Friday, February 6, 2015

So much to write about today... I hardly know where to begin...

Shooting at USC...

I'll just start with the shooting at my alma mater yesterday.  I first heard about the murder-suicide at the University of South Carolina's School of Public Health last night.  Bill called out to me that shots had been fired.

At first, I was only mildly concerned.  The news outlets weren't making it sound like there had been any injuries or fatalities.  The Arnold School of Public Health (named while I was a student at USC) is no longer housed in the building it was in when I was a student.  Thanks to a huge gift from the school's namesake, a brand new state of the art building was constructed and opened in 2006.  That was where the shooting took place.

According to The State newspaper, which I used to read faithfully when I lived in Columbia, the murder victim was a much loved professor in the Exercise Science department, Dr. Raja Fayed.  I did not know Dr. Fayed.  He was not at USC when I was a student in the School of Public Health, nor did I have to take any Exercise Science courses for my degree.  Based on the news report I linked, Dr. Fayed was a great teacher who was adored by many of his students.  What a tragic and tremendous loss to the Gamecock community.  My heart goes out to Dr. Fayed's friends, family, and students.

I'll be keeping an eye on this story as it evolves.  I have a friend who is a psychology professor at USC and I'm sure this is a terrifying situation, even though based on what I've read so far, it looks like the perpetrator might have been someone close to the professor and not some nut with friends who are running amok.  Dr. Harris Pastides, the president at the University of South Carolina, has issued a statement.  When I was at USC, Dr. Pastides was the dean of the School of Public Health and a professor.  This has got to be especially emotional for him.

Moving on...  the worst possible way to teach a child about stranger danger... 

Yesterday on one of the Stuttgart military Facebook pages, we had a rather interesting discussion about people leaving their children alone in the car while they check their mail or pick up something at the commissary.  Someone saw a child left alone in a car and was upset about it.  A rather self-righteous debate ensued with many people screaming about how kids left alone in cars are vulnerable to kidnappers and other unsavory types.

Back when I was growing up, it was not a big deal to be left alone for a short time.  I remember waiting in the car dozens of times for my parents or sisters when they were doing something.  No one was concerned about kidnappers or a kid getting hurt somehow.  We were simply expected to sit quietly, mind our own business, and wait, without benefit of an iPad for entertainment, no less.

Of course, nowadays, kids who get left alone in cars are viewed as in danger.  If you dare to leave your child alone outside, you run the risk of having CPS called on you.  I don't agree with this mindset.  I think it causes kids to grow up in fear.  Moreover, child abductions are usually undertaken by people who are friends or family members.  Stranger abductions are fairly rare.

Well...  we all know you're supposed to teach your child about "stranger danger".  One family in Missouri took it waaaaaaay too far when they staged a mock kidnapping to teach a six year old boy not to be so nice to strangers.  This mock kidnapping was allegedly carried out by the boy's mother, Elizabeth Hupp, the boy's aunt, Denise Kroutil, the aunt's co-worker, Nathan Firoved, and the boy's grandmother, Rose Brewer.  These "loving" family members and Firoved went as far as tying the boy up, blindfolding him, removing his pants, threatening him with a gun, and telling him he'd be sold into sex slavery.  Naturally, the boy was petrified.  After they released him, he was lectured by his family about being too friendly to strangers.

Amazingly, they claim they did nothing wrong!  They say they were merely trying to educate the boy about what could happen if he trusted strangers.  Well damn, with relatives like them, I think I'd take my chances with the strangers!

When it comes to parenting decisions, I tend to err on the parents' side.  I think parents, by and large, should have the leeway to raise their kids as they see fit.  There are limits to that freedom, though.  That poor child was without a doubt completely traumatized by his loved ones.  They terrorized him and caused him significant anguish that will be difficult to forget.  And now, since they carried out this lame scheme, it's likely that they will eventually do some time in prison and that boy will end up in the foster care system.

To be frank, I doubt this was done to "teach" the boy anything.  I can't imagine a loving parent voluntarily terrorizing a six year old child.  I think the real reason they did this to the boy was that it was some kind of sick fun for them.  Either that, or they were trying to make him more scared of them so that he'd be more obedient.  Regardless of their actual reasons for staging the mock kidnapping, I think what they did was extremely abusive and sick.  My heart goes out to that child and I hope he will be able to recover from what was surely a terrifying ordeal.    

Dad gets ultimatum from mom...  give up our baby with Down Syndrome or I want a divorce!

And finally, I read this sad story about a New Zealand native living in the Republic of Armenia.  Samuel Forrest had eagerly awaited the birth of his son, Leo.  When the baby was born, he was told there was a problem with him.  Doctors wouldn't let him see his wife, Ruzan Baldalyan, or his baby.  Finally, he was informed that Leo was born with Down Syndrome.

To his shock, his wife told him she wanted to give up Leo.  In Armenia, it's not uncommon for parents to give up any children who have birth defects.  Ruzan had already made up her mind to abandon the child and she told Samuel Forrest that she would divorce him if he chose to keep Leo.  Samuel explains that he doesn't want a divorce and never even had the chance to talk to his wife privately about raising Leo.  Fortunately, he does have the boy and now has plans to take him to New Zealand.  Frankly, having lived in Armenia, I would wholeheartedly agree that New Zealand is a better place.

Forrest is now trying to raise the money to move back to New Zealand.  You can find his GoFundMe page here.

I am not really surprised to read about this situation.  When it comes to loving children, many Armenians tend to be rather two faced.  They love kids... especially healthy boys.  However, when I lived there in the 1990s, I knew many women who had multiple abortions.  Abortion is not a big deal in Armenia, the world's first Christian country (although some historians have recently made a claim that Ethiopia is actually the first Christian country).  And I also know that imperfect children are not necessarily tolerated.  There's a lot of poverty in Armenia and a huge divide exists between the haves and the have nots...  Leo is very lucky to have a dad who wants him and is willing to take care of him.

When I was in Armenia, I knew a couple who adopted a little girl from an Armenian orphanage.  It was not an easy process for them.  The child had a cleft palate and needed medical care that was not available in Armenia.  Fortunately, the adoptive mom was a nurse practitioner and was in an excellent position to take care of the child.  I haven't spoken to anyone in this family in a long time, but I am absolutely certain that little girl whose name was once Gayane (and is now something more American) has lived a much better life outside of the orphanage.  I can only commend Samuel Forrest for taking his son and showing him the love he deserves...

Tonight, I am going to speak to Bill about donating to Leo's cause.   

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