Women and Children Last

Some parents are hazardous to their kids’ health, for instance, drug addicts, alcoholics, and molesters. We may know parents like this and worry about the well-being of the children.

But there’s a subtle category of parents who can cause harm even though they don’t mean to and don’t engage in any extreme behaviors. In fact, these parents are well-meaning and do many of the right things. But there’s something missing deep inside of them. I call it “failure to protect.”

I know about this because I came from parents who had a failure to protect, even though, on the outside, they were fine parents. I went to doctors when I was sick, and had regular checkups at the dentist. My mother cooked delicious meals, and my father was a very hard worker. But while my parents were practically “mother and father of the year,” there was something seriously missing.

What was lacking was protecting me not just physically but emotionally. When it came to issues about my safety in the world, they were often missing in action.

Maybe the worst thing of all is that they stuck me in horrendous public schools, where violence was the norm and every day was a battle to survive. My parents never asked about what was going on there; they didn’t red flag how often I cut school, how drugged out I appeared, and how I never dared to attend a single after-school activity.

Looking back, I’m not sure why they were so un-curious and clueless. Part of it was a sign of the times; parents were much less involved with their children back then. Some of it was my particularly parents’ psychology, their extreme self-focus. But I think a lot of it was that they lacked something inside that a good parent must have.

This trait is a kind of sixth sense that can read their children and the situation. It is an ability to sense danger, and the courage to rescue the child from harm’s way. Without this inborn ability, children remain endangered, regardless of how much money the family has and whether the child is showered with opportunities.

I see this phenomenon of “failure to protect,” all over Berkeley and the nearby cities. It is widespread, even in the most educated and elite families. Even though the children are wanted and loved and given all kinds of enriching experiences, something essential and life-preserving is missing from the parenting.

For one, the children are allowed to walk the streets of Berkeley, where aggressive panhandlers, the paranoid, and street thugs rule. The kids play in parks with unsanitary conditions, e.g. transients sleeping, drug paraphernalia, human excrement. (1)

Even more damaging to kids, in my opinion, is that many local parents enroll them in the public schools. There they may face merciless bullying; robbery of their belongings; and being threatened and degraded on a regular basis. But because these children do not fit into some protected class, their suffering doesn’t count. Their daily insults are invisible, and would be summarily dismissed should the youth dare to complain. Eventually, the children may feel responsible for their own abuse because of the color of their skin.

And yet the parents I’m talking about are moneyed: they can afford private schools or moving to a safer public school system. They can, but they won’t. But they aren’t being mean-spirited.

They just have, I think, this missing piece in them, like my parents did. These parents are similarly bereft of the ability to see the danger to their children and to take swift, appropriate action.

Part of their denial is due to cognitive dissonance, a fancy way of saying that people don’t want to see what they don’t want to see. If they beheld the danger to their children, they would have to face the consequences of moving here. They’d have to realize that much of what they believe in is a lie.

So parents may ignore the warning signs: the children who don’t want to go to school; the emotional and/or behavioral problems. Parents might disregard the problems or defend it because of “privilege.” And this same failure in Berkeley to protect extends not just to the children, but to the entire population.

As for my parents, I’ll never quite understand why they neglected me in some essential ways. Perhaps it was immaturity, maybe psychological issues.

However, I have a good idea why so many people in Berkeley act as they do: brainwashing. A lot of folks who once had a natural instinct to protect have lost it over time.

Yet, this doesn’t explain it all; we have free will. There are undoubtably moments when reality breaks through the programming: when a parent sees the child’s distress, hears about the missing backpack, even perhaps views bruises.

What is lacking is something quite rare today: moral courage. Moral courage means a willingness to take a stand, even if it makes enemies, even if it is politically incorrect. It means the strong protecting the weak. Without courage, we have in Berkeley what exists today: ever present danger and over-the-top violence, both emotionally and physically.

In Berkeley, Oakland, et al. . . it is women and children last. . . with the illusion, the fantasy, the utopian dream coming first and foremost. And for many children, this dream is in reality a nightmare.



(1) I had a good laugh after I posted this and was driving in my car and realized that I put “human remains,” instead of “human excrement.” As insane as it is around here, there actually aren’t human remains in the parks, although there’s a whole lot of poop. I was laughing to myself at your stunned reaction reading that original line, “Really? There are even human remains out there in public places?” So, my mistake (at least I think that there aren’t any!)

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