Sunday, June 14, 2015

My TV Family

As many of you know, I retired several years ago due to medical issues.  As with many of us "stuck" at home, TV has become part of my daily routine, keeping me company and extending my four walls. People on TV are like personal friends and family, for they come into my home each day or week as the case may be.

I know I am not the only one to feel the loss of  19 Kids and Counting, the reality TV program about the Duggar family. Unlike some who are glad to have it removed from the airways, it has saddened me instead.  The scandal surrounding Josh Duggar's actions that took place many years ago as a young adolescent boy fondling his sisters and babysitter as they slept, has rocked the nation, causing an uproar and schism equal or surpassing the recent racial polarization, concern regarding officers of the law and whether or not they target and abuse those of color, scandals that have dirtied our sacred White House, or other despicable crimes that have rendered the loss of human life.

It seems that this family's outward display of their Christian values despite their family's "secret sins" have caused such controversy that there is hardly anyone that is staying silent in this matter or not choosing sides. Many are shouting "Hypocrisy! How dare they throw stones at life styles, gay or otherwise, that they don't believe in when they are not perfect themselves!" Many feel they are "insincere in their beliefs and talk the talk but don't walk the walk"!Others are criticizing their "insulated or isolated" style of living that they feel is responsible for keeping their many children living in a world that oppresses, suppresses and minimizes their growth and potential, while favoring their "cult-like narrow set of beliefs"! Still others feel this family aspiring to be more than the flawed human beings that we all are, should be put down, for their disturbed mental grandiosity and self-righteousness.

Sadly Josh's bad decisions and the discretion of his parents in keeping this matter less than public are literally bringing down their house, fame, fortune and good name. Inappropriate actions by their immature adolescent son, it seems to the media, have negated what these parents have tried to do and actually accomplished in raising a very large, mostly well-behaved and upstanding family.  Many rejoice that "too-good-to-be-true-Christians" are being caught with "their pants down", and are rushing to judgement,insisting that no one has the right to express their cherished values or standards that they themselves can't keep 100% and it seems that the very essence of Christian values is being crucified once again!

How sad this world has become that those that aspire to strict Christian standards are the subject of ridicule, picked apart, "thrown the book at" and hung out to dry by the media of today!! Legal laws have been broken and interestingly, not all by Josh and his "confessed inappropriate touching". The media has wrongly exposed and exploited his victims.

After this illegal leak of confidential information, two of his sisters spoke out to defend their brother, adamantly attesting that they were not molested, despite his confession to their parents of his inappropriate touching.  None were aware of him lightly touching them in their sleep. Worse behavior, it seems to me, has been displayed on playgrounds everywhere where young boys and girls have reached out to "not so accidentally," touch their peers in private places, stalked those they admired and stole kisses without permission, though in our society any thoughts of incest seem to hit the top of the charts of indecency and normal sense of propriety.

I have worked on a psych ward and I cannot begin to tell you how many grandfathers decline mentally and touch their grandchildren inappropriately and most, at least in my days of nursing were not arrested and "hung out to dry" by their loving families, though sadly I have heard that such legal action is now taken against these seniors, by less than loving off-spring. Brain decline is often the cause for a such lapse in judgement in seniors and isn't something that punishment corrects. In these cases the fault should be placed in the hands of those who leave children alone with such elderly relatives.

Personal boundaries are also violated each and everyday by siblings against siblings, friends against their peers, and worse yet, family friends against children who trust them or even by fathers or mothers who violate and abuse their own children. I do not condone violations of anyone's personal boundaries, but I do want to shout, "wake up world and be careful who you are throwing stones at...or worse yet twice victimizing through unsolicited gossip and unwanted publicity of innocent victims"!

Let us also remember that those who violate are often the same people that are known, loved and cherished by their victims, and therefore treating them as monsters and less than the human beings may well cause further suffering and guilt of those that were violated. If such behavior is being addressed, allow those involved the respect of not violating them further, and except for supporting victims to get appropriate justice, allow families, treatment agencies, and the law to do its work. I am NOT speaking about predators whose depravity exhibits no moral conscience and terrorize neighborhoods and threaten society at large!

Parents used to be the people who were responsible to train and discipline their children and to see that unsafe situations didn't give cause to inappropriate behavior. It was and still should be their job to safe-guard the rights of those that need protection. Correcting and teaching their children as to what is and isn't appropriate and selecting consequences for bad choices in their children is also their responsibility. Punishments, done in earnest and with love often correct with good results,though I am not undermining the value of professional counseling as well. Our legal justice system is the agency that is set up to protect the safety of the public, and so they too deal with behaviors that violate others. It is with reason that a different system has been established for juvenile offenders than adult offenders. Juvenile records are kept private to protect both the violators as well as those violated as statistically young violators, appropriately dealt with will most often never violate again.

Josh Duggar's conscience was so well-developed that he reported to his parents what he had trouble controlling. He seemed to be rightly frightened of what might be next if his actions were not stopped. His guilt and fears about his thoughts became the real issue, it seems to me, fearing what he might do seemed to exceed what he actually did do. Confessing to his parents seemed to be a cry for help in controlling behaviors that he didn't feel he had control over at the time.

His parents, it seems to me, took his fears and misbehavior seriously, and responded to his cries for help, and further actions were take to deter and eliminate his behavior, going so far as to remove him from their home and seeking a safe environment for him, as well as adding safeguards for the other children along with seeking professional counseling for he and the rest of their house. They also took Josh to law enforcement and had him confess what he had done and was tempted to do, to further instill the awareness and knowledge of the seriousness of the consequences for such behavior if fully acted out. It seems to me that his  parents were more concerned with correcting their son than protect their good name.

His parents did not rationalize his behaviors or deny them, or change the standards to which they ascribe. They continued to teach him their values of abstinence and respect for women, and that sex belonged in the context of a meaningful relationship with a life partner.  They dared this boy to learn and grow, face his guilt and temptations and their actions changed him and averted his negative behavior and thought processes. I don't believe that their actions negated their attempts to raise their son with values and standards in keeping with their religious beliefs, and never did I hear them indicate on their shows that they were perfect people. Their values are high and so are their standards. I don't believe that their discretion in handing this matter was out of the ordinary.  Parents, out of love would not want him branded for life as a sex abuser if the behavior could be permanently stopped.

The media criticizing Christians who aren't perfect is wrong to think that churches were created for saints and not sinners. "Sainthood" is only achieved by those humble enough to know just how human they really are,  seek God's help to live a life with values impossible to achieve by their will alone. It is by grace, that Christians aspire to heaven, and the guidebook and the commands they attempt to follow are God's, not their own. Comfort and peace, Christians believe aren't achieved by lowering standards, or rationalizing behaviors. Effective correction of "sinning behaviors" must, they believe, involve a conversion of heart and with it a change of behavior.

So be careful what and who you tear apart. And let us remember that our judicial and penal systems were set up to not only punish but to rehabilitate people who violate others.  Elaborate and expensive programs have been put in place to correct behaviors gone askew. The ultimate goal of any program is to help those that violate others take responsibility for their actions and  never repeat their offenses again.

The Duggar  parents worked to see that their young son would never be tempted to act on his sexual desires again outside of an appropriate responsible, consenting and committed adult relationship.  I say. "well-done" to these parents.  They not only acted to correct their son's behaviors but did so in the context of being loving and guiding parents, and effectively taught their son to develop his moral and civil conscience.

I say," Leave this family alone". I wouldn't want the media in my living room judging my kids or my husband or myself, and twisting the facts, anymore than any of you would. The law has thoroughly investigated this situation to be sure that the problem has indeed been dealt with and is no longer a problem. They are assured that these parents have created a safe environment for their children. I hope that the media and tabloids develop a social conscience and see how their exploitation has caused as much,if not more damage than what Josh Duggar did. He has openly and honestly confessed his problems and gone on to change his life. Those in media and journalism need to do the same! Are any other programs eliminated when someone doesn't 100% approve of its content?

To learn more about the issues surrounding serious sexual assault, I highly recommend reading Lucky by Alice Sebold. This is the author's personal story of being the victim a brutal rape. The name of the book came about as  Alice was told how "lucky" she was to have survived the assault, for another woman who was attacked only days before her did not. Her book teaches what rape meant to her and how it shaped her life for many years to come. Her story doesn't end with her violator locked up, and sadly her molestation is quite different than Josh's inappropriate touching, and her finding peace, justice, safety, and healing was challenging in the extreme.

Safety or lack thereof is often a matter of circumstances. The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker, author and sex crimes prosecutor, is also a valuable book about our "gift of fear", which he describes as a well-functioing built-in radar system that each of us has  in order to sense danger and avoid it if possible, and if not how to use it to help us survive dangerous situations,