Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Does "I'd Do Anything" Mean?

When It Don't Come Easy - Patty Griffin (mp3)

One particularly forgotten aspect of the Tonya Craft trial in North Georgia has kept me awake several nights in the last month, and it's this: Her parents have spent virtually every penny they possess and have taken on substantial debt, to finance their daughter's criminal defense. The costs of the defense, according to the trial, is in the range of $500,000. (I guarantee it's over $750k.)

I can't tell you how many times I've heard parents say to me, "I'd do anything for my child." Hell, I've said something to that effect a few times myself.

Maybe we all mean it. Maybe we don't. Maybe we don't even quite know what the words mean when we say them in the comfort of our philosophical bubbles.

Some of the hypotheticals are easy.

If your house is burning and your child is inside, of course it would take battleship chains to keep you from going back in to get her. If your boat capsizes, of course you'd risk your life, or even gladly sacrifice it, to keep them alive. In fact, anytime a parent must choose their life or the life of their child's, it's a no-brainer for most of us. Harsh as it may seem, sacrificing your life isn't nearly the toughest call a parent would have to make. In fact, it's probably one of the easiest ones.

But how about this one? Your daughter is charged with molesting not one, but three children. She swears to Sweet Little Baby Jesus and all his kinfolk that she's innocent. And of course you believe her, because she's your daughter. If found guilty, she will probably still be in jail when you die, and she'll likely never see her children again.

Sure, you'd die for your child, but would you put yourself into such a financial hole that you'll never be able to retire? Would you spend every penny, cast off every possession, for the best criminal defense you could obtain, or would you just hope justice is blind and numb to money, and that justice would be served with a more reasonably-priced defense?

Or what about a problem a family we know from church, where they've adopted five children over the years, and one of them has clearly become a problem they are incapable of reaching. Everyone who knows this boy feels confident that a juvenile detention facility is only a matter of time. Meanwhile, he steals from the house and terrorizes his parents and his siblings. But he's barely 13. Just a boy. Do you give up on him? Can you, as a parent, justify deserting one for the needs of the others? Or must the others suffer while the wild child steals all the parental time and energy and sucks the last drop of potential joy from a household?

What if your child is 18 and chose not to go to college because she was umbilically attached her boyfriend, who plays in a band in the local bar scene? What if she lives in your house, only works two days a week at Chick-Fil-A, and uses every last drop of her paycheck to buy... well, you're not sure what she's buying, but it's clearly screwing with her mood and her appearance. She's lost more than 20 pounds in four months, but she's not dieting. And if you kick her out, she'll move in with that boyfriend who probably dragged her into his shithole in the first place. Or, worse yet, they'll break up soon after, and she'll end up skanking herself out to someone even lower on the totem pole to continue doing God knows what to her precious body and mind. Do you let her stay with you, perhaps slowing but passively condoning the inevitable self-destruction, or do you risk alienation by taking a stand, under the auspices of LOVE?

And then it gets even stickier.

What if it's not your child, but your spouse? What if -- and maybe y'all didn't do it this way -- you and your spouse stood up in front of God and everyone and swore that you'd stay by their side through thick and thin and rich and poor and all that shit? What if you said all those things when you were young and believed in unicorns and leprichauns and happy endings? What if you woke up one day and realized that you never imagined the kinds of conflict and discord that could weave itself into a marriage?

Societally speaking, we would rarely if ever damn a parent who just can't give up on their kid. But we look down on spouses who won't leave their screwed-up husband or wife all the time, don't we? Because the kid is blood. The kid you can't divorce. It's a bigger duty. Right?

Ironic, no? That we say vows for a marriage that we probably don't understand and don't always expect each other to keep, but we don't say any vows when we become parents. We forge a bond with this tiny mewling, utterly vulnerable creature without any promises or proclamations. Saying "I'd Do Anything" is almost easier than saying "I Do."

Here's to hoping we -- you and I, dear readers -- don't ever find ourselves in a situation where we have to pony up and prove we meant what we promised.

A part of the Tonya Craft case that should not get lost on people regardless of their opinion of her guilt or innocence is this: she was found not guilty because she could afford an amazing defense team. Some frightening and unknown number of innocent people are wrongly convicted every year of any number of crimes for the simple reason that they couldn't afford 1/100th of what Tonya Craft had.

Oh yeah. This is my all-time very favoritest Patty Griffin song ever.


Anonymous said...

Nice to post any stolen song you feel like.

Bob said...

Dear Anonymous, it's only stolen if you steal it, buddy.

BeckEye said...

I love that Patty Griffin song.

Also, I'm still wondering what it is that Meatloaf wouldn't do.

Billy said...

@Beck -- So funny you should mention that. I've long held a certainty that Meatloaf's song is about a moment when he and his girl are in bed together, in the middle of foreplay, and he says, "I'll do anything for you baby. Tell me what you want. Anything."

And she says, "I've always fantasized about wearing a strap-on and taking you from behind."

And this song is the result of that moment.

Bob said...

It might be noted for balance that the ability to afford to pay huge legal fees also allows the guilty to walk--O.J. Simpson, Claus Von Bulow, the Exxon corporation (who still have never paid a dime for the largest oil spill in history) come to mind.

Billy said...

Very true, Bob. And I know some believe that to be the case with the Tonya Craft trial.

Ironically, some of the biggest problems with how this crime was investigated involves the fact that people with barely a high school degree and minimal training are placed in a crucial position of determining whether a child has been violated. And the shitty salary that comes with such a position plays no small role in this. If we want highly-educated and sharply-trained people in those roles, we have to make sure it comes with a commensurate salary.

If, as some believe, Tonya was indeed guilty, then a whole bunch of people did a whole lot of screwing up. And most of those screw-ups, in my opinion, were due to a severe lack of knowledge. But no one before this trial had ever had the financial backing necessary to expose this.

The way that judge and the prosecution conducted themselves made it seem like they'd never actually had someone fight back before. It was like Mike Tyson showing up and acting surprised when Buster Douglas actually punched him back.

Bob said...

I don't know about you, but I've learned a lot more about Ringgold in the past 4 weeks than I ever, ever wanted to know.