Some people shouldn't have children

Do you think we value children enough in our society? I’ve been thinking about that lately and I’m not sure we do. Children should be our most precious resource, but a lot of the time we’re quick to criticise children and their shortcomings without recognising the role we play in their problems. As a society we seem to be fascinated by youth and beauty, but children are a burden, and one we still think should be seen and not heard.

I don’t mean to suggest that people don’t love their children, but I find it hard to believe that we’re doing all we can as a society to protect them. You only need to open a newspaper to see another story about child abuse and neglect. If there’s one thing I hate it’s seeing a child hurt, particularly a defenceless one, and the people who do speak for children’s rights seem to be silenced all too easily.

The story of Megan Meier’s death seems to have caught fire over the last few days, particularly among bloggers. If you haven’t heard the story, she committed suicide in October 2006 after receiving a flood of abuse from a 16 year old boy on MySpace. She was three weeks shy of her 14th birthday. What makes the story so despicable is that the boy never existed; instead “he” was a persona created by the parents of a girl who had been Megan’s best friend. Megan had received messages calling her “fat” and “a slut”, and the last, her father said, was this: “Everybody in O’Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you.” Megan hanged herself shortly afterwards.

The St. Charles Journal brought attention to the story earlier this month and I’ve been following it since then. It’s one of those stories that you can’t quite believe because it’s so horrible; we all recognise the cyber-bullying tropes in the story, but that adults would be responsible is stunning. I can’t even begin to imagine why they would do it… it’s incomprehensible.

But there’s something else about the story that’s been troubling me, the emotions surrounding it. The news article refused to name the family, which I agree with – but bloggers have. Dozens of blogs have not just named the family, but also their address. One comment was even inciting people to pursue the parents “over and over, until they too take their lives”. The outrage is fast becoming a public lynching.

I’m disgusted and outraged by what happened, but this anger is not helping; it’ll only make things worse. People taking the law into their own hands solves nothing and does not bring justice. What Megan’s death shows more is that there’s a hole in the law that needs to be filled. The parents didn’t tie the noose around Megan’s neck but surely they played a role in her death; there should be criminal consequences for that, consequences which do not exist under the current system.

A change to the law is what Ron and Tina Meier want, but once again it comes too late. That’s what really annoys me: the laws worldwide just don’t seem capable of keeping up with the new advances in technology, of protecting children in our world. It shouldn’t be acceptable that it takes a tragedy to bring about change… but of course, it’s the only thing that does.

It’s a sad fact of life that you need a licence to buy a car or a gun, but anyone can have a child. Perhaps that’s the real problem here. Just because you can have a child doesn’t make you a good parent. To me it isn’t creating a life that makes you a mother or a father, it’s that you care for and love your child, that you provide for them and would do anything to keep them safe. I would hope that’s what it means to most people.

That parents could do this to someone else’s child stuns me. You just have to think that some people shouldn’t have children, and they would be at the top of my list. I hope they come to realise what they’ve done, but more than anything I hope Megan’s family can find some closure, and that Megan can rest in peace.

11 thoughts on “Some people shouldn't have children

  1. There are laws against what they did, including stalking laws; the people could be facing felony charges, and if there’s any justice, they should face those charges.

    However: while I don’t believe that death threats are just, I do believe that naming adult perpetrators of actions made publically is quite fair. They made those remarks right out in the open in cyberspace, and they’re over 18 and presumed to be responsible for their actions. That their vultures will be brought home to roost is nothing more than fair and right.

    CJ: That was my first reaction as well, Rain; if not just stalking, then definitely harassment and slander charges. But according to the police, they don’t have a charge that is applicable to the case; even the FBI investigated with the same result. Yesterday the St. Charles County prosecutor said they’ll be reviewing the case and local legislators are looking to make internet harassment a misdemeanour offence to close the hole. Still seems strange.

    It’s not so much the naming of the parents that bothers me; I personally wouldn’t to protect their daughter, but I understand people naming them. It’s the listing of their public addresses that concerns me. It’s created such an uproar that I don’t think it would take much for someone to go over the edge and physically harm them or their daughter; that’s the situation I think we should be cautious of. That said, though, as the law seems powerless to do much about it, perhaps a public shaming is the only punishment left.

  2. This is the first I’ve heard of that story, and it shocked me too. I hate to hear about people planning to “take the law into their own hands” (that’s partly why we have laws…). On the other hand, I find it hard not to sympathise with people who feel that way when the parents have been such bastards, if you’ll pardon the word. What people have to accept is that you can’t go pursuing some kind of wild west frontier justice. However, I really can understand that people might find that hard to accept, given how atrocious – and shocking – the Meier parents actions were.

    I have no idea how they could feasibly prevent people from having kids (not in any reasonable, non-mentally scarring way, anyway). I believe there are laws in place that determine who can adopt a child, and people who are unfit to raise children usually have them taken off them, but beyond that, what could be done? I mean, cars and guns require a licence because of the damage they can do to other people, whereas you’re concerned about protecting children themselves.

    I think raincoaster has the right idea here. These people could, and should, be charged for stalking.

    And what about actually telling their own daughter that the world would be better without her? They basically told her to off herself! Is that legal? I mean, jeez, if it isn’t, why on Earth is it?

    I apologise for the long and probably somewhat inarticulate comment; this story has really freaked me out.

    CJ: The first time I read about this I just felt sick. How anyone could justify that kind of behaviour mystifies me; just because somebody is emotionally scarred beforehand doesn’t make them any less responsible. I hope the prosecutors do find something to charge them with, but so far they seem unable to find a state or federal crime that’s applicable to the case.

    I probably should point out, though, that it’s the parents of Megan’s friend who are responsible, not Megan’s parents… that’s my fault, I made it more confusing by not naming them. But why what they said doesn’t constitute slander at the least (let alone stalking) is very strange. I was taking the police at their word that they can’t make a case, but you’d think they could find something to charge them with.

    And you’re right as well, we can’t stop people from having children; I didn’t mean that as much as that it’s appalling we have fewer rights protecting children than we do for property like a gun or a car… I hate seeing children hurt and this story is so disturbing, I just hope it opens peoples’ eyes more.

    And I didn’t find your comment inarticulate at all, B0bbyG. I think your reaction’s very similar to mine… if someone isn’t freaked out reading this, they mustn’t have a soul.

  3. Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry!

    I meant “why on Earth is it?”, not “isn’t it”, and now I’m mortified. Uh, cjwriter, could you please edit that, please? And then delete this comment? I know I should have proofread, and now I’m absolutely horror struck.

    I’m really, really sorry for any offense/confusion this may have caused. I literally punched myself when I realised what I’d written.

    PLEASE CHANGE IT ASAP, I’m extremely sorry about this. I was just so freaked out, and I didn’t think to check what I wrote before hitting submit. Ugh, maybe I should get some sleep…

    CJ: You know, I didn’t even notice it when I read it! I think what you said captured what you were feeling and that’s more important than making a few errors. I’ve fixed it now anyway. 😉

    And I think I should get some sleep too. I posted this at 3.00 AM and it’s probably me who’s caused most of the confusion. Note to self: don’t post past midnight again.

  4. i don’t get why megan’s best friend’s parents were harassing her that way. was there a reason given?

    “some people shouldn’t have children.” most people would agree this can be applied to megan’s best friend’s parents. i hope nobody would flame me for this, for i’m sincerely wondering, what about megan’s parents? when your child commits suicide, have you failed as a parent, or is this out of your control because you can’t force a child to open up to you if s/he doesn’t want to?

    CJ: Well, apparently the friend’s mother said that Megan and her daughter had recently had a fight. She created the persona to “find out what Megan was saying on-line about her daughter”. Which seems hard to believe as the persona was communicating with Megan for six weeks; it was an ongoing thing, not just once or twice, and doesn’t explain the harassment. She created the relationship and then purposefully killed it in a way that destroyed Megan. I don’t think anyone can say that was responsible.

    I wondered that about her parents as well and I think you’re right, whenever a child commits suicide, their parents must take some of the blame; for not seeing the signs, or not being there. But in my opinion the Meiers did just about everything they could to protect their daughter. Tina Meier monitored Megan’s internet access and approved her friends on MySpace. The computer was in the basement, not in Megan’s room. They talked with her when she first started receiving the messages. In the end there’s only so much you can do; their mistake was to be downstairs at the computer while Megan was upstairs hanging herself. Tina Meier’s says she’ll always feel guilty about that. I think any parent would.

  5. I appresicate the understanding cj, but I think any misunderstanding on my part was entirely my fault: I shouldn’t have commented on something like this when I was stressed/dehydrated/over-tired. I wanted to say:

    This story appalls and disturbs me, and I strongly feel that the people responsible should be brought to some form of legal justice.

    Reading sulz’s comment above, I really don’t think it’s fair to blame the girl’s parents, because it’s very difficult to know if your child is sucidal, and they must be heartbroken.

    CJ: No worries. We all make the odd mistake, and I still knew what you were getting at. I agree with your sentiment as well. If they can be charged, I hope they are charged and have their day in court… I also hope that there is an ordinance passed that deals with internet harassment, so it doesn’t happen again.

    It’s very difficult when a child dies and the Meiers must be suffering more than we could ever imagine. Sometimes suicide is a cry for help that people don’t see, and parents do have some accountability in it, if not blame… but here I think the Meiers did everything they possibly could to protect Megan. The sad truth is that sometimes that’s just not enough… I hope they can find some peace.

  6. This story made me sick, too. And that was before I read your post about people exposing the “other parents” who set Megan up. More and more I lose faith in us as a group. I wonder what we as individuals can do to make a difference?
    Consider our naive’ belief that there are laws applicable to such activities. The fact is there are few laws we think exist…and many more we aren’t aware of that protect evil-doers.
    Not for a minute do I want to see the “other parents” become victims of revenge. I hang on to some hope that as a nation of laws we won’t go there again…lynching by any other name is still no way to lead us to a higher plane of existence.
    Still, I admit that emotionally I’d love to see them suffer as Megan suffered…but then I’d like to castrate every male pedophile; torture every person who kills a child…and on and on.
    The only solution I conceive of is that we all need to be more politically active at least with phone calls and notes to politicians, letters to the editors, yes…and speaking out on blogs, but always with forethought and yes, maybe never when we are out of control or it’s past our bedtimes. Thanks so much for writing about this and for the people who c!are enough to enter the dialogue.
    A Child is Waiting,
    Take care…be aware,
    Nancy Lee
    ChildPersonFromtheSouth

    CJ: Nancy, thank you for your comment. I think the thing which disturbs me so much about this story is the lack of empathy and understanding that anything was wrong, particularly from the friend’s mother… the idea that someone would not be culpable for prodding a damaged child because they were already damaged, I don’t know how anyone can justify that.

    I try not to judge people but this story is so terrible that it’s hard not to want to point the finger. What worries me is that in exposing the other parents, someone might go so far as to do something equally terrible and I would much rather see people writing to their lawmakers to make sure that Megan is not forgotten and that the situation doesn’t happen again. Perhaps that’s the only way we can really make a difference.

    Thank you for your thoughts, and for providing a voice for children; there aren’t nearly enough of those voices in the world.

  7. It’s frustrating that so many avenues are available to pursue this case criminally, yet authorities didn’t even try. No case was tried before a court. No Judge. No jury. That even a parking ticket get’s swifter action.

    While I understand that perhaps no statute addressed this situation precisely, law is never precise.

    Case law, the history of developing rulings on current legislation, certainly has enough directions available in this case to adapt laws on the books to fit this crime.

    Danny Vice
    http://weeklyvice.blogspot.com/

    CJ: The prosecutor is supposed to be reviewing the case, so hopefully they’ll find a charge which is applicable. And if there isn’t, there should be some kind of ordinance passed. Any sane person can see that at the very least it was harassment.

    I just hope that it doesn’t take some episode of Law & Order to make a change happen; it’s already too late for one child, and I hope it won’t fail another. The legal system worldwide is too far behind the advances in technology; the system still uses outdated ideas which don’t match the world we live in. Until that’s rectified I don’t see how we can seriously hope to protect children. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. it is indeed a nice post.I hope through your post this will serve as an eyeopener for all parents out there to be more responsible and sensitive in attending the child’s needs.Not only with material things but also the emotional aspect.I agree to you that some people or parents doesnt even how to play their part being a so called parent for a child.so badly enough that sometimes children were abuse by their own parents.Thanks for sharing this post…….

    CJ: I hope so too, Rhosie, that the Megan Meier case will open people’s eyes to what our treatment of children can do to them. If people stop turning a blind eye to the abuses around them, then maybe some good can come out of this tragedy… thanks for your comments.

  9. Hi, CJ — Have you seen this? Lori Drew has been indicted in this case.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24652422/

    CJ: No, I hadn’t seen it, Ella. Thank you. It looks like a hard case to prove but conspiracy and the other charges make sense; it’ll be interesting to see what happens. Hopefully it will help Megan’s parents find some closure.

  10. I always said the same thing, people don’t value children at all! And I also wondered if someone felt the same way about it, it’s soooo sad…

  11. Marie – I know, it’s awful the way many people don’t value children, isn’t it? They have rights just like the rest of us.

    I think the Lori Drew case was one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen. Very sad.

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