Aramink

Engaged with the World

Tag: crime

Robbery with Ray, Pookie, Luke, and Champ

You’d have thought they were the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the way they crashed through my front door about 10:15 pm on December 6.

They actually didn’t resemble this at all. I just like the image.

I had already gone to bed. I had my laptop open to make sure I hadn’t missed anything on Reddit, and was brushing one of my geriatric cats, George, when I heard the pounding on the door. The doorbell rang almost simultaneously. Obviously something was wrong, so I got out of bed to grab my robe. Did one of my neighbors have an emergency? There’s a young family that lives on one side of me with a toddler. My friend Jean, another single woman, lives across the street. On the other side of me are a quiet couple about my age. What could be wrong?

I hadn’t yet crossed the room when I realized that there were people in my house. Multiple people. The only time multiple people come into my house at that time of night without me letting them in is when my son and nephews are home from college, and they were all … away at college.

My phone was across the room, on the bedside table next to the bed I had just left. Before I could get to it, I was staring at a man standing in my bedroom pointing a sawed-off shotgun at my face.

Double-Barrel Sawed-Off Shotgun

Sort of like this, only bigger and realer. (source)

A few days later I would learn that the gunman’s name was Robert Morgan Perry. His buddies had referred to him as “Ray” throughout their visit. He called them “Pookie” and “Luke.”

Yes, they were stupid enough to call each other by name. Clearly, these gangstas did not spend their spare time watching CSI. As the twenty minutes or so that they spent in my house dragged by, it became clear to me that they had never paid much attention to true crime shows like Forensic Files or The First 48, either.

After pocketing my iPhone, the man grabbed my laptop computer from where it sat on my bed. He was not wearing gloves. Then he started yanking cords out of the electronics beside my bed. My clock radio, my iPod dock. He looked around and saw a quilt. He dumped the items onto the quilt, which apparently would serve as a way for him to carry those things out, then looked around my bedroom for more stuff to take. The whole time he carelessly waved his gun toward me.

It was a big gun, about a foot long, and it looked like it meant business. I wasn’t sure whether the guy himself was all that strong, but given the artillery he had, I decided not to find out.

dresser drawer

Broken dresser drawer

He grabbed the jewelry I had left on top of my dresser. Three of my favorites. A pair of antique Victorian chandelier ruby earrings, an antique gold ring I wore all the time, and my Goddess. My heart cried out when he took my Goddess. The he started yanking drawers out of the dresser and dumping their contents. He dropped one of the smaller drawers and kicked it. It shattered. He kicked the pieces out of the way and jerked open the next drawer. He sifted through my underwear, holding up items he found interesting. My stomach churned with disgust.

“Is there anybody else in this house?” he yelled at me. “If there’s anybody else in this house I’m going to blow his ass away!” Ray repeated this threat several times throughout his visit. No, no one else was home. I was glad Jack was at college. I was glad the dogs were at Skip’s. Had Missy or Frogger attacked armed intruders, they might both be dead.

I knew I had to look at him to be able to remember a good description. I stared at his face whenever he turned toward me. I estimated him to be about 5’6, with a slim build – maybe about 150 pounds – and medium skin. I had to remember. I hated looking at his face, especially as he fingered my lingerie.

“Where’s the rest of your jewelry?” he demanded. I said nothing. He waved the gun in my direction. “I know you got more jewelry,” he said.

“That’s it. You’ve got it. That’s what I wear every day,” I answered. That much was two-thirds true. I wear the ring every day. I wear the Goddess most days. The earrings, though, I tend to wear just during the holidays, because they remind me of Christmas ornaments.

Antique Ruby and Pearl Chandelier Earrings

Festive!

He looked around the room. I could hear his future co-defendants moving around upstairs. My bedroom is one level down from the front entrance to my house. He waved the gun again. “Where’s your damn jewelry?” he demanded.

Goddess

My Goddess, but not my cleavage.

Now, here’s where I confess that I am a jewelry whore. I don’t wear makeup very often, and I usually just pull my otherwise unkempt hair into a ponytail, but otherwise I’m very much a dragon. I love sparkly things. I love gold. I love shiny stones. I love silver. I like big jewelry. I am quite content when I am surrounded by pretty baubles. My hoard of shiny, sparkly things makes me happy. I’ve collected antique jewelry for years. And I was damned if I was going to tell him where it was.

But he kept yelling at me and waving that gun in my face. Finally I told him I had a safe in my closet. It was sitting on the floor. He grinned as he carried it out, smug in his conquest. He called for Pookie to keep an eye on me while he carried the safe out. One of the other two men obliged, but unlike Ray, his face was covered. He was wearing my son’s Guy Fawkes mask.

Remember, remember the 6th of December

He was about the same size as Ray, though, with hair either braided or in tight dreadlocks, pulled back into a short ponytail. I might not be able to see his face, but I could tell what his build was.

At some point during all this, I heard a terrific crash from upstairs. I couldn’t tell where it came from, just that it was really, really loud. Something big had fallen.

Those fuckers were breaking my stuff.

Evidently since they hadn’t worked to earn the money to pay for it, they couldn’t care less whether they damaged it. I had visions of antique French furniture being smashed into kindling. I worried that my grandmother’s Italian crystal chandelier had been ripped from the dining room ceiling. I expected them to take all the electronics they could carry. I just hoped they’d leave the antiques and art alone. Hopefully they didn’t know what those things were worth, and couldn’t tell about the value of my other shiny baubles, set about my home and in cases and on shelves. I hoped all they wanted were things they could sell quickly and easily, but because that horrible man grinned as he pocketed three pieces of unique and easily identifiable jewelry, I was worried.

They dropped one thimble similar to this. I had bought it in Taxco, Mexico, when I was a teenager. All the others were taken.

Photo taken by Paul Carr

Ray soon returned to the bedroom, and a third guy also came downstairs where we were. I saw three men during that incident, but I thought perhaps I heard someone else still upstairs when the three I saw were downstairs. They systematically yanked the TV and other electronics out of the wall sockets and carried them out. I have a sewing room next to my bedroom, and they took the TV from there, too.

Then one of the thugs noticed my collection of antique sterling silver and mother of pearl sewing tools. More shiny baubles. He emptied the display case and my heart sank. Most of those belonged to two of my great-grandmothers, and they are irreplaceable. The price they will bring at a pawn shop pales in comparison to what they are worth, and what they mean to me.

Two of them returned upstairs, leaving only Ray downstairs. He rummaged through my closets, digging through bags and boxes. Unwrapped Christmas gifts sat in one closet. After dumping the box they were in, Ray apparently saw nothing worth stealing so moved on.

Then he yelled to ask if Pookie had his gun. Startled, I saw that Ray was no longer holding the gun. A wild hope of escape crossed my mind, but with Ray between me and the back door, and at least two more men upstairs, I was frozen with indecision. Could I make it across the street to Jean’s? Not if I had to run past them. Could I get out the back door? Probably not before Ray caught up with me. Would he just let me run? Probably not. If I ran, where could I go? To get to Jean’s I’d have to cross the street in front of my house, where Ray’s buddies were probably loading things into their vehicle. And one of them – I didn’t know which – probably had that gun. I felt like a deer in headlights. I didn’t run.

Photo by Paul Carr

He moved to the laundry room across from my bedroom, demanding that I come with him. He had found a clear plastic bag someplace, and began stuffing smaller things into it. “What the hell? That’s my travel iron!” I couldn’t help myself. These idiots were risking a prison sentence of 20-40 years or life for  miniature iron that probably cost less than $20 and was at least 15 years old? Seriously? Ray just looked at me and grinned. Maybe he was in this for the excitement, not the money.

Some of the things they took and some of the things they left were puzzling. The drawer holding my sterling silver flatware was open, but nothing was missing. They took the Rock Band video game components – then abandoned them just outside the basement door – but didn’t even knock Jack’s 50th Anniversary Fender Stratocaster off its stand.

Ray ordered me up the stairs. I hoped they wouldn’t kidnap me. The hope of being able to run past them, out the front door and across the street to Jean’s, beat wildly in my chest. On the way upstairs, I noticed blood dripped on the wall and on the landing. Satisfaction mingled with my faint hope. One of them was bleeding, and that meant better forensic evidence than smudged fingerprints and half-remembered descriptions from a terrified victim. I looked away from the blood. I hoped the thugs wouldn’t notice it. They stopped me at the top of the stairs. I couldn’t see out the front door, and I couldn’t see whether there were other people.

I wondered if I dared to try to push past them to get across the street to Jean’s house before they found the gun, but someone yelled that he had it. I wondered if these thugs really had the courage, or were psychopathic enough, to really use it. I decided that trial and error was not a good way to find out.

Finally one of them said he had the gun. I couldn’t tell which. All those potential escape scenarios committed seppuku in my brain.

When they decided they had been at my house long enough, the one in the Guy Fawkes mask led me down to the basement and told me to wait 60 seconds after they left to leave the room. Then he said, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but we’re just trying to feed our families.”

I wondered who they thought would feed their families while they were in prison. Bringing that gun along had added at least ten years to their sentences, and none of them was wearing gloves. I had seen Ray’s face, and studied it well. I had desperately noted every detail I could about the other two, from their hairstyles to their body types.

He left the room, and a few moments later I heard the squeal of tires. I bolted upstairs. They hadn’t found my kitchen phone. I shook as I dialed 911. I blurted out what had happened, and then I started to really panic. What if they came back? Should I stay, or leave? I begged the 911 operator to call my sister. She tried, but my sister was out of town. I didn’t want to bother my brother, Jay, who I knew had been up for nearly 48 hours already because of a huge project at work. I asked her to call my son’s father. He didn’t answer his phone. I started to cry. She called him again. Still no answer. But by this time the police arrived.

Skip Smith

I mined his Facebook page for this photo.

I was telling the police what had happened when my phone rang. It was my ex. I begged him to come over.

I love Skip – he’s still one of my very best friends, even though we’ve been divorced nearly eight years. I am really sorry for ruining his evening – he said he had left a very promising date to come see about me. I don’t know who the woman was, but I sure hope she accepts that his decision was a sign of his strength of character, and not a competition where she came in second. (She’s welcome to him. Take my ex-husband. Please. All I ask is that she allow him to remain my friend when it comes to Jack. And in the occasional emergency.)

A few minutes later the doorbell rang again. My sister had called Jay, who immediately had come wide awake despite his exhaustion and broken land speed records over the ten miles to my house. I love that man, too. He thought to turn on the “Track my Phone” feature and found that the thugs and my phone were at the hospital less than half a mile away. He put my phone in lost mode.

Jack came home that night, too. Jay had texted him and told him not to break speed records getting here, but I don’t think Jack paid much attention. He walked in the house and hugged me tighter than he has since he was a very little guy. Even if he’s grown, I guess he still loves his mom.

Jack helped me clean up the wreckage in my bedroom after the police, Skip, and Jay left. Neither one of us expected to sleep. About 5 a.m., I picked up one of the quilts and was surprised that it was heavy. I put it back down and unfolded it. Hidden within were my laptop, my bedside clock-radio, my iPod, and my iPod dock. Ray had apparently forgotten them in the excitement of carrying out a heavy safe full of jewelry, I guess. Jack and I laughed.

Pookie left a lot of blood all over my house. He cut himself either taking my big TV off the wall over my living room fireplace, or ripping cords out of the desktop computer he didn’t take the time to unhook. His thug buddies apparently took Pookie from my house straight to the ER to get him stitched up. They turned my phone on and off several times over the next several days – at Pookie’s house, at the barber college where Luke apparently works, and a few other places. The detectives were able to round up Pookie and Luke pretty quickly, and they confessed and implicated a fourth man, a guy named Wilbert Champ. I never saw Champ. Maybe he was the one I heard walking around upstairs while Pookie, Luke and Ray were all downstairs. Ray told me there were five of them altogether.

Mug shots of Champ, Pookie & Luke (source)

A friend of mine runs the Forbidden Hillcrest site. I’ve followed his blog for several years, since it’s all about my neighborhood. It’s fun to read – it has the history of Hillcrest, fictional neighborhood drama, and real neighborhood drama. On the Facebook page for Forbidden Hillcrest, there are lots of crime reports and commentary from my neighbors. When Pookie, Luke and Champ were arrested, the arrest reports were posted to the Forbidden Hillcrest page. Within minutes, my intrepid neighbors had found the Facebook pages for Pookie and Luke.

The “gangsta” talk on those two pages is almost unintelligible. It appears from Pookie’s post the day after the robbery that they did this as part of his birthday celebration. He said, “thanx to erbodi who wished me a happy bday~A0~”  What a way to celebrate – scare the shit out of some woman you’ve never seen before, forcibly deprive her of her things, wreck her house, and get arrested. Whooo-eeee, we’re having some fun, now.

Most disheartening, though was a photo posted on Luke’s page of himself and a small child. “Me and my lil g” is what he calls it. The child’s lower face is covered with a bandana, and both of them are throwing gang signs.

Lil G

Me an my lil g (source)

He’s proud of teaching a child to live a life of crime. After 20 years of practicing juvenile law, this disgusts me so completely there are barely words to describe how I feel. Talk about a kid having a lot to overcome – if crime is glorified to this child, then he’s going to end up in prison right along with Luke.

Luke appears to have at least some remorse for what he did. When he bonded out of jail after the arrest, he posted “Js wanna say srry 2 all da people I let down I’m finna get my life together from now on” on his Facebook status. He’s at least sorry for getting caught, which is a start. He’d have more credibility with me if he returned my jewelry and antique sewing tools, though. Who knows – he might get a lighter sentence than his co-defendants for his efforts. And he might actually straighten his life out. He’ll take a step toward transforming himself from a shitty human being to a human being who did something shitty once.

Robert Morgan Perry

Robert Morgan Perry, aka “Ray”

Ray is still at large, but there’s a warrant out for his arrest. When I received word of that, and learned what his name was, I looked him up on the Pulaski County Clerk’s website. Piecing it together from docket entries on the website, it looks like he drew a battery charge in May 2006. Apparently he didn’t ever show up for court, so in 2008 a warrant was finally issued for his arrest again.  Eventually he got probation for the battery charge.

Then in April 2008 he was charged with the statutory rape of a 13 year old girl. He entered a negotiated plea – a plea bargain – to the lesser offense of sexual assault, and was sentenced to ten years, with 5 suspended, and sent to ADC in November 2008. He apparently got out on parole and did something else to get the suspended sentence imposed. The revocation petition mentions that he was in possession of firearms, which felons are not to have. There was a revocation hearing in October 2011 and he went to ADC again. Then in March 2012 he was sentenced to another 5 years on the sexual assault charge – essentially the suspended 5 years of the original sentence was imposed. I don’t know why he was already out in time to rob me at gunpoint by December 6. I have a feeling, though, that he’s going to spend a little longer in prison this time.

I don’t have any of my things back, and given the crash I heard from upstairs, I doubt the one television the police recovered will still work. It was covered in Pookie’s blood when they found it, anyway, so I’m not real sure I even want it back. They also recovered Jack’s Guy Fawkes mask. When I showed him the arrest report that said the mask had been found, Jack grimaced and said they could keep it.

Two nights later, about the same time, there was another armed home invasion robbery in my neighborhood. I wonder if the same thugs were responsible.

My friends keep asking me how I’m doing.

I do fine until it’s time to go to bed. Then I replay that twenty minutes in my mind, second-guessing myself, wondering what I could have done differently. Then I get up and take a Xanax, and after another twenty minutes of replaying the robbery, I finally fall asleep.

I could have locked up my jewelry before I went to bed. They wouldn’t have gotten my Goddess, then. I’m lucky that all they got were those three pieces of jewelry.

Oh, the safe I mentioned? The one I told Ray to get out of the closet? Yeah, it didn’t have jewelry in it. There was nothing of significant value in it at all. I hadn’t even opened it in ages. My best friend was under strict instructions to get that safe out of my house stat if anything ever happened to me, because my mom and my son should never see its contents.

I almost wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Ray and Pookie and Luke drilled into it expecting to find my dragon’s hoard of jewels, and learned that most of what was in it no doubt needed new batteries.

Why I Haunt Them

 

In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite, residing in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.  But his concubine became angry with him and she went away to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months. Then her husband set out after her, to speak tenderly to her and bring her back. – Judges 19:1-3

“It’s Bobby Wayne!”

The shock at hearing my husband’s name was only slightly less than the shock of hearing it spoken with such pleasure by my father.  Exchanging a look with Mama, I moved to the kitchen window. The familiar F-150 was indeed in the driveway, and Daddy, who had been working on his old Camaro under the shade of the live oak, was stuffing a shop rag in his hip pocket and walking toward the truck with a grin on his face.

I couldn’t believe it.  Daddy knew why I had left.  The meth had led Bobby to more and more erratic behavior, and by the time I was able to get the money together to get back home I was practically unable to use my left arm any more.  I think Bobby had broken it at least twice, and the second time he didn’t let me go to the hospital for two weeks.  They said they’d have to break it again and do surgery, and he said he didn’t have the money to pay for it, so it never did heal right. Finally it seemed like the muscles just seemed to quit working in it.

But Daddy was greeting him like a long lost son, not the abuser of his only daughter.

Bobby stayed three days. By Monday morning, Daddy had loaded my things into the bed of the pickup and told me my place was with my husband. Mama didn’t argue about it any more after Daddy popped her in the mouth Saturday afternoon. I had no choice. Bobby had been making sweet promises about how good things were going to be. I thought that if things got bad I’d just walk out again.

We were on the outskirts of the city, about an hour and a half from home, when Bobby told me he had to go see a man there for business.  Since the only business Bobby ever did involved things like guns and drugs, I knew we weren’t likely to go to a good neighborhood.  I was right.

We were in an area that had clearly seen better days. “Urban blight” is the euphemism for it. Porches sagged without anyone standing on them.  Graffiti covered everything from the walls of the homes to the fire hydrants to the sidewalks, and I could understand none of the writing. No one ever taught me this other language or the script in which it was written.

Bobby parked on the street in front of what looked like a store front that had been converted to living quarters. Before getting out of the truck he reached under his seat and removed his pistol. He checked it to be sure it was loaded, then stuck it into his pants at the waist, covering it with his t-shirt. “Stay in the truck,” he said.

As I waited, tough looking men drove by.  I saw no women.  No children played outside. Finally I lay down on the seat and slept.

Bobby had been inside almost three hours when a group of men approached the truck. When they tapped on the window I sat up, confused for a moment. An ugly scar bisected the cheek of the tall man who demanded Bobby’s whereabouts through the slightly lowered window. Wordlessly, I pointed at the building. The tall man stomped off, his followers behind them. There were about ten of them.

They pounded on the door, and although they apparently talked with whomever was on the other side, I could hear nothing.  I saw the angry looks on the men’s faces, though.  I saw two unsheath knives. Another’s gun was poorly concealed in the waistband of his jeans. A man on the edge of that crowd leaned down and picked up a piece of pipe.

While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, a perverse lot, surrounded the house, and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house that we may have intercourse with him.” And the man, master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing. Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them; but against this man do not do such a vile thing.”  – Judges 19:22-24

The door opened then, and I saw an older man holding a young girl by the arm.  She couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen years old and she looked terrified. He shoved the child toward the crowd of men, but the tall one with the scar pushed her back inside.  There was more discussion.  Gesturing, and then loud voices told me that they wanted my husband, they wanted him now, and they wanted him dead.

Bobby had taken the keys with him when he went inside. I locked the doors of the truck and sat in the middle of the seat.  I was afraid, but I didn’t panic until I heard the thundering demand from the tall, scarred man: “If he won’t come out here and answer us like a man, he’s a pussy.  We want the pussy. If you don’t give us that pussy, we’ll take his other pussy!” He was pointing at the truck.  He was pointing at me.

The men surrounded the truck.  Terrified, I refused to open the doors.  The man with the pipe struck the window on the passenger side.  It took him several tries, but finally it shattered and he reached inside and unlocked the door.  They pulled me out of the truck.  At first I screamed my husband’s name. Then I simply screamed.

They more than raped me.

Every man in that crowd had his turn, and several of them had more than one turn in more than one place on my horrified body. I lost track of the number of times each took me, and the way each took me. My abdomen felt near to exploding, then was numb. Two at once, three at once, there were more than I could count. I knew I was bleeding because they pulled away from me drenched in my blood.

Apparently their access was not easy enough, because they pulled my legs apart to more easily get at me from front and back at the same time. My hips and thighs cracked audibly, and I knew I would not be walking again any time soon.

When they forced my mouth open to defile me there, too, I bit down. Mercifully I felt only the first few of their blows to my head.  After that, I lost consciousness.

As morning appeared the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light. In the morning her master got up, opened the doors of the house, and when he went out to go on his way there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. – Judges 19:26-27


“Get up. We are going.”

I lay on the pavement at the door to the house. I couldn’t answer.  My jaw was probably broken, and the teeth on the left side of my mouth were gone. Painfully I lifted my head slightly and dropped it again. I could only see out of my right eye, and Bobby looked blurry even out of it.

He reached down and yanked on my arm. I screamed wordlessly.  It was obviously broken and the shoulder was probably dislocated as well. My legs had no feeling in them.  I couldn’t walk.  Bobby dragged me whimpering to the truck and threw me in the passenger side, ignoring the fact that I was naked and the broken glass was ripping my skin to shreds.

I died on the way home.

When he had entered his house, he took a knife, and grasping his concubine he cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.  – Judges 19:29

What I found to be humorous about the whole affair was that he packaged up the parts of my body and mailed them to the men in that crowd.  He also mailed a piece of me to the man in whose house he had hid.  He sent my head to my parents. Daddy opened the package and vomited. I laughed.

I haunt them all. The pieces of my flesh that were sent to each man allow me to stay with him.  The fact that their flesh is part of me because of that awful night allows me to stay as long as I wish. I have learned to give them boils, to call lice and fleas to their hairiest regions, to drench them in a stench so powerful none can stand near them, to afflict them with breath so fetid even their vicious dogs turn away from them. They don’t sleep at night, these twelve men who wronged me.  The man whose seed created me, the man whose seed claimed me as his wife, and the ten men whose seed defiled me against my will do not sleep because of the wrongs done to me.

The thirteenth man, the one whose seed never became a part of me, is haunted by his own daughter, whose reproachful eyes remind him of the woman he sacrificed, and remind him that he nearly sacrificed her.

She prays to the bit of finger she saved from the rotting flesh that was delivered to their door by an unsuspecting postman.  She prays to me to help her escape the madman she calls her father.

She will kill him soon.

I will help her.

Kidnapped

Madeleine McCannThere are a young husband and wife who are British doctors. The wife is a GP, the husband is a cardiologist. They have three children. The twins are two years old and their older daughter, Madeleine, was three when the family went on a beach vacation to Portugal a couple of weeks ago.

The parents left their three sleeping toddlers in their ground-floor resort apartment and went to dinner at the restaurant next door. The parents decided against a babysitter for their three children. The children could have been taken to a drop-in service or an individual could have come to their room. Either service was free. The parents were only going next door, after all, and could take turns leaving their dinner to check on the children periodically. They faithfully checked on the children every half hour, according to a family friend.

At her 10:00 p.m. check, however, the mother discovered that the eldest child was gone. A bedroom window was open. The three year old girl had vanished at night in a foreign country. A guest at the resort said, “The parents left the door ajar so they could keep going over and looking at [the children].” A second family friend remarked that the medical couple “are fantastic parents and could see the bedroom from the hotel restaurant.”

Fantastic parents? Do fantastic parents leave toddlers alone in a different building for half an hour at a time? Do fantastic parents leave their tiny children in a hotel room with the door ajar? Do fantastic parents ignore their children’s security so they can enjoy a meal?

I realize that the focus needs to be on finding this little girl. After nearly 20 years working in the field of child abuse and neglect, however, I cannot believe that the two year old twins have not been removed from their parents’ custody yet. These parents have demonstrated their unfitness to have the care of children with very public repercussions.

Parents who disregard the safety of their children deserve to lose them. Period.

Someone on another site I frequent was commenting on this situation and brought up the question of class. A poor or working class (blue collar) family would have had criminal charges brought and the other children removed for fear of additional harm. Because these were middle class, more affluent people, they were free to criticize the efforts of the Portuguese law enforcement officials who unsuccessfully searched for the child.

Regardless of socioeconomic status, these children were toddlers left alone. Protection of children is common sense, not a class issue. It infuriates me that money and status protect negligence of this nature.

Had the children been alone and asleep when a fire broke out, would have been criminal charges brought against the parents for their deaths? It only takes a moment for a child to be electrocuted, to drown, to be burned, to fall and be seriously injured.

Someone in that other forum pointed out that even if the parents had been in the apartment, a kidnapper could have broken in and taken the little girl. This fact is no excuse. Presumably had the parents been there, the door would not have been ajar and the cries of the child as she was being abducted could have been heard. Their very presence would have been a deterrent to this unthinkable act.

The cold, hard fact is that these parents, who probably see abused and neglected children in their medical practices, neglected to supervise their children adequately.

I am concerned for the missing girl. I am just as concerned for her younger siblings who are still in the custody and care of these thoughtless parents. My concern is for the children. I have very little sympathy for the mother and father, whose selfish, lazy decision not to get a free babysitter increased the likelihood that something of this nature would happen.

Have these parents been punished enough for their negligence? I would say they’ve been punished in the most horrific, unforgettable manner possible. When and if their daughter’s abused corpse if located, they will never be able to forgive themselves.

Nevertheless, the notion that their socioeconomic status protects them from the legal repercussions a less affluent couple would face is wrong. Either this couple needs to be prosecuted, or the less affluent parents who allow something like this to happen should not be. Our society needs to choose.

‘Well! That wasn’t very Christian!’

Recently I have read blogs about topics that either called for religious responses or were about religion – which is perfectly fine, don’t get me wrong – but in a couple of cases I was left with the feeling that either the specific post or the comments in response to the post were sanctimoniously narrow-minded. This never fails to get under my skin.

No offense to its followers, but it really bugs the bejeezus out of me when someone appears to claim that Christianity has the corner on the market of good and charitable acts.

I’m not going to publicize what my religion is. There are exactly four people on my friends list who know what it is, and three of them are closely related to me. I don’t talk about religion a lot, but I do study it. I study it mainly because I tend to study anything controversial, and religion is one of the most controversial things out there. I don’t tend to talk about it much because I never know who’s going to get hacked off thinking that I’m blasting their precious dogma.

So, with the intent of blasting no one’s dogmata with nuclear weapons, here I go, talking about religion. (I know, I should prepare to get blasted myself.)

Fact: There are many different religions practiced on this planet.

According to Wikipedia, the dominant religions and the numbers of their adherents are:

1. Christianity 2.1 billion
2. Islam 1.3 billion
3. Secular/Atheist/Irreligious/Agnostic/Nontheist 1.1 billion
4. Hinduism 900 million
5. Buddhism 708 million
6. Chinese folk religion 394 million
7. Primal indigenous (“Pagan”) 300 million
8. African traditional and diasporic 100 million
9. Sikhism 23 million
10. Juche 19 million
11. Spiritism 15 million
12. Judaism 14 million
13. Bahá’í Faith 7 million
14. Jainism 4.2 million
15. Shinto 4 million (see below)
16. Cao Dai 4 million
17. Zoroastrianism 2.6 million
18. Tenrikyo 2 million
19. Neo-Paganism 1 million
20. Unitarian Universalism 800,000
21. Rastafari movement 600,000

Yes, Christianity has the largest following of any religion. However, more people in the world are non-Christian than Christian. This is something many Christians just don’t seem to appreciate when they blithely talk about something not being the “Christian” thing to do. Oh, the ignorant arrogance of that statement!

Think about this:

Fact: Every religion, without exception, provides a moral framework for its adherents.

Fact: That moral framework is virtually identical to that of every other religion.

Ergo: All religions are virtually identical in their morality.

When I hear the phrase, “That wasn’t very Christian!” it is usually with the sound of judgment ringing in my ears. The speaker has just measured someone else’s conduct or words and found them lacking. Likewise, when someone says, “I’m a Christian, so I wouldn’t _________” (fill in the blank with your own imagination), they are also normally passing judgment on someone they find to be behaving inappropriately.

If every religion teaches the same moral rules, how is it that Christianity has a corner on the morals market? The answer is, of course, that it doesn’t. What’s worse for Christianity is that those people passing judgment are doing one of the very things their religion teaches that they should not do: the are judging. I hear either of these two phrases and I assume, from that point forward, that the speaker is a hypocrite.

I have heard an argument that this country was established on Christian values and morals. I respectfully disagree with that assessment. Even a casual reading of what was recorded in The Federalist Papers on this subject will enlighten us. The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights wrote the establishment clause to give Americans freedom of religion, as well as freedom from it. Not all of the founding fathers were religious men, and at least one was publically an atheist.

School prayer has been a big issue for many Christians. It is challenged only rarely, but always by parents who do not want to have religion thrust down the throats of their children.

As long as there are tests in school, there will be school prayer – just not necessarily praying out loud. We should remember, though, that unless our children go to a school connected with a specific religion, the children there are of many faiths, and not just the Judeo-Christian-Muslim traditions that worship the same god. Yes, that god is the one worshipped by the most people in this country. But there are Buddhist and Hindu children in our schools, too. Wiccans send their children to school. So do Unitarians. And there are plenty of children who are not being instructed in any form of religion.

What is the function of religion? Basically, religions exist to provide that moral framework I mentioned. It’s something all religions have in common. The tenets of each religion may be different, but the basics are the same. Religions instruct us how to get along with other people in a society.

Most of our morality is actually codified as law, but there are still issues of fairness that simply can’t be codified. Those uncodified morals are the ones we have to make choices about in daily life. Sometimes they can be condemned as situational ethics, which is another entire area of contention, and maybe the subject of another blog. But as for the morality that is not part of the law, we should remember that teaching morals is the province of parents, not the school system. If we want our children to have honor and integrity, we must teach them those things at home. If we want them to be compassionate and generous, we must teach them that at home. If we want them to be faithful to their spouses, nurturing to their children, and keep their flower beds tended as adults, we as parents must teach them that those things are important.

And we should also teach them that when the neighbor parks his boat on our petunias, the neighbor is not being un-Christian, he is being rude and troublesome. No religion would condone such behavior. For that matter, no society would.

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