Monday, February 18, 2008

Is breast-feeding pornographic?

This is one of those cases that must makes me so angry, even if it is now a little out of date. I remember, as a kid, watching bullies pick on other kids in the playground. I hated them with a passion. I still do. I just get the impression that those bullies grew up to be politicians, bureaucrats and power-hungry bastards in general who like to use the power of government to push other people around. As far as I’m concerned the government is almost exclusively made up of bullies on the grand scale.

Add to the natural bullying tactics of government its tendency to go into irrational panics where they exaggerate fears or problems and them apply the most extreme “solutions” they can think of -- and you have a combination that destroys lives and harms people. In this case the people harmed was Jacqueline Mercado, her boyfriend and her children.

Jacqueline is an immigrant from Peru where she worked as a nurse. Of course the US wouldn’t let her work in that profession when she arrived so she got a job in the middle of the night cleaning the local Wal-Mart. She and her kids lived with her parents. After a year her boyfriend was able to join her. Their son had just turned one and the family spent their reunion taking photos to remember the happy occasion. Unfortunately those photos would lead to great emotional distress.

One photo showed Jacqueline breast-feeding the baby. In Peru such photos are common and the family keeps them to remember this special mother-child bond. In a few other photos Jacqueline was taking a bath and washing the baby along with her 4-year-old. Jacqueline was no exhibitionist and made sure she used her arm to cover her breasts when the photo was taken. At this point her fate was sealed. She didn’t know how sex panics are the American past time -- a hobby of monumental proportion engaged in by both the Religious Right and the Feminist Left.

All four rolls of film were dropped off at the local Eckerd Drugs in Richardson, Texas (alas the Theocratic Republic of Texas strikes once again). A dirty minded clerk who processed the film called the police who were not just dirty minded but filthy minded. They immediately turned relatively innocent photos into the most horrendous case of child exploitation they have ever seen - -- much the way they turn 1 lb of cocaine in the biggest drug haul in “years” or they think that something the size of cocktail weenie is nine inches. If you think I’m kidding let me describe how the police twisted these photos in their report on the matter.

Sergeant Danny Martin of the Richardson police claimed “We thought they contained sexuality. If you saw the photos, you’d know what I mean.” People who have seen these alleged pornographic photos have trouble agreeing with Martin. He seems to be sexually obsessed and finds obscenity where there is none. Eventually after some publicity the District Attorney, who saw the photos, said that nothing in them “rise to the level of a crime.” So apparently this was all in Sergeant Martin’s warped imagination.

Consider how the original indictment for child pornography charges described the photos of a mother breast-feeding her child: “actual lewd exhibition of.. a portion of the female breast below the top of the areola, and the said defendant did and then employ, authorize and induce Rodrigo Fernandez, a child younger than 18 years of age, to engage in said sexual conduct and sexual performance.” Apparently breast feeding in Texas is “sexual conduct” -- but this is the state that made masturbation with a vibrator a crime, even if done in the privacy of one’s own home!

Police Detective John Wakefield was another one of the sex-obsessed, filthy-minded investigators in the case. You remember the photo where she was bathing her children and carefully used her arm to cover her breasts when the photo was taken. Mr. Potty-Mind Wakefield described this covering act as being “topless and touching her breast”.

When Jacqueline went to pick up the family photos she was made to wait so that the police could come and interrogate her. She was shocked at the accusations and couldn’t see how something as innocent as breast-feeding and bathing her children had become a perversion in the mind of these zealous cops. She tried to explain but they knew what they knew and damn the facts.

The police and prosecutors went to a grand jury and Jacqueline’s attorneys offered to wave her Fifth Amendment right so she could testify before the Grand Jury. This offer was refused. Based on police reports the jury brought charges against Jacqueline and her boyfriend as child pornographers. The police also ransacked their home looking for more evidence of child pornography but they found nothing. Jacqueline was shocked. She couldn’t understand how a “free” country was treating her this way. She said: “We fought so hard to come to this country. For this to happen is unbelievable.”

Now you already know that the prosecutor would back down pronto fast when word got out that his police agents thought breast-feeding a child is a sexual act. So all’s well that ends well! Right? Not at all. It isn’t over.

All charges were dropped. But the state of Texas sent their agents to the Mercado home and kidnapped Jacqueline’s two children. These busybodies went to a judge and had the children forcibly removed and placed into foster care -- where their chance of actually being sexual molested is much higher. So far the Texas bureaucrats are refusing to return the children even though an attorney appointed on behalf of the children has recommended they be sent home.

The state is forcing Jacqueline and her boyfriend to attend therapy groups for sex offenders! They have also told her that they must, at their own expense, take lie detector tests. Remember that all charges were withdrawn. In the eyes of they law they are not guilty of any crime. Yet they have their children stolen from them and are being forced to attend therapy sessions that they don’t need. Eventually, after months of forced separation the couple did regain custody of their children.

The rakish columnist “Buzz” in the Dallas Observer noted:

You might wonder what sort of twisted upbringings Texas bureaucrats must have had to see breast-feeding as a sexual act. Our readers certainly did. We received upward of 50 letters from people in the States and Canada, all sharing one thought, summed up by this writer: "That parents could have their children taken away from them because of photos of a 1-year-old breast-feeding is horrible beyond words." (One writer from Alabama described it as "jack-booted thuggery." It's a proud moment in Texas history when residents of Alabama are appalled by our heavy-handed government.)

This column noted that no one bothered to apologize to the family for what they were put through:

Now that's indecent. Damned jack-booted thugs. Why can't someone with CPS send a letter, a note, a friggin' Hallmark card saying, "We made a mistake. We apologize." Just try it, CPS. Really, it's not hard to say "We're sorry." A child could do it.

Eventually the case was resolved in favor of the family but it cost them lots of money to defend themselves from overzealous bureaucrats and dirty-minded cops. I swear that police have an attitude that there are just two kinds of people living in America. One kind is criminals who they got the goods on and the rest of us are criminals who still need to be caught. And since they perceive all of us as criminally inclined they are just waiting for their chance to arrest and convict us no matter what is required along the way.

Photo: the illustration is of a famous painting of the Madonna breastfeeding the infant Jesus. I can only presume in Texas she would have been arrested for child molestation.

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