About five years ago my grandmother seemed to be becoming paranoid. Every time I called her she mentioned how unsafe the world was. How you can’t trust anyone anymore and how demoralized we’ve become. I never knew what to say to her when she went on these rants. When I spent six weeks with her last summer I thought I’d narrowed in on her paranoia. After The View and before the Dodgers was a deep wide afternoon of grandma being glued to Fox and CNN — two channels that are so wrapped up in their 24 news and commentary cycle that their reporting has become over the top to say the least. I thought perhaps this was a solid reason why my grandmother who lived inside a secure senior complex with a guard present locked her doors while I rarely have ever locked mine no matter where I’ve lived — be it Echo Park, San Francisco, or the Sierra Nevadas. I thought the difference was that I don’t watch TV and therefore was by that very fact, less paranoid that the world was going to hell in a handbasket.

In my community, when the cold weather starts, so too does the domestic violence as people who do not work outside the house and/or leave this isolated area are stuck inside all winter with their families. This makes sense to me that it would be an unfortunate by-product of a long winter. Indeed in our area most couples break up right after the snow thaws and we all mosey down to the town coffeeshop to find out who survived, who is breaking up, and who is leaving town. But this year we haven’t had our big first snow yet and already things are weird. Likewise, when I turn on my computer and my browser offers me the gamut of news stories from AP, Reuters, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC I keep reading of children’s bodies being found half decayed.

As a parent I can’t even describe the pit in my stomach and that hollow wrenching feeling I get every time I read this. I can’t read an article about a 14 year old raping his 4 year old neighbor and then drowning him without looking up at my own 4 year old playing a game of memory on the coffeetable in front of me. I can’t read about a bullied teenager being doused with alcohol and then set ablaze by his peers without looking at my own 6 year old recently bullied by neighborhood thugs. It becomes personal the minute I know the article has a child in it. Then there are the mothers who slit their children’s throats. And the parents up here that backed over and killed their toddler while driving drunk out of their driveway. It is of course depressing to say the least. Some of us try to be great parents and feel like we are being over protective. Some of us read these articles searching for someone to blame for putting the children in harm’s way. I don’t think I’ve ever let my daughter play outside in the front yard by herself for fear of mountain lions. I wonder about the parents that let their 4 year old play outside by himself with so many strangers near by. How could you not know your kid was on her tricycle as you backed out your own driveway? How could you shack up with a convicted child killer when you yourself have a child? None of this makes sense to me as I’m sure it does not make sense to you. But the scary thing of it all is it obviously is perfectly okay to some Americans to date killers, drive drunk, leave kids unsupervised, etc.

We, it seems, have a problem with violence directed at our children. The eaten away bodies of our children are being found in dumpsters and waterways throughout the country. So how do we solve this problem? What steps do we take? You look at all these cases and you want to find a common thread. You want to find the link that says this group of people are killing their children or this group of people have this problem. But we are spread out geographically. It is no one region. I wonder too where the present economy fits in this equation if at all. Is it that people are more desperate? There are mouths to feed and no food therefore silence the mouths? How is it that youths themselves are committing crimes against other youths? That a 12 year old can be forced at gunpoint to rape his own mother? That a girl is not safe from rape on her own school grounds?

I wonder too what our expectations are. We are a country of people with short attention spans. We have just renewed abstinence education that we know doesn’t work. We have the highest teen pregnancy and teen birthrate in the industrialized world. We may be the innovators of 21st technology and advancement but when it comes to sex education we are a third world nation. In a country of channel surfers that lose interest after ten minutes of entertainment is it any wonder that the longevity of parenthood seems like an insurmountable burden? If we hadn’t demonized sex education and abortion would people wait until they were ready and financially stable to have children? Would they kill and beat their children less?

I don’t know. I wondered about the Yates woman and the recent woman who slashed her kids' throats killing her two year old and scarring her eight year old for life whom I imagine will always live with the wretched mix of guilt and horror that his mother tried to kill him. If these women were offered something other than motherhood and wifehood as options in life — something more along the lines of equality would their depression have led to this anyway? I don’t know. I don’t know what to think. It’s not that other countries don’t kill their children — there are child soldiers and child sex trade through out the developing world but it just seems like such an odd fit for a well developed country that we should share in this sort of madness with the likes of Sierra Leone and say Cambodia.

It would seem a national dialogue is in order. And it’s a shame that because our current plights (the economy, health care, flu epidemics and the war) are so great in need of our attention that child abuse, child rape and child murder should take such a backseat. It’s a country size dinner table and the children are not being seen and not being heard. I think of my grandmother and her paranoia. Maybe she isn't so paranoid afterall.