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Welcome to the Little Patoot. Please Forgive Us.

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 06, 1997.

A baby was found this week in a Boulder apartment complex, apparently abandoned by both parents, but in good shape. As of this writing, not much is known about the little girl, whom has been temporarily named Lilly, except that she apparently was born in a hospital. Blood tests are being performed and perhaps her ancestors will be found and she will be reunited with her parents or their parents.... lucky girl. There was no murder attempt; the baby had been cared for and placed to be found. Nevertheless, the media could not restrain itself and made comparisons with the recent cases of shell shocked teenage mothers giving birth and trying to hide it by either killing the child or listlessly placing it somewhere to die. In the age of abortion and counter reformations of the patriarchal religions, much could and has been read into these few incidents, and much garbage has been spewed about the decline in civilization they represent.

Any historian, amateur or otherwise, or even anyone who reads a lot knows that abandonment of children is common and has always been so, and we have lived in times and nations where the lack of coverage of these events might reflect only a temporary blip in our history of child abuse and murder. One hundred and fifty years ago, unwanted children were so common in Europe that the works of Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo, writing in two different halves of a century and two different nations often at war, built their literary legacy on their audiences understanding this. Their world makes little sense unless you accept that parents, if they found them inconvenient, just dropped kids off at the convent or orphanage. Of course, the subtext is, when they didn’t find it convenient, they crushed their skulls and ate or buried them, depending on their own needs, just like other primates.

When you realize that men often used to marry late in life, and that women died easily from exhaustion after churning out eleven babies, you realize that many children grew up in homes often on the verge of starvation with a step parent, someone who would be even less likely to find them convenient, especially when there were half brothers and sisters suddenly around to collect the inheritance. When you read the original fairy tales, pre-dating the Brothers Grimm and Bruno Bethlehem, you suddenly realize that the wolves and the witches were not on the other side of the threshold. Mommy dearest indeed.

I have often said, heroic and brilliant creature that I am, that the most powerful lobby in this nation is not the farmers, or the military industrial complex, or seniors, or tobacco, or drugs, but the Amalgamated Union of Crappy and Self-Centered Parents. Any story about children has to be written with them in mind and with plenty of strokes in their direction. Any stories that suggest some parents are not self-sacrificing has to be carefully framed into a We the Good versus They the Evil (and probably Italian or Something) context.

You see it even now. Look at how the Ramsey murder is being treated. Nobody suggested in print that making a four year old into a sort of bizarre sex symbol for adult judges was about as sick as it gets until the little girl was murdered. After all, it is clearly understood that most parents live vicariously through their children and pretend not to, often by convoluted if transparent means. After the murder, and only then, did the community - and only hesitantly - risk confronting rich and powerful parents and only by official means, which is to say hiding behind the police while they compare their own blemishless parenting to the Ramsey’s supposed model.

Imagine if the Ramseys last name had been, oh, Garcia, and they had been found with their dead beauty contestant child in their rich home. You would see the stories about nouveau riche and social climbing and sidebars about abuse of children in Mexico with connections to the scandal in New York of the deaf kidnapping the deaf Mexican children to work as slaves in the subway. In the case of the Ramseys, the sidebars are about the Boulder Police and stock price of Access Graphics.

But, to return to Lilly. When the parents are found, as is likely, can we forego the hand wringing, the angst, the boilerplate stories? We’ve read them already, we know the drill. Let’s get the little girl into her diapers and sun suit and a full bottle of milk and into a home that wants her - there will be many - and move back to the real problem: us. The solutions are quite simple, and they have nothing to do with God or abortion or lack of reverence for life. Let us teach children that the worst possible sin you can commit is to bring an unwanted life into an overcrowded world, and that there is no excuse for an unwanted pregnancy any more short of rape, and that it is at least as much the male’s responsibility as the female's, and that while an abortion is a lousy experience it is preferable to being a bad parent, and that good parents aren’t necessarily the ones with the cash, but the ones with the time and interest in the child’s chronic happiness even if it is at the expense of their own. That pretty much covers Lilly, the Ramseys, and us all.