“I’m smart; you’re dumb. I’m big; you’re small. I’m right, you’re wrong. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Harry Wormwood, from Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
It’s been a couple of weeks already, and although I started this post almost immediately after it happened, it was just too raw and it’s taken me until now to finish this. And even at this point, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to express myself . . . but here goes.
A good friend of mine has always referred to Child Protective Services as “the People” . . . as in, “you don’t want to get the People up in your business.” Unfortunately, a few weeks ago I had the heart-wrenching experience of standing with a friend who had found herself on the wrong side of “the People”. It was one of the most . . . I can’t even find the word. disempowering?! heart-breaking?! I’m not sure a word even exists to describe how I felt that day.
The quote I began this post with went through my head many times over the course of the day. My dear “sister”, the mother on trial in this situation, had zero power, and zero allies. Nobody in that court was on her side, and she had no voice. I found myself weeping uncontrollably, feeling so much a part of her powerlessness, reliving every moment of my life when I’d felt that same powerlessness myself.
When the CPS worker took the stand, she was positively smug. Perhaps my friend had been contrary and difficult before, causing trouble for the CPS worker, but at this point, she had the power–she was in control–and she knew it. Why? Because she had total power over my friend in this situation, and she knew it. She could tear apart this family with just a few words. Nothing my friend could say or do at that moment would help her except total obsequiousness.
My friend has been making choices that are less than wise. I haven’t been happy with those choices myself, and have told her as much. But she has also been through more in her life than even I can fathom, and I think my own childhood was fairly bad. And yet, she truly has done the best she can. I believe that with all of my heart. And I also know that plenty of abuse goes on behind closed middle- and upper-class doors, and yet the system, and the “People”, disproportionately target low-income and minority families in their purported quest to keep families “safe”.
I don’t know if this post is making any sense. It still hurts too much to think about it for very long. And It’s not over yet . . .so I try to drown out the ugly voice of power, and to replace it with other, more hopeful words:
This is my Father’s world
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.