The Harem

Facelessby Anniel   5/23/14
Why can’t Tommy come over to play?  •  When our eldest son had just turned five and his sister was almost four, we moved to a new home in a semi-rural area. There seemed to be no young children in the neighborhood, but right across the street from us lived two brothers of about ten and twelve. They lived in absolutely appalling squalor and had parents who ignored their basic needs. The oldest boy, Tommy, struck up a friendship with our children and played with them in our front yard where we could watch them. In spite of his home circumstances, Tommy seemed like a nice boy and one of us was always around so we relaxed thinking all was well.

One day my husband, Bear, went downstairs and found Tommy had sneaked our daughter into the house and into her bedroom, closed the door and was kissing her and removing her clothes. Bear marched Tommy out the front door and told him to never come to our home nor touch our kids again. Going to his parents would have been absolutely futile, the State Children’s Services already had a bad name, and we were reluctant to start a neighborhood feud. Our daughter and son were told Tommy could not come over anymore, and Bear talked privately to our daughter, asking why she didn’t stop Tommy from what he was doing and cry out for help. “Well,” she said, “you kiss mom all the time so I thought it was OK.” Yikes! Bear let her know that what Tommy had done was not OK and told her what she should do if the circumstances ever arose again.

A couple of days went by and our son came and asked why Tommy was not allowed to play anymore. As much as I could I filled him in on what Tommy had done and said we couldn’t trust him now. Our son went off for awhile, then came and asked if Tommy could come over again if he apologized to Bear. I sent him to his dad to find out. Not wanting to discourage good behavior on Tommy’s part, Bear said he would consider it. Our son talked to Tommy and he did come and apologize. Bear thanked him for his apology and told him he would think the matter over, but both he and I had absolutely no intention of letting Tommy be around. We hoped to let the matter drop there.

A few more days passed and our son approached me again. This time he said he had come up with a solution to the problem. He had a really bright idea alright: “Whenever Tommy comes over we’ll just lock Sissy in the closet until he goes home.” The sheer audacity of my son, the male, chauvinist pig in training, was overwhelming to me. What kind of a kid was I rearing here anyway? I kept my cool, stood there for a moment and finally asked if he really thought his sister should be locked up. He sighed and said, “I guess not,” and left.

That evening I told Bear about our son’s “solution.” We both had to laugh at his ingenuity. Then I put my mind to his obvious need for proper training. The next day I looked at our son and realized he was just five years old, barely out of infancy. He had needed friends to play with, and Tommy had filled some of that need. He had no concept of what constituted improper behavior on the part of a much older boy. He was not a beast, he was a lonely little boy who needed to learn more about the problems of the larger world. We began discussing some ideas with our children much earlier than we had thought we needed to, and began doing more as a family to try and find other children for ours to be around.

Later I gave serious consideration to my son’s idea of locking his sister in the closet. There are many educated explanations given by researchers for the originations of social customs and mores and I’m no expert, but I wondered if the thought of locking his sister up could also have been a societal and cultural solution to the matter of protecting women in a barbaric society. You know, “The boys are coming from the Mountain Tribe, hide the women.” So the women were placed in protective custody away from the men. Perhaps the women finally rebelled at being stuck off alone away from their accustomed quarters, so the family built a larger secure space for them. A Harem for the women. Then what had started out with good intentions became first a tradition and then a prison as the years passed.

I began to consider many cultural things we in the west find degrading to women, such as veiling and chadors. Perhaps wearing such coverings also started with good intentions. Think about living where sand and dirt get blown about into eyes, noses and mouths. Even the hair gets filthy. Wear at least a head covering or robe that can be quickly pulled over the head and face in a sandstorm and you solve a real problem. As the years pass the wearing of head coverings or robes of different kinds becomes another rigid rule.

What about the women who are forced to walk three steps behind their men? Is it possible that custom also started as a protection for women in nomadic societies? The men walked in front with spears and clubs to protect the important but physically weaker women and children. Soon what started out as a protective measure became a rule and then a law. Women MUST walk three steps behind their masters.

Over time did these and other customs cause men to degrade women in their own minds and consider them as evil chattel? It would be a short step for some men to blame women for their own problems, even if you leave Mother Eve and her supposed “sin” out of the equation. I cannot even begin to fathom how the grotesque physical mutilations of women may have come about. Isn’t it strange Islam teaches that Allah made all things perfect, exactly to his specifications, and believers must not change the will of Allah, except for the women, who need to be maimed and enslaved by their masters. Is there no room for just a little bit of logical thinking about this matter?

What about our own thinking in the opposite direction today when boys and men are treated disrespectfully and their very nature as men is questioned? We drug boys and deny they are different than girls. Some of us decry the “wussification” of men while others think it’s a great idea. But where will we find warriors when we need them?

Do we have customs today in any endeavor that serve no good purpose? Probably. And conversely, in our hubris have we destroyed societal norms that were a protection to us all? If you look at the moral squalor around us you’d have to say yes.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you more of Tommy. We watched as he and his brother became more and more feral. The family finally moved some years after the happenings I’ve described. Then one day the local news covered a story of two adult men who held a party where teenagers were supplied liberally with drugs and alcohol. Three of those strung out teens stole a car, drove on the wrong side of the highway out of town and hit a State Trooper head on. After the trooper’s death the two adults were charged with Involuntary Manslaughter and Contributing to the Delinquency of Minors.

One of those men who held the party was Tommy. I watched his first court appearance on TV. The other man involved in the party was busy laughing, acting tough, and giving the finger to everyone. And Tommy? I have never seen a more broken person than Tommy. His whole skinny little body was quaking, he was crying and groaning as he wrapped his arms protectively around himself, rocking back and forth. He never raised his eyes as the tears and snot dripped down his body. He didn’t even try to wipe his face and looked as though he had stepped from a torture chamber in Dante’s Third Circle.

As I watched I saw the young boy he had been and the things I knew about his life. I felt so guilty and wondered what I might have done to help him. Maybe once in awhile I could have brought him over for cookies and milk at a clean kitchen table and that would have given him hope. Some small sign of caring might have been enough, but in reality I still don’t know what we could or should have done. What anyone could have done.

The broken man he became haunts me as much as the young boy he was. • (3371 views)

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6 Responses to The Harem

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Perhaps something like that would have worked; there are examples of such treatment rescuing a life. But if his parents allowed him and his brother to run feral, it may have been hopeless. Such behavior is too tempting for children who don’t know any better.

    An interesting social scientist who looked into the rational basis behind the origins of social customs was Marvin Harris, who particularly studied food taboos (e.g., The Sacred Cow and the Abominable Pig). Jared Diamond also studied traditional customs in his recent The World Until Yesterday. I don’t know of any studies of possible reasonable origins of some of Islam’s misogynistic customs. While it’s true that covering up can be desirable in the desert, this would hardly explain why such customs apply everywhere — and only to women. Whatever the origins of such customs, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s interpretation — that they’re meant for the control of women by the men — is undoubtedly accurate today. There are simply too many such misogynistic rules for me to doubt her.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    In fairness to your son, it would have been a common instinct for an older brother to lock a younger brother into a closet to solve a temporary problem. That may not have been an instinctive anti-girl thing. It might have been an instinctive dump-on-the-younger-sibbling thing. Been there, done that (as a middle brother).

    I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you more of Tommy. We watched as he and his brother became more and more feral.

    This is SOOOO why I’m not a libertarian. It really really does matter that kids have proper values instilled in them….values that will be reflected in community standards and laws.

  3. Anniel says:

    This is one of those times I would absolutely go back and do my life over, and if we had been fully aware of how bad things really were we might have done things differently at the time. The family finally built a huge new house on the back part of their two acre lot and knocked down the shack in front. The people in the neighborhood were so happy that the boys would be out of the hole they were living in. Within a year they lost the house through foreclosure. After they were gone one of the bank reps invited us in to see. How anyone could have done so much damage in one year is still staggering to me. The bank had to completely gut the interior, make structural repairs, take out all the appliances and sell the place as a fixer upper. There was a big hole in the sheetrock with a signed note on the wall that said, “I was mad and kicked this wall in on March 23 when I was drunk.” A family bought the house, fixed it up, finally moved in, and then put up with unrelenting vandalism. It was several months before police found that Tommy and his brother were the vandals. It never occurred to any of us that they would come so far almost every day to put dynamite in the mail box, break windows and all that had been done. We never heard what the police and social workers finally did., but the boys were in a short time returned to their family. Who knows why. Anyone who can figure out family and child service agencies is welcome to try.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There is a saying that the difference between a pit bull and a social worker is that you might get your child back from a social worker. (The Pelletiers might agree with that.) More precisely, it sometimes seems that social workers return children to bad parents while taking them from good ones. One hopes this is simply incompetence.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Annie, sometimes there is nothing a person can do but to protect oneself and one’s progeny from the self-destruction of others.

      I’ve seen this kind of thing before. People become bent on self-destruction. And if one falls into (for whatever reason) drug or alcohol abuse, it’s almost game, set, and match.

      Unlike the belief of the nitwits on the Left, this wasn’t a medical or psychological problem with that family. This was a spiritual problem. These people had nothing noble to live for, thus their life became like an ongoing sacrament to their inner hopelessness, rage, and disappointment.

      My greatest gift might have been pain and disappointment, some of it earned, but most of it not. But every man has a choice: go feral or try to deal with the shit sandwich that life often hands you.

      Maintaining a chip on one’s shoulder is not the way. And this is, after all, the appeal of Cultural Marxism. Hillary and Obama aren’t Marxists because they care so much. They’re Marxists because they feel eternally offended and aggrieved.

      I don’t go to church and I don’t see church in my foreseeable future. My attitude has usually been a low simmering “God can kiss my left butt cheek.” And yet eventually one learns that grievance is not the way to go. Shit sandwiches can’t alway be made into caviar, but you can at least scrape it off the bread.

      Some people not only don’t even try to scrape it off the bread and salvage what is good, they instead “double-stuff” the excrement like one of those premium types of Oreos.

      When one has a family to run and children to protect, it is asking a lot of oneself to go save another, particularly if they don’t want to be saved. But this is generally why true Christians can be the conduits of good, and “social workers” generally can’t. To help those mired in evil, you risk being harmed. True help (and helpers) can’t survive on the self-congratulatory warm-fuzzy feelings of being a do-gooder. And why should anyone risk being harmed if all we have is in the here and now?

      Not in a perfect world but in a better world there would be a Christian minister somewhere (possibly even a Father O’Malley) there to keep an eye on folk and help steer them out of their dark worlds, as Bing did for Carol James (played by Jean Heather) in “Going My Way” who might as easily have fallen into prostitution. (The Dark Forces among us might disagree about that.)

      There is darkness all around us. And there is a political movement (Cultural Marxism) that thrives on it.

  4. Anniel says:

    Be aware that our son grew up fine, but sometimes both his sisters would probably lock him in the closet if they could. Even his wife might consider doing so.

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