I am sitting at Panera, where I am supposed to be working on one of four literature essays, a midterm, and a lesson plan about hockey that I am teaching tonight (I will now take a slight pause for laughter).
But I have something on my chest that I thought I should get out there before it kind of consumes me.
Yesterday, as most of the nation knows, the Casey Anthony verdict came in. She was found not guilty on all of the violent charges, but guilty of lying to law enforcement officers. Experts are saying that her sentence will likely be ‘time served’ and that by Thursday, she’ll be walking free.
I’m not an expert on the law, but to me, if a baby is missing for over a month and the mom doesn’t report it, that constitutes SOME kind of crime– be it child neglect, reckless endangerment, etc. My hunch is that a lot of the verdict rested on the testimony of George Anthony’s lover, who said that he told her that Caylee’s death was an accident. I am hoping that there will be some additional investigating, and more charges will be brought against the family– because even if her death WAS an accident, what the hell? Would it ever occur to any sane person to put duct tape over the mouth of an all ready drown little girl, put her body in a plastic bag, and dump her in a swamp?
I am not like Casey Anthony, but there are parts of her case that I identify with. We got pregnant unexpectedly, and it definitely ended my former party-girl lifestyle. I’m not single, but the first year of Maren’s life was not a great situation. We were both working and both going to school full time, and Maren wasn’t sleeping yet. I remember doing homework until nine or ten, going to bed until midnight or one, and then being awake, rocking the baby, until it was time to go to work at seven. And then, on Tuesdays and Fridays, I would come home to an empty house because Mitch was at school. On Mondays and Wednesdays, Maren would go to a sitter or Mitch would have the night off, and I’d be at school. I remember falling asleep in my car a few times. I remember power eating McDonald’s cheeseburgers because I was so stressed. I remember when Maren would start crying, just wanting to close the door to our apartment and walk away. I love my baby, yes– god more than anything. But when I got pregnant, and through most of Maren’s first year, I just kept thinking– I’m not ready! I’m not ready! I’m not ready!
The difference, of course, between my story and the story of thousands of other women is that when I reached out, I found someone reaching back. When I needed help, I could find it. A lot of times, for a lot of parents, that’s not the case. I think that our society has become so judgmental that they are kind of arguing with themselves– it’s not okay to get an abortion, but its also not okay to give a baby up for adoption. I remember when Jamie Lynn Spears got pregnant I would listen to people ridicule her– and I kept thinking– you know how easy it would have been for her to get an abortion? You know how easy it would have been for her to go on a year-long ‘hiatus’ and then come back, sans baby, and the whole pregnancy would have just been a dark family secret? But instead she stood up, admitted she was pregnant, kept and had the baby– and people just skewered her.
You can’t have it both ways, people. If we are going to be a nation that is anti-abortion (and also anti-birth control, in a lot of states and religions), then we need to be a nation that is extremely PRO single mom. We need to make that an EASY choice for a mom to make, because I’ll tell you. This parenting thing turned out to be no joke.
That being said– there is so much about this case that is sickening to me.
What is so sad about the Casey Anthony case– whether or not she is guilty of murder– is that this single mom felt so powerless that she moved in with her (alleged) abuser and on several occasions left him in charge of her daughter. If the defense is correct– which has not been proven, at all– then this mother was so out of control that after her baby drown in the family pool, she completely panicked– and then went on a drinking binge.
I’m not at all defending Casey Anthony. Even if the defense is correct, I still think that what she did was disgusting. My own husband once drown in a lake. His mom performed CPR until the ambulance got there– and he lived, and is fine. It’s absolutely abhorrent to me that Casey Anthony did next to nothing to save her daughter’s life, and THEN tried to cover it up, as if her baby never existed– as if she had never shared a body with her. It took her a MONTH before she fessed up to her parents that Caylee was ‘missing.’ A MONTH. As one of my friends said yesterday, if my baby was missing for 31 SECONDS I’d be doing something about it.
I’ve worked with children and families long enough to know that someone knows what happened, and not just to Caylee. Someone knows what happened to Casey, too, and whether or not her accusations of incest are true. And if they are– and the defense is correct– and no one got Casey any help, then I feel like they are guilty, too. Complicit.
A few years ago, my state had enacted something called the ‘Safe Haven Law’ which meant that parents who were at the end of their rope could come to a hospital, police station, or fire station, and drop off their children, no questions asked. We had people flying from all over the country to come to Nebraska and drop off their children– one guy dropped off eight kids after his wife died and he just couldn’t take it anymore. I think the law lasted about eight months, and to some degree we were the laughingstock of the country. But I’ll tell you what– I was so proud of my state for that law. Who knows what kind of a situation these children were in– who knows what they’d been enduring, who knows what would have happened if the Safe Haven Law didn’t exist. If what the public is saying is true– that Casey Anthony killed her daughter in order to go back to her party-girl lifestyle (which I personally do not one hundred percent believe)– then wouldn’t a Safe Haven Law have been a MUCH MUCH MUCH better alternative for Casey? A MUCH better alternative for Caylee?
We have to get better at this, people. If you know something is fucked up, you need to TELL someone. If you see something that just doesn’t seem right, you need to DO something. And if that doesn’t work, then you need to be a beacon of light for that child, so that they know that even if we are can’t change their situation, we love and love and love them.
I’m looking at you, people without kids. We’ve become a society of extremes. It takes a village to raise a child, and most of our villages are chock-full of people who choose not to become parents– and that is no problem and is absolutely fine. But you need to get involved in making your community a better place for kids to live. If you feel like its not your problem, I’d like you to do a little research on how many criminals blame their terrible childhoods.
Whether or not the defense is correct, if someone had gotten involved in Casey Anthony’s life, Caylee Anthony might be here today, thanking you.
We need to make it hard– REAL hard– for people to think that child abuse is something they can get away with. We need to make the shame of admitting that there is a problem so much easier to bear than the risk of something terrible happening to a child.