As someone who toils away in the opinion business and is supposed to get outraged for a living, I don’t have much of a hot temper.
But there’s one issue that never fails to put my blood pressure on a quick boil.
I’m talking about the gutless pieces of garbage – walking our planet and using up our perfectly good oxygen – who would dare physically or emotionally damage a child.
I’m not talking about parental discipline. I’m talking about when a father or mother perverts the concept of discipline to an unrecognizable point where a parent remains human only in the genetic sense. Psychologically, that parent becomes a monster.
I felt that boil twice last week – first, when I read about an aircraft-parts executive who was seated on a Delta flight Feb. 8 next to a woman with her toddler son. When there was a change in cabin pressure, the little boy cried because his ears hurt. It happens often with kids on planes.
What came next doesn’t happen often. Authorities say the 61-year-old executive turned to the mom and told her to shut that
(racial slur) baby up.
Then, according to the mom, he slapped the little boy.
The mother showed a great deal more restraint than I would have if I witnessed a stranger striking one of my children. That guy wouldn’t have left that plane under his own power.
The man, Joe Rickey Hundley, has been charged with simple assault. He lost his job, but won the tarnished crown identifying him as the Most Hated Man in America.
And now it’s a crown he might have to share.
Gannon Mendez, of Perkins, Okla., was charged last week with child abuse against his 9-year-old son. I’ll list the authorities’ findings first.
The boy’s teacher noted “severe bruising to the back, buttocks and legs.”
Police say the boy’s attacker “bashed the child with a wooden spoon” and “chopped up soap and pushed it into the child’s mouth.”
Prosecutors claim that Mendez would take the boy to a football field and make him run until he vomited.
According to Oklahoma City’s KFOR-TV: “The victim also reported Mendez squeezes his nose until it bleeds, tells him he will end up in hell and would wake him up every 30 minutes through the night to do push ups.”
So what spurred all this violence?
Authorities say the boy told a friend at school that he is a big University of Oklahoma fan.
And the boy’s father – an even bigger Oklahoma State fan – found out.
Let that sink in, if your heart and stomach can take it: A father is being charged with abusing his son because the son rooted for a college football team the dad doesn’t like.
Dan Hillman is executive director of Child Enrichment, the Child Advocacy Center and Court Appointed Special Advocates, based in Augusta. If there’s anyone else in the CSRA who has done more than Hillman in the past few decades for protecting children from abusive situations, I haven’t met them.
I told him about the Mendez case and asked, with his years of experience, what he thought of it.
“I have not seen a case like that in my career,” he said.
The abuse in the Mendez case, Hillman said, “is extreme, like the movie The Great Santini. You may be too young to have seen it. But the theme is similar and has been repeated by fathers or parents who claim to be making their child tough or a winner, or good enough to get a college scholarship – to the very extreme.”
The physical abuse cases Hillman and his co-workers get can be extreme, too, but less public – and too often there is never a report until the child is taken to an emergency room.
Or a morgue.
Hillman said the worst case of physical abuse he has professionally been involved in is the Beasley case. He asked me to look it up but I didn’t have to. That was the case in which a Columbia County father – it sickens me to even call him a “father” – was sentenced in 2010 to more than 100 years in prison for punching, kicking and essentially torturing his two sons, who were 9 and 7 by the time the full extent of the abuse was uncovered and acted upon starting in 2008.
Before that, though, for years, Beasley used deception and intimidation to fend off any social worker, school official or medical professional who suspected any abuse. “Every level of protection,” Hillman said, “failed (those children).”
Child abuse isn’t always physical. It can be sexual abuse, or willful neglect, or emotional maltreatment. All of these abuses have symptoms to watch for. That doesn’t mean every time you see a parent yelling at a kid, or see a kid who’s unusually shy, that you should immediately suspect abuse. But when unusual traits
develop into an even more unusual pattern, it’s every citizen’s
duty to report it to a higher authority.
“The case in Oklahoma is very sad and extreme, but the good news is that child has been saved,” Hillman said.
Mendez will get his deserved day in court. He bonded out last week for $2,500, and is next scheduled to face a judge in
April – which happens to be National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
For whoever is eventually held responsible for perpetrating such shameful abuse against this Oklahoma boy, I’d like to see a very special punishment.
The guilty party will be dressed in prison stripes bearing the crimson-and-cream school colors of OU, and he will personally escort this boy to every Sooners football game, sitting with him in season-ticket seats paid for by the guilty party. A police officer and a court-appointed guardian will accompany the prisoner and the boy to every game to assure that this kid absolutely has the time of his life.
Cruel and unusual, you say? No more than what that kid has been through.