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How a 10-year-old gets tased because she won’t take a shower

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, November 20, 2009 2:12 EDT
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If you haven’t seen this story yet, (via) well, let’s just say that it’s both shocking and has a weight of inevitability to it. An Arkansas woman called the cops for a domestic dispute, not because her husband was beating her or anything like that, but because her 10-year-old daughter wouldn’t take a shower. Oh wait, it gets better. The cops show up and take this woman’s crap seriously, and try to put the little girl in cuffs and arrest her. For “disorderly conduct”. For throwing a fairly standard temper tantrum. But the girl, understandably at this point, if flailing around and refusing to cooperate with anyone, and so at the mother’s request, they tased the little girl.

Now the little girl is in a juvenile facility and is being charged with disorderly conduct. For, again, not wanting to take a shower when her mother told her to.

There’s a reason that the paranoid right wing is so hellbent against the idea that children have rights. They want to preserve this horrific authoritarian worldview where a child throwing a temper tantrum is basically a criminal who can be subjected to severe physical punishment for their “crimes”. As the taser has been growing in popularity as a way for the police to control and punish the population without having to go through the court systems, there was a plodding inevitability to this.

I think people tend to think of child abuse as some carefully guarded secret, where parents take their frustrations out on children who then hide their bruises in an attempt to cover for their parents. And that does happen, of course. But a lot—maybe most—child abuse is like this, performed shamelessly by people who have a social support system for the ideal that severe physical punishment is appropriate for misbehaving children. That’s what makes it so hard to see, especially since a lot of different things go under the forgiving term “spanking”, which could mean anything from a painless swat on the butt to sending a kid out in the yard to cut their own switch. I think a lot of people live in liberal enclaves where the idea of even a small swat on the butt sends people into convulsions of guilt, so we forget how much of the country still adheres to these medieval forms of child-rearing, and how much community support for overt abuse you get, especially in places where blind allegiance to authority is labeled a “family value”.

Consider, for instance, the family values icon James Dobson’s use of his beating a tiny dachshund to demonstrate his child-rearing theories.

“When I told Sigmund to leave his warm seat and go to bed, he flattened his ears and slowly turned his head toward me. He deliberately braced himself by placing one paw on the edge of the furry lid, then hunched his shoulders, raised his lips to reveal the molars on both sides, and uttered his most threatening growl. That was Siggie’s way of saying. “Get lost!”

“I had seen this defiant mood before, and knew there was only one way to deal with it. The ONLY way to make Siggie obey is to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else works. I turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me “reason” with Mr. Freud.”

What developed next is impossible to describe. That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt. I am embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene. Inch by inch I moved him toward the family room and his bed. As a final desperate maneuver, Siggie backed into the corner for one last snarling stand. I eventually got him to bed, only because I outweighed him 200 to 12!”

As Digby noted, a 12 pound dog can be picked up and put in bed. But what’s clear here is that Dobson values abuse for its power to bring someone’s spirit and self-worth, to crush them utterly. And that’s abuse. That’s exactly what abusers do, and that’s exactly why they do it. And once you buy into the logic of abuse, upping the ante becomes an easy thing to do. If getting someone’s submission is more important than any other consideration, you will find yourself beating the shit out of someone (like Dobson did to a tiny fucking dog), or, in this case, tasing someone. And since this kind of child abuse is mainstream in our culture, still, what happened here shouldn’t be considered that big a surprise.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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