Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Saddest Thing of All

     Let's talk about two different incidents that occurred within 100 miles of the Worldwide Headquarters that are strikingly similar but which are spun very, very differently.  Let us start with situation number one:
      In the sure-fire finalist for the worst parents of the year award, two people, a woman aged 20 and her boyfriend/baby's daddy aged 22, were drug into court to face charges stemming from the death of their 10-month old daughter.  She was found dead of a morphine overdose after the mother left her in the care of the father.  Brilliant.
      Now on to situation number two:
A 28-year-old woman was found dead on a couch in a domestic abuse shelter two hours after she had laid down to take a nap.  Post-mortem toxicology results showed a lethal level of heroin in the woman's blood.  The mother of three had a history of drug abuse and was staying in the shelter after her release from a drug treatment program.  The county coroner ruled the death an accident.
     So if you sort of sit down, then stand up and take a step back, and then blink three times and look at these two situations they are strikingly similar.  I sort of want to put it in list form but instead I am going to put it in paragraph form because I want you to have to read it, not get it skimmed down into list form for easy consumption.  But lets look at it anyway, shall we?  We have two humans.  Both humans died of a drug overdose.  Both were in the care of someone else.  Yet for one the humans it is an accident, and for the other the caretakers are hauled into court.
     Now, now, now, settle down.  I can hear all of you yelling at me at once like drunken, crazed Midwesterners watching college football on TV when they scream at the players on the TV at the top of their lungs even though there is no way that it will change anything or the players will hear.  I don't care how loud you scream, Keith, your voice isn't going to carry from the trailer park all the way to Iowa City so that highly paid college athlete can hear you encourage him to run, okay?  But I can hear you all screaming at me through your Ethernet cables and I just want you to settle down and stop for a little bit.  Hear me out, please.  I understand that there is one major and totally important factor here that I have been totally ignoring.  In one case the victim was a child who could not control its environment or what was introduced into its body.  In the other case it was a fully functioning adult.  Fine.  I understand, but the situation is still skewed.
      I am not saying that the neglectful parents of that little child shouldn't be in chains and an orange jumpsuit in front of a judge to pay for their crimes.  They should.  They should be punished to the full extent of the law.  And there should be a massive internal investigation going on within the ranks of government as well, because the system should have weeded out someone dumb enough to smoke a ton of opium for weeks around his 10-year-old daughter and sterilized them long before they even had the chance to procreate.  But it didn't.  I guess that the point I am trying to make is that shouldn't there be some culpability on the face of the people running the shelter to make sure that the known drug addict didn't have access to heroin?  Or am I totally off base here?
     I understand that running that sort of shelter is not an easy thing in the least bit.  And I know that the residents can come and go as they please, and that their every movement can't be tracked.  Okay.  Fine.  So maybe then the thing that is grating at me is that the coroner called the death of the 28-year-old an accident.  Because there is nothing accidental about it whatsoever.  Well, maybe not nothing.  Certainly the people at the shelter didn't want the girl to die.  And certainly she didn't mean to inject herself with so much heroin that she would pass away.  But her death was far from accidental.  She didn't have to take heroin.  If anything the death of the young baby was more accidental because she didn't inject herself and her parents were just trying to get high, not kill her.  
     Either way both stories are sad.  And in the end the results of these two very similar stories lead exactly where we would expect them to.  The parents will spend a significant amount of time behind bars for their indiscretions, as well they should.  The family of the young woman at the shelter will gather quietly to pay their respects and the children will end up the helpless victims.  And sadly, none of it is accidental.  And that's the saddest thing of all.

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