Archive for November, 2010

I have often been accused of being fatally optimistic.  I can’t help it.  I truly believe that, for the most part, people are good, kind, honest, and hard-working.  I also believe that many of the societal problems that plague our world could be solved with education, compassion and patience.  It was, therefore, with a very heavy heart, that I read an item in this morning’s local paper about a child in Spain.  More to the point, two children in Spain.  As modern, civilized nations, there is no way something like this should ever happen, but it does.

The headline itself is enough to grab your attention, and on several fronts: Mom in Spain happy that her 10-year-old gave birth.  Let’s look at this for just a minute.  The first thing that really bothered me was the part about a 10-year-old girl giving birth.  I have done this.  It is not easy, even for a woman with a couple of decades under her belt.  But a 10-year-old?  At 10, I was still playing with my Barbies and coloring with crayons (I was not allowed to have markers until later, as they did not have washable markers back in the dark ages).  At 10, I was in 5th and 6th grade.  I knew that the stork did not bring the babies, and they came out of the mother’s tummy, but I was still unclear about how they got there.  I don’t even think we had the “girls only” class at school where they taught us big words like “menstruation” and “chocolate” until 7th grade.  Not knowing exactly how old this girl is, she may have been as young as 9 when she got pregnant.  This, also, is doubly disturbing.  First, I am still trying to wrap my head around a 9-year-old who is physically mature enough to become pregnant.  When did that start happening?  Secondly, any time a 9-year-old engages in sexual intercourse someone should be going to jail, whether it is the abuser who committed the sex act (in this case, the “abuser” is the girl’s 13-year-old ex?) or the parents who allowed the sex to take place.  There will never be any circumstances or evidence that will convince me a 9-year-old is mentally mature enough to handle sex and all that comes with it.  Case in point, did you hear about the 10-year-old who gave birth in Spain this week?

Now, let’s go back to our original headline.  “Mom in Spain happy . . . “ Happy?  Really?  Happy that her daughter has had a child of her own?  Either this mother is completely delusional or she is terribly uneducated (For clarification purposes, from hereon out, I will be referring to this woman as the Grandmother.).  I believe that she may be both an uneducated and delusional woman who just doesn’t know that certain things should never be done.  The story details how this Grandma is a Romanian Gypsy and how these things are commonplace in their culture.  Now, none of the people in this story are actually identified, but the reporter does mention that the Grandmother appears to be in her 30’s.  If this sort of behavior is so common in her culture, shouldn’t she appear to be about 19 or 20?  After all, if she was only 10 when her daughter was born, that would put her at about 20 now.  But she’s not.  She’s in her 30’s, which means that she was at least old enough to know what she was doing when she got pregnant with the new mother.  Or, maybe Grandma was a horrible disappointment to her own parents, having waited so long to have children.  In any case, apparently the 10-year-old had been “married” to the 13-year-old Romanian father, but the couple is now “separated” and Mother and Grandmother moved to Spain about two weeks before the birth of the new baby.  Grandma has indicated that the family is planning on staying in Spain, so it is unlikely that Daddy will have anything to do with his new daughter, not that he would really know what to do with his new daughter.

Which brings us back to the part about someone going to jail.  Spanish authorities are at a bit of a loss regarding how to proceed with this situation.  There are several aspects that have them stymied: 1) The criminal behavior in this case, i.e. the sex act, took place in Romania, not Spain; 2) the “perpetrator” is himself a minor, and therefore also not legally able to engage in sexual behaviors; and 3) the “perpetrator” is still in Romania, not Spain, and with all of the above noted, Spain may not have any jurisdiction over him.  OK, so let’s shift focus to the Grandmother.  Obviously, she became aware sometime in the past 6 months that something unusual was going on with her daughter.  Based upon the body types of your typical tweenager, Mom probably began developing her “baby bump” roughly 15 or 20 minutes after having sex, so Grandma had to know something was up.  For all we know, Grandma was the one who arranged the “marriage” of her daughter to the young Casanova, in which case an argument could be made for her part in child trafficking offenses.  However, again, the offending behavior occurred outside Spanish jurisdiction 8 – 9 months ago, and, even more frightening, situations similar to this are somewhat common in Romania.  The Romanian government seems to have let the cultural “norms” of its Roma Gypsy population drop way down on its priority list, so laws like making sure all children attend school until age 16 are largely left unenforced.  Too bad, because if Romania was keeping a better eye on its children, situations like these could be dealt with much sooner than after one child gives birth to another child.

I want to believe that people are good, kind, honest, and hard-working, but when I hear about things like this, it is like a sucker punch to the gut.  I imagine my niece sitting in a hospital room somewhere clutching a baby and listening to the nurse try and explain the complexities of breast feeding, and it sends chills down my spine.  Global warming and nuclear war are not what will bring an end to civilization as we know it.  It will be a systemic rotting from the inside unless we wake up, smell the coffee, and begin a global campaign to bring human rights and education to every person on the planet.  Only by educating the world population and bringing the awareness of human rights and behavioral expectations to those outside modern society will we be able to end tragedies like this.

Every once in a while, I stumble upon a tidbit that reassures me that the modern experience is truly a universal one.  This time, the story comes to me by way of a silly email I get once a week from a website that does nothing more than compile odd little news stories from around the globe.  They got it from The Guardian in London, who got it from the Calgary (Canada) Herald, who got it from the Associated Foreign Press, who got it from the official state news service in China. So, in a way, the story is third- or fourth-hand, but I did take the time to look up the original Calgary story, so I feel rather confident sharing it here.

To set the scene: You see a trailer for a film you are interested in seeing.  You go to the bank and speak to your friendly loan officer and see if you can get enough money scraped together to pay the current going rate for a movie ticket (OK, I might be exaggerating here).  The paper says the movie starts at 7:30, so you diligently arrive at the theater at 7:20, buy your ticket and popcorn, and are snuggly in your seat promptly at 7:30.  At which point the “Coming Attractions” begin.  It is a modern nemesis, and it seems that there is nothing you can do about it, but one woman in the People’s Republic of China is taking back the power.

Chen Xiaomei, who just happens to be a lawyer, actually sued her local movie theater for wasting her time with 20 minutes of movie trailers.  Granted, it will be a token suit, as she is only requesting damages that total about $12: actual damages of her ticket price, and the ticket price again, plus $1 as punitive damages for the Chinese equivalent of “pain and suffering”.  She is also asking for a written apology and calling for pre-show ads to total no more than 5 minutes, with the actual ad times being listed in the paper along with the movie times.  The whole thing will probably come to nothing, but it is the principle of the thing that impresses me.

After all, how many times have you sat in a darkened theater thinking, “Can we just get on with it, already?”  I know I have, and I have always felt helpless to do anything about it.  If you take into consideration that there are going to be trailers, and arrive fashionably late, then you have to try to find a seat in the dark.  If you arrive on time, you have to sit there and watch the  best 4 minutes of every movie being released in the next 18 months, along with the repeated “commercials” requesting you turn off your cell phone (I use that time to text friends).  The longer these ads and announcements go on, the more restless and bored the audience gets, so they start talking to each other, and the next thing you know, you have missed the pivotal first 45 seconds of the movie because you were eavesdropping on the woman in front of you who was describing her recent gallbladder surgery to her companion.  You have just wasted $7.50 (or more if the movie is 3-D).  Now you only have two choices (OK, really you have three, but personal ethics prevent me from encouraging anyone to illegally download current run movies): you can either pay another ticket price and see the movie again, or you can wait for it to come out on DVD or Netflix and buy or rent it.  Either way, since you have already missed the first 45 seconds, the entire rest of the movie will be ruined.  You might as well have stayed home.

I hope Ms. Chen wins.  I hope her local theater is suitably chastised and slapped on the wrist, and I hope that the rest of the world sits up and takes notice.  Who knows, maybe this time next year, the local paper will be listing: “Doors open at 7:15, actual movie time at 7:53.”