Readers! Another day, another report from the frontlines of our obsession with predators. Allow me to make a strange analogy.
As the storm Sandy approached us this weekend (I’m in New York), Mat McDermott at the blog TreeHugger wrote a post, “What if New York City Invested in Climate Change Adaptation Like it Has in Combating Terrorism?” Says Mat:
New York has pulled out all the stops in preventing another massive act of terrorism—going so far in some cases that it has trampled civil liberties….—but has done far less to mitigate the effects of a much longer term, slower moving, but the frankly far more existential threat of sea level rise, extreme weather and climate change.
That’s how I feel about our focus on child killers. Yes, predators are a danger and we should stop them if we can. But to focus laser-like on them means spending massive amounts of time, money and manpower, often fruitlessly, on a very rare problem, and even trampling some civil rights in the process. When if we REALLY wanted to help kids, there are a lot of better ways to spend — and spread — our resources.
With that in mind, here’s a letter I got this weekend:
As I wrote back: The problem, as far as I can tell, is mostly that people think that abductions are very common, even though they’re very rare. So they are poised to interpret any child-adult encounter as, potentially, a terrible crime. This is what I call “worst first thinking” — the way we’ve been trained to imagine the worst case scenario FIRST and proceed as if it is the MOST LIKELY thing that is happening. The onlookers called the cops out of an overabundance of terror, and the cops responded with their own terror overabundance. It’s all so lopsided — the chances were so much greater that a 2-year-old was screaming because 2-year-olds scream. That’s why it’s called the “terrible twos.” But in a panic, common sense goes out the window, and this country is in the grips of predator panic. So sorry you went through this. – L
You, with the Goldfish crackers! Unhand that girl!