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Is This Crunchy Conservatism?
09/24/2002

Rod Dreher makes an astonishing statement by way of an uncritical link to an article by Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times. Here's Roeper's final paragraph:

Madelyne and John Toogood have three children--and apparently they're being brought up as Irish Traveler children. Perhaps those of us in the outside world can't even begin to understand what that means. But, from what we do know about the lifestyle and from what we've seen of Madelyne Toogood's parenting skills, a foster home sounds like a pretty good place for little Martha.

Honestly, I don't know what the general procedures are for investigating abuse charges, but I don't believe it's a one strike and the child is taken forever situation. Regardless, this is one instance in which even I (gasp!) have to invoke the specter of cultural bigotry. Would Roeper and (presumably) Dreher take away Martha's brothers? After all, the lifestyle and parenting skill criteria apply to them, as well. What about other Irish Traveler children? Those damned gypsies obviously don't know how to raise kids. Come to think of it, home schoolers aren't much better — who knows what they are or aren't teaching their children? And then there are weird lefty and "crunchy conservative" parents who put their children on bizarre diets and Catholics, who subject their children to the risks of that dangerous subculture. Maybe we should just do a clean sweep of the inner cities and backwoods, too.

I believe Mrs. Toogood ought to face the full justice of the law, and her children ought to be handled according to that same law based on evidence and judgment. Others, however, are apparently willing to put further strains on a foster care system (that is already overburdened) because they have a problem with the way in which 100,000 people in America choose to live. In my opinion, this raises frightening issues external to the specific instances here. Talk about trampling civil rights!

Of course, some of this reaction is to that horrible video, but suggesting foster care goes beyond transfer of custody to relatives, and certainly beyond maintained custody by a separated father. The following, from Corky Siemaszko of the New York Daily News (who is none too friendly, calling Mrs. Toogood a "monster mom"), ought also to be considered, "The videotape, which showed Toogood looking around the parking lot before punching her daughter, horrified the nation but apparently did not injure the little girl."

Or this from an article by Larry Copeland in USA Today:

Joe Livingston, a South Carolina state investigator who has been tracking the Travelers for 18 years, says he was surprised by the videotape of Toogood hitting her daughter in the parking lot of a Kohl's department store in Mishawaka, Ind. ''Normally, they're not abusive toward their children,'' he says. ''They're very loving of their children.''

Watch out, America. The do-gooders are out there, they've found another justification for public video cameras, and they do know better than you.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:31 PM EST