The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A short note here: the attached is a picture of the relatives of Nixzmary Brown. They are prostrate with grief over the death of the little girl, whose stepfather beat her to death last week and whose mother lied to the police about how the seven year old, who weighed just 36 pounds at the time of her death, came by the massive bruises all over her body. The mother and stepfather are now under arrest for murder in the second degree.

What I don’t understand is this: not one of the people you see grieving here noticed that this little girl was being beaten black and blue on a regular basis, not one of them noticed that she was going to school at best twice in any given month, not one of them noticed that this little girl was starving. For all this tide of public grief at the death of this little girl, not one of these people did anything that I am aware of to save Nixzmary from her allegedly simpleminded mother and her not so allegedly sadistic brute of a husband.

Perhaps I am being too hard on these people; it is, after all, not their responsibility to monitor what happens to other people’s children, but it is difficult to figure out why the New York City Administration for Children’s Services didn’t catch what was going on here. In the newspapers the agency’s spokespeople look sad and weary and speak of this little girl falling through the cracks in the system, but if you look back over the history of this agency what you will see is a long line of kids who fall through the cracks, like Lisa Steinberg, Elisa Izquierdo, and Nadine Lockwood. At what point does the public decide that the cracks are this agency’s usual operating mode and finally demand action, real action that saves lives and not the cosmetic fiddling with this thing or that thing that keeps the problems and the bureaucrats’ paychecks intact and the press off the agency’s back, action that prevents the needless death of the next in this line of tormented children left in the hands of sadistic beasts.

The ACS knew about this family; they’d had reports of this little girl and her abuse, but they did next to nothing to stop it. The schools reported that the girl was not in class when she was supposed to be and that she was covered with black and blue bruises when she did attend, and yet the ACS sat and twiddled its thumbs and did nothing. The man in charge of the Brown case resigned the day before the girl’s death; apparently Nixzmary Brown’s death came at a bad time for him, as he’d ignored the warning signs in her case in order to falsify the record of another of his cases, that of a sixteen month old boy who drowned in a bathtub while his mother was in the next room.

I am no fan of state action in most cases; the state is an inefficient and usually wrongheaded provider of most things, but the primary duty of the state, the reason why a free people put up with the state at all, is that the state, through the military, through intelligence services, through police and fire and emergency medical services, tries to protect the citizenry from those who would actively harm them. This is why the state exists in the first place. The ACS exists to protect children from abusive adults. If this agency is not fulfilling its primary mission, then why does it exist at all?


  • At 8:08 PM, Anonymous Neil said…

    Great post, Akaky. Like most people, I was following this story as a evil people vs. innocent girl tragedy, as it is talked about in the media. But, as you say, there are a whole lot of other people in the broader scope of the community who either turned their eyes away, didn't care, or just didn't want to get involved.

  • At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The reality is that it is local, state, and federal policy to attempt "family reunification." This means that the poor kids will be constantly returned to, or left with, abusive parents as funding policies and the law push for that result.

    The entire program is nonsense; especially since studies have shown that families with expensive interventions, including housekeepers, improved apartments, therapy and so tend to reoffend at a rate of 25% compared to a rate of 22% without these interventions.

    But it makes social workers feel warm, fuzzy, and "nonjudgmental" when they drag a screaming three year old back to his crank addled mother who will proceed to burn or beat him or even worse the next time she has the meth crawlies.


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