A recent discussion on a forum I frequent sent me into the old, feared and all-too-familiar tailspin.
Why children? Of all the people that someone could choose to harm, befoul, or destroy, why children?
Oh, I know, I know all the old information about the feeling of power a sociopath garners from exerting that fleeting physical superiority over the small and clean and innocent. I know all the tripe about how children are convenient victims, being more malleable and inclined to trust and respect those in positions of authority. I know that the very young don't know all the rules and thus can endanger their own lives simply because they don't recognize the danger, the lurking death around every corner, behind smiling faces that cover dark souls.
But damn it. Damn. It. I can't seem to untangle my thoughts and my heart from all the pain and agony and misery that the smallest, weakest members of our society are forced to endure simply because they are convenient targets.
Every fresh story that erupts on the news that involves some monstrous act perpetrated against a child fills me with a sick horror. And, being a person who has been endowed with an overactive imagination, it takes all the power of will I possess to keep from picturing (and picturing, and picturing) the last hours of those small victims' lives. And it tortures me. It torments me, it disturbs my sleep, it casts a pall over me for days.
Do you remember the woman who buckled her children into their carseats and rolled them down a boat ramp into a lake, then ran screaming that a black man had carjacked her? Do you remember why she did it? I do. I remember that her children were an impediment to a new relationship she hoped to start, so she just... disposed of them. Threw them away like garbage. I am haunted by the idea that those little children, as they felt the water rising, could see her standing only a few feet away on the shore, doing nothing to help them. By the idea that they wondered why their mother was punishing them. That fills me with such impotent rage and hatred I can't even find words to express it.
I could put a catalog of such events down here in this space, things that haunt and send me into a frenzy inside my head: Polly Klaas, Adam Walsh, and on and on and on. Every one hurts me. Every one breaks my heart. And every time another child is lost, I am subjected to the same parade of faces and thoughts. Carly Brucia being led away, terrified, her parents' last portrait of their child captured on a grainy surveillance camera behind an abandoned filling station. JonBenet Ramsay, dead and defiled in her own home, the killer never discovered and so never brought to justice.
My mother-in-law has a quote that she paraphrases, and I've tried unsuccessfully to find its source for years; whatever its source, it is so terribly sad and so terribly true: "A society that eats its young is doomed to extinction."
I just wish the ones being eaten weren't the children. I wish that the evil manifest in the minds and hearts of those who would do harm to an innocent would simply metamorphose into a real darkness, one that would eat them from the inside, destroy them before they could destroy a victim. I wish that all those little shining pieces of potential had had their chance to grow and become. I wish that I had the power to will all that evil out of existence.
But I don't. And I think that's the worst of it - the impotence, the inability to find a way to protect all the little ones, the innocent victims of a world that wants to eat them.
More than anything else, I wish my thoughts would leave me alone. I wish I had a "care/don't care" switch that would permit me to stop the tailspin. But since I don't, I, and so many other people in this world who are not filled with the darkness that would cause a person to do such horrible things, are also the victims of the monsters.
We are simply being consumed at a slower rate, one bite of sorrow and pain and misery at a time.