parents are under attack for... being parents.  For not wanting their children to suffer the side effects of a nasty medication prescribed without a definitive diagnosis.
What I would really like to know is how many children were beaten by their caregiver that day because CPS spent the entirety of it at Godboldo's house?  And how many crimes were committed around Detroit because the big police guns were staring down a stay-at-home-mom and her 13 year old daughter who were just seeking proper treatment?

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