I've been in a writing slump lately - I think it's a combined "health issues, have no job, and I'm sick of reading more heinous ways people can kill each other" type of thing. So, if I'm not up to my usual "fun self" - well that is why.
Back when I was a child, my mother would always remind me not to take candy from strangers.
This, to a child in my era, seemed a bit strange in itself.
In my day (which was pretty much the 60s) you didn't hear of kids getting abducted - I knew of only one and it was quite a few years before my time: Charles Lindbergh's baby. And while it took place in New Jersey, it was supposedly for money and our family had none...so I was pretty much off the hook.
In Jersey where I lived, we got the Philadelphia news; and if things didn't happen in the generalized area of their broadcasting antenna, well, we never really knew about it. There were other things taking precedence anyway...mainly the Vietnam war, hippies, drugs, free love and rock and roll. There was also all this racial tension in some place called "Birmingham". But I was a kid and kids aren't too keen on watching the news religiously...so much of it was a blur to me...and so far away.
Closer to home, i.e., the Philadelphia area, we'd hear about fires engulfing homes once a week and killing a couple people and the obligatory "jack-knifed truck on the Schuylkill Expressway". I swear there was always some 18-wheeler lying on its side on that road every single day of the year. But pretty much this was the routine I was brought up with. And, if you didn't take candy from strangers, play with matches...and didn't play in traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway, you were pretty much guaranteed to lead a fairly long and uneventful life.
During my childhood years it was also typical for parents NOT to discuss such things as child molestation, sexual predators and pedophiles...and the resulting consequences of these. Heck, a couple of these terms weren't even coined yet.
I'm not stupid, I know these things went on since the dawn of mankind...and certainly were taking place in the 1960s and 1970s, but it seems so much more commonplace nowadays and it's probably due to instant information via the Information Highway. Face it, someone "goes missing" in Burlington, Vermont and people in New York City and Seattle, Washington (and all points between) hear about it roughly the same exact time. This didn't happen back in my day.
But I remember once when I was around 12 or 13, my friend and I were walking to "the beach" in my town in Jersey. It wasn't really so much a beach as it was a murky cedar lake with a set expanse of sandy shoreline...but we were walking along a dirt road shortcut as we always had every other time we went there.
Halfway through our walk, which was 3/4 of a mile at the most, a guy in some car pulled up next to us and asked if we'd like a lift. My friend and I, totally oblivious as to what type of pervert he probably was, said "No" and kept on walking.
There was no obvious overt sense of danger we felt we were in - plus he didn't offer us any candy...just a ride.
Despite these facts, he kept following at a snail's pace directly behind us as we continued walking and talking down this relatively isolated dirt road...the beach literally within our sights...and surely within walking distance. It was also within running distance, and for reasons I'll never quite understand, we both got an extreme case of the "heebee jeebies" at exactly the same time and broke out into a full on sprint to put as much distance between his car and us.
As you might have guessed, nothing happened, and we lived to go to "the beach" (and marvel at our instant cedar water tans) another day...and another...and another...
...some children don't.
And it's not just strangers - most times it's someone they know. And I think it's high time to start a much more aggressive approach for the sake of all our children.
That "candy" line we were all fed when we were kids - was plain silly - especially when Halloween rolled around.
I tell...and have told...both my children that there are people out there who torture and kill kids, dump their naked bodied in ditches on the side of the road and...very often...horrible heinous things happen before and after.
I don't Google photos to show them nor yank out a Hieronymus Bosch painting to get my point across, but a good scary dose of Stephen King-type terror isn't necessarily a bad thing in my opinion.
And, let me just address something which has been stuck in my craw for years - and I basically think this has a high basis in fact:
Not meaning to sound flip...but if you are going to get abducted - let's just hope you are a pretty blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white girl - as those are the only ones it seems get any full-out media attention.
Think about it, when was the last time a national manhunt was called for a missing homely Haitian girl? A Native American girl with a wonky eye? Someone Hispanic with an overbite? Any black girl??
And it's so incredibly sad. I'm sure caring parents of ANY child is just as concerned about their child...and that child deserves the same treatment as that given a flaxen-haired beauty -- a missing media darling who becomes the press's eye candy.
I find that strangely disturbing.
(Orinally written, but not published, a couple years ago.)