Beating up your teenage daughter isn’t just a good idea. It’s the law.

If you happen to pass through Justice of the Peace Gustavo Gus Garza’s court room, anyway.

(Mike Gogulski @ nostate.com 2008-06-08: Texas: Court-mandated assault for skipping school.)

Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

5 June 2008

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS (AP) — A Los Fresnos family is going to court to prevent a Cameron County justice of the peace from ordering spankings in his courtroom.

A lawsuit filed today alleges Justice of the Peace Gustavo Gus Garza told a 14-year-old girl’s stepfather to strike her repeatedly on the buttocks in open court.

If he didn’t, the judge said the girl would be found guilty and fined $500 for truancy.

The lawsuit by Mary Vasquez and her husband, Daniel Zurita, described the paddle provided by Garza as large and heavy and fashioned from a thick piece of lumber.

In a story for The Brownsville Herald, Garza declined to comment on whether he has people spanked in his courtroom. He also said he had not seen the lawsuit.

Zurita says he didn’t feel as if he had a choice but to follow the order.

In an affidavit, Zurita says that when he was through, the judge told him he had not struck the girl hard enough.

— KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

Because he coerced the stepfather into beating and humiliating his 14-year-old daughter in open court, in front of strangers, by threatening to inflict a several hundred dollar fine and a criminal record on the young woman if he didn’t do it, Justice of the Peace Gustavo Gus Garza believes that he didn’t order the beating; he just offered it as a punishment option. Much like a mugger offers you an option between your money and your life, I guess:

Justice of the Peace Judge, Gustavo Garza was in court this morning after getting sued for his spanking punishment option. The plaintiffs are Mary Vazquez and Daniel Zurita. They want a temporary restraining order against Judge Garza’s spanking punishment. Instead, state district judge Abel Limas has reset the hearing for next Wednesday.

The parents of a 14-year-old teenager were in court, hoping to put a stop to Judge Garza’s idea of punishment. Their complaint says that Garza told the teen and her step-father that the teen would be found guilty of a criminal offense and fined $500 for not attending school unless Zurita spanked his step-daughter in the JP courtroom on April 9th. The couple’s attorney Mark Sossi, argued that Judge Garza did not have the authority to order someone to spank their child. But after the hearing Judge Garza told us again that he did not order anyone. Parents had a choice to either spank or pay up.

I’ve never ordered anybody to use discipline on their children in court.

— Michelle Macias, KVEO 23 Rio Grande Valley (2008-06-06): Judge Gustavo Garza’s First Day in Court

Please note that when Garza says using discipline, he doesn’t mean what the words would naturally suggest, that is, for the parent to exercise restraint in spite of strong feelings of anger or frustration. By using discipline, Garza means parents lashing out rather than restraining themselves, beating their child or teenager with a wooden bat, and laying it on well, while they do so.

Of course, there’s more. Because there’s always more. Court-ordered teen-beating isn’t just a good way to deal with the victimless crime of choosing not to go to a government school. What with the criminalization of everything, especially everything that young people might do, it’s a good way to deal with all kinds of things. Like disabled teens who swear at school bus drivers:

A petition against Gustavo Gus Garza grew by two on the eve of a temporary restraining order hearing against the Cameron County Pct. 6 Justice of the Peace.

The parents of two minors came forth Tuesday, asking 404th state District Judge Abel C. Limas to prevent Garza from ordering, encouraging or allowing spankings in his courtroom as punishment.

I wouldn’t hit a child with a paddle, particularly one with physical problems, plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Sossi told The Brownsville Herald late Tuesday. Sossi was referring to one of the two children, who suffers from a muscular-development birth defect and allegedly was spanked in Garza’s court.

The child with the disability is a 14-year-old boy who used profanity toward a school bus driver. The second is a 14-year-old girl who skipped class, Sossi said, shortly after filing his amended petition in district court. The respective parents are Leroy Garcia and Rosa Valdez.

. . .

The parents also seek Garza’s removal from office [in addition to a restraining order].

After parents feel compelled to spank their children, they claim, Garza orders the children to bend over a chair placed directly in front of the bench. They are ordered to put their elbows on the arms of a chair with the buttocks facing Garza.

(Garza) has long engaged in this kind of corporal punishment under the authority of his office. Ten years ago when the defendant was a district attorney in Willacy County, he used the color and authority of his office to threaten criminal prosecution unless the parents struck their children with a wooden paddle he owned, Sossi states in the amended petition.

The initial petition alleges Garza directed Zurita to repeatedly strike his stepdaughter on the buttocks with a large, heavy wooden paddle fashioned from a thick piece of lumber in open court and in the presence of other adults and juveniles.

Zurita stated in an affidavit that, I did not feel that I had a choice but carry out the orders of the judge. When I was finished, Judge Garza told me that I had not struck (my stepdaughter) hard enough…

Zurita and Vasquez also claim that they were in Garza’s courtroom when he ordered the paddling of other minors.

Garza said Friday that he has not kept count on the number of children paddled in his court.

— Emma Perez-Treviño, The Brownsville Herald (2008-06-10): More families file against spanking judge

Justice of the Peace Gustavo Gus Garza believes that Texas state law is on his side:

Judge Garza says his disciplinary option does not break any Texas law.

I believe and as you will find the law will support me. The penal code addresses it for parents and educators to use it for discipline, the family code obligates it.

— Michelle Macias, KVEO 23 Rio Grande Valley (2008-06-06): Judge Gustavo Garza’s First Day in Court

I don’t know whether or not Garza really meant to claim that the Texas state family code obliges parents to beat up self-willed children and teenagers in the name of discipline. That seems odd. But I don’t know much about Texas state law, and he is Da Judge, so, for all I know, he may very well be right about the contents of the Texas penal code and the contents of the family code. The legal condition of children and teenagers throughout the United States is generally pretty appalling. But if he is right, then that’s a good reason to say to hell with the penal code and the family code.

To prove, that these Sort of policed Societies are a Violation offered to Nature, and a Constraint upon the human Mind, it needs only to look upon the sanguinary Measures, and Instruments of Violence which are every where used to support them. Let us take a Review of the Dungeons, Whips, Chains, Racks, Gibbets, with which every Society is abundantly stored, by which hundreds of Victims are annually offered up to support a dozen or two in Pride and Madness, and Millions in an abject Servitude, and Dependence. There was a Time, when I looked with a reverential Awe on these Mysteries of Policy; but Age, Experience, and Philosophy have rent the Veil; and I view this Sanctum Sanctorum, at least, without any enthusiastick Admiration. I acknowledge indeed, the Necessity of such a Proceeding in such Institutions; but I must have a very mean Opinion of Institutions where such Proceedings are necessary. . . . In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse!

— Edmund Burke (1757): A Vindication of Natural Society

Meanwhile, the comments thread, here’s how to maintain high moral standards and exonerate sadist judges in ten easy steps:

  1. Conflate force with reason:

    I myself have spanked my kids in the butt area. Only once in a long while to teach my kids right from wrong. . . . Teach your daughter the consequences of not been in school. Don’t wimp out and try to be her friend.

    — Sy A, Edinburg, comments on KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

    How are they going to learn if there is no discipline?

    — lachancla, reader comments (2008-06-11) on Emma Perez-Treviño, The Brownsville Herald (2008-06-10): More families file against spanking judge

  2. Blame the victim:

    WHY IS THE BOTTOM LINE NOT SEEN HERE? These kids are not in court because they are honor students! They are discipline problems!!

    — chula71, reader comments (2008-06-11) on Emma Perez-Treviño, The Brownsville Herald (2008-06-10): More families file against spanking judge

    Children with disabilities? That kid certainly was very able to run his mouth off to the bus driver. All this is drama for your mama.

    — donkique, reader comments (2008-06-11) on Emma Perez-Treviño, The Brownsville Herald (2008-06-10): More families file against spanking judge

  3. Blame the victim’s parents:

    The article never mentioned the mothers role or lack there of??? I wonder if the child has been late for school since the step-father opted to save her future by not paying the fine and allow a criminal history?

    — Patrick R. Murray, comments (2008-06-05) on Nikki W., Digital Journal (2008-06-05): Judge Sentences Children To Spankings By Parents And One Family Is Fed Up

    Man, these parents are something else. . . . Obviously the judge is doing the job the parents have failed to do. I wonder if these parents read these blogs and feel just a little dumb for trying to milk the county for their child’s inability to stay in school or behave?

    — chula71, reader comments (2008-06-11) on Emma Perez-Treviño, The Brownsville Herald (2008-06-10): More families file against spanking judge

    The kid’s step father couldn’t control the kid (Is he a wimp?). Far too many judges refuse to enforce the law. Judge garza should be recognized for enforcing the law. The parent had three choices: Make thge kid go to school, pay a fine, or paddle the kid–and he is now crying about his choice. Again, I ask if he is a wimp?

    — retired principal Terry Olbeg, McAllen, comments on KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

  4. Blame the lawyers:

    What these people don’t understand is that the only one that will come out winning is the lawyer(s). The more petitioners, the more the lawyer gets and the less they get.

    — peepaw, reader comments (2008-06-11) on Emma Perez-Treviño, The Brownsville Herald (2008-06-10): More families file against spanking judge

    These people are being led by the nose by sharks, aka lawyers.

    — donkique, reader comments (2008-06-11) on Emma Perez-Treviño, The Brownsville Herald (2008-06-10): More families file against spanking judge

  5. Blame the victim’s socioeconomic class:

    I bet you she will be pregnant and on public assistance before she is 18 years old. Thats all we need another dumb teenaged parent with an attitude. Sorry if it seems harsh but thats what it is. Just a thought!

    — L Deleon, Harlingen, comments on KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

    I guess everyone forgets about the drop out kids from school who because of lack of education leads to no job and deperation for money which might lead to theft,burglary (your neighboorhood)robbery. More drain on the goverment assistance.

    — D Morales, Harlingen, Texas, comments on KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

  6. Blame other youths, unrelated to this case, because you presume that the youths in this case are kind of like those other youths:

    I feel compelled to spank my child as well too but I don’t. I would if she acted like some of these punks though.

    — lachancla, reader comments (2008-06-11) on Emma Perez-Treviño, The Brownsville Herald (2008-06-10): More families file against spanking judge

    Some kids do need a good spanking. Especially if this punishment averts any other form of criminal activity.

    — harmony, comments (2008-06-05): on Nikki W., Digital Journal (2008-06-05): Judge Sentences Children To Spankings By Parents And One Family Is Fed Up

    I wonder how many people would make the same comment if they worked in a public school you have no idea what type of behavior kids have in school. Texas Law allows the parent to discipline their child but when the parent wants to do so their child threatens to call police and file assault charges against them.

    — D Morales, Harlingen, Texas, comments on KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

  7. Impugn the parents’ motives without evidence:

    Man, these parents are something else. Jumping on the band (more like BANK) wagon to gain notoriety. WHY IS THE BOTTOM LINE NOT SEEN HERE?

    — chula71, reader comments (2008-06-11) on Emma Perez-Treviño, The Brownsville Herald (2008-06-10): More families file against spanking judge

    If the parents thought this was embarrassing then they should have paid the fine. A choice was given so why are they crying about it now. The lawyer and the parents are probably doing this for the money.

    — I. Flores, Mid Valley, comments on KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

    [The story says only that the parents are seeking a restraining order against Garza and, if possible, his removal from the bench. As far as I can tell there is no mention of their seeking monetary damages. Not that there would be anything wrong with it if they are. —R.G.]

  8. Compete to see who can go most over-the-top in their praise of beating and terrorizing children:

    Go Judge Garza! It’s about time someone taught kids now a days about discipline. This lawsuit is a joke. If we as parents don’t want to be at this point where we are at court having to spank our kids in front of a group of people, we need to start doing it at home.

    — N R, Los Fresnos, comments on KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

    I think their is always two sides to the story. Many of the kids today need corporal punishment. I am thankful that my principal and school community still allow my principal to spank kids. As a school administrator it is very simple to know what school still uses paddling and which one doesn’t. Most of the ones with the most discipline problems do not spank. I would like to hear more about why this J.P. ordered the spanking. A firm supporter of spanking. Get’m Judge.

    — Anonymous school counselor, Edinburg, comments on KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

    As we were growing up we got spanked, not beat, and we grew up just fine. I believe in spanking on the buttom. It is even in the bible. . . . Save you children now while you still can, don’t be too soft on them. I had my children spanked in school if and when they did wrong. There is nothing wrong with a spanking here and then when done right. I am all for you Judge Garza, God Bless You.

    — I. Flores, Mid Valley, comments on KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

    When I went to school, we were threatened with the slap. the school had two different types. They had a red leather slap and a black one. I forgot which one was thicker. The strap was used as a form of discipline and it worked. Kids were too afraid of getting the strap therefore they were obedient. Most kids were never given the strap because they knew better. Today kids are threatening and abusing their teachers. I’m beginning to think that the schools should implement the strap again.

    — harmony, comments (2008-06-05): on Nikki W., Digital Journal (2008-06-05): Judge Sentences Children To Spankings By Parents And One Family Is Fed Up

    Spank Her Good

    The judge should have had a police officer spank that brat. Getting a strong, muscle-head cop to do the spanking would have been ideal. Then I would have paddled the hell out of the parents too. They know when their child is not attending school.

    — L Deleon, Harlingen, comments on KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

    I feel compelled to spank my child as well too but I don’t. I would if she acted like some of these punks though. How are they going to learn if there is no discipline? time out? I would take a time out from the spanking. There is your time out.

    — lachancla, reader comments (2008-06-11) on Emma Perez-Treviño, The Brownsville Herald (2008-06-10): More families file against spanking judge

  9. Quibble over semantics:

    What do you mean by ordering a forced beating? If it falls under the category of abuse causing bodily harm, then I don’t think it’s legal.

    — harmony, comments (2008-06-05): on Nikki W., Digital Journal (2008-06-05): Judge Sentences Children To Spankings By Parents And One Family Is Fed Up

    As we were growing up we got spanked, not beat, and we grew up just fine.

    — I. Flores, Mid Valley, comments on KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

    Spanking is without the use of an aide. A beating uses such, although corporal punishment is different than parental discipline.

    Parents do not spank with a belt, flyswatter, switch - they bust ass or administer a whoopin!

    They spank with a hand. And if the mark remains, it is child abuse.

    — Nikki W., comments (2008-06-05): on Nikki W., Digital Journal (2008-06-05): Judge Sentences Children To Spankings By Parents And One Family Is Fed Up

    @ Connie M (Catana) I don’t consider being hit with a board a spanking. It’s a beating, plan and simple.

    If there are no marks, bruises or broken bones, it’s a spanking, plan and simple. If there are no marks, bruises or broken bones, it’s a spanking, plan and simple.

    — harmony, comments (2008-06-05): on Nikki W., Digital Journal (2008-06-05): Judge Sentences Children To Spankings By Parents And One Family Is Fed Up

    [Alberto Gonzales and Donald Rumsfeld would be proud. —R.G.]

  10. Ramble aimlessly about the good old days and the decline of patriarchal traditions:

    Hoping Good Old Times Come Back

    As we were growing up we got spanked, not beat, and we grew up just fine. I believe in spanking on the buttom. It is even in the bible. Back in the days teenagers were allowed to work too if this was brought back up we would not have as much trouble today. We would go to school, work after school and we would respect our elders. There was not as much trouble as we have now. There was no time for trouble because we were occupied. I did all this and I grew up to be a responsible, repectable adult.

    — I. Flores, Mid Valley, comments on KGBT 4 (2008-06-05): Lawsuit: Los Fresnos JP ordered spankings

    What is with all these women not taking their husbands name? Do they jump around so much that it is too much to keep up with their last names, so they keep their’s?

    — peepaw, reader comments (2008-06-11) on Emma Perez-Treviño, The Brownsville Herald (2008-06-10): More families file against spanking judge

When people engage in violence against children for victimless crimes like ditching school or mouthing off to adults; when they claim that the violence is to teach its victim a lesson; when you spend the first two decades of your life being indoctrinated and ridiculed and beaten and extorted into believing in, or at least acquiescing to, this kind of violent, legally-backed authoritarianism, and when this is dignified as raising a child the right way, when howling mobs of sado-fascist blowhard bullies can be expected to ridicule and blame any parent who doesn’t toe that line and enthusiastically beat their own children, when that same bellowing blowhard bully brigade looks looks for absolutely any and every excuse they could possibly find to justify beating a child or a teenager and compete to see who can get the most down and dirty in their efforts to smear the victim and cheer on the violence; what sort of lessons do you think that violence and that rhetoric teaches? What sort of a life, and what sort of a society, do you think that this kind of physical and verbal environment prepares these children for?

Further reading:

32 replies to Beating up your teenage daughter isn’t just a good idea. It’s the law. Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Bob Kaercher

    That…is…some…seriously f*cked up sh*t. On sooooooooo many levels…

    And those comments. I think that sheds some light on why most of society today is comprised of the walking wounded.

  2. Mike Gogulski

    Thanks for doing this expansive follow-up on the case and the commentary.

    To respond to your question at the end, it prepares the children to perpetuate the violence, perhaps first during a military tour, then often with their spouses and almost definitely with their children. Finally, and without question, it prepares them well to acquiesce throughout their lives, either to the the nonsense spouted by the earthly shills for the Angry Sky God, or to the Big Daddy State.

    The whole thing is horrible to see, but there is comfort in the fact that the general trend seems to be changing. Slavery, 300 years ago, was something that large segments of the non-slave populations either practiced, advocated or tacitly supported. That age is largely over, and with few exceptions people the world over view the practice as morally abhorrent. Likewise, 300 years ago, almost nobody would have questioned parents for beating their children. Even though the barbarity lives on — as clearly shown in those comments — at least today there is a growing belief expressed that it’s wrong.

    Progress in this area does seem awfully slow, though.

  3. Soviet Onion

    “What sort of a life, and what sort of a society, do you think that this kind of physical and verbal environment prepares these children for?”

    Obviously one in which they’ll accept and even come to love other manifestations of the same power dynamic. I think you reached the core of the matter here, Charles. If progress in the recognition of young peoples’ rights is so slow, it’s only because childhood treatment, even more than schools or work, is the cultural incubator that keeps power relations general stable, invisible and assumed to be natural.

    Makes one wonder what Judge Garza’s own childhood was like. I’m sure it’d make a decent TV movie.

  4. LadyVetinari

    Fucking hell. This judge just forced the stepfather to sexually assault his 14-year-old girl. 14! She’s probably past puberty. Not that I think it’s okay to hit 5-year-olds, because I don’t, but I’m quite certain the psychological ramifications for both the girl and her stepfather are going to be much worse because of her age.

  5. Aster

    “What sort of a life, and what sort of a society, do you think that this kind of physical and verbal environment prepares these children for?”

    Precisely the kind of life and society it is intended to prepare them for. And such parents and patriarchs are, in their capacity as lawmakers and ‘respectable citizens’, nearly done with the work of completing a system of public governance to match the tiny little dictatorships which they take such pride in governing themselves.

    This, and not the spinelessness of the Democrats, is one the essential reason why there is very little hope that the current American political trends can be reversed. The average American believes that orders, authority, control, and restraint are good and necessary for the maintenance of civilisation. They are terribly wrong, but nothing in a social order which continually reinforces and demands such a brutalised worldview from everyone will convince them of anything else. People who believe that all Hell will break loose if people are not told to control and restrain themselves and stuff down their sinful nature will fear dictatorship less than freedom. Even most opponents and victims of the system share its ethos and essence.

  6. quasibill

    “The average American believes that orders, authority, control, and restraint are good and necessary for the maintenance of civilisation.”

    While I am always skeptical of talking about “the average American”, because no such animal probably actually exists (even though I do sometimes use the phrase myself), I think this sentence is a very concise statement of the real problem.

    A large majority of Americans wouldn’t agree with that assertion explicitly, but if you scratch the surface, you’d see that they do actually believe it deep down. They’re willing to allow some liberty here or there, but the second it leads to a result they disagree with, they’ll cling to the belief that authority and order imposed by a leader are the way to accomplish change.

    The saddest part of this article, to me, is that I can recognize some of the less offensive comments as positions I might have taken 15 years ago (possibly even as recent as 10 years ago). It took alot of time and effort to overcome my ignorance - I don’t hold out a lot of hope that my conversion can be repeated en mass.

  7. John Markley

    This is utterly grotesque. My sister is barely our of her teens, so this strikes home. I’ve said this on other issues, but it applies here too: it’s scary not only that the judge does this, but that he does it right out in public without fear of getting in trouble for it. Sadly, it’s not surprising that he seems to have no fear or shame, since I think Aster’s comments are quite accurate.

    I would add to her remarks that many people not only approve of cruelty like this, they seem to get a vicarious thrill from the prospect of people being abused and tormented. This is empathy’s ugly side, and one of the nastier and more corrupting ways states and other evils get away with their crimes: people can empathize with the suffering of innocent victims and be moved to compassion and indignation, but they can also identify with the victimizer and share the warped pleasure of being able to dominate and torment people who can’t protect themselves. Orwell’s boot stamping a human face forever isn’t such an unpleasant prospect if you enjoy the thought of wearing the boot.

  8. chris-acheson

    After parents feel compelled to spank their children, they claim, Garza orders the children to bend over a chair placed directly in front of the bench. They are ordered to put their elbows on the arms of a chair with the buttocks facing Garza.

    Is it just me, or does it seem like this is a sexual thing for Garza?

  9. jay

    you are truly pathetic

    posted in Houston Chronicle:

    OK, people….for some perspective.

    The kids being paddled, or “beaten” like many have dubbed, are not one or two time offenders. The kids in question have committed the offenses to a point where the judge saw very little alternative…especially considering the economic status of the area. To ask a hardworking person, who is barely scraping by (in no small way due to rising fuel and food costs), to pay $300-500, for something their kid decided was “cool”, is a stretch. This is an alternate form of punishment that is delivered to the child, not the parent. 98% percent of parents have agreed with this.

    You say, “but the kid is being embarrassed”. Cry me a river…I couldn’t tell you the number of times I had my hide tanned in the middle of a busy grocery store…and I will thank my father every day for it. I wasn’t beaten…I was shown right from wrong. There is a difference. And for all you Christians…”spare the rod and spoil the child”, right?

    I say kudos to the judge for doing what the schools have stopped doing.

    And before you softies go nuts on this post:

    I teach at that school. Not one teacher, not one staff member….not ONE STUDENT has voiced a dissenting opinion. I have had students who have had to go through this…and they agreed with it. I’ve asked my classes…they agree with it.

    These children are growing up weak, defenseless, and incapable of making sound moral judgments….and its not THEIR FAULT. It is this mentality that that we have to pander and cater to their “feelings”. Well, anyone who grew up in an era where an a$$-whuppin came as a cost of wrong doing knows…we learned better.

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  10. Rad Geek

    Jay,

    I don’t give a damn how many times a 14 year old young woman has repeated the offense (against whom?) of choosing not to attend school. There is no number of repetitions which would ever make it acceptable to take a wooden bat and beat her on her bared ass with it in front of a room full of strangers.

    Nor do I think that her family should have been forced to pay $500 instead of her stepfather beating her in open court. Nor do I think anyone else commenting on this post believes that he should have been. What should have happened is nothing at all. There is no reason why she or anyone else should be punished with physical force or with forced payments to the government for deciding not to attend school, or for any other victimless crime. She belongs to herself, not to Justice of the Peace Gustavo Gus Garza, and he has no business ordering her around about her attendance record, or punishing her for decisions about her own education which may very well be ill-considered or foolish, but which certainly violate nobody else’s rights.

    Similarly for a 14 year old young man who swears at bus drivers. Swearing is not a crime and should not be responded to with a beating, or with a punitive fine.

    And for all you Christians…”spare the rod and spoil the child”, right?

    Oh, please.

    You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

    —Matthew 5:38-42, NIV

    I defy you to find any way of twisting Jesus’s words so as to allow for the moral permissibility of using physical violence to retaliate against a child (or anyone else) for perceived wrongdoing.

    The red-letter Gospel unambiguously teaches not to hit back in retaliation even if you are yourself struck. Let alone if the issue is just that some kid said some unkind words to you, or decided not to go to school when you’d rather that she did so.

  11. John Markley

    chris acheson,

    That came to my mind as well. And the fact that an article about the U.S. judicial system brought something like THAT to my mind is depressing as hell. I’ve noticed that a lot of law enforcement abuse seems to have an element of sexual degradation to it.

    jay,

    Let’s leave aside for a moment the ethics of corporal punishment in general, or the extremely creepy form of it Justice Garza is apparently fond of in particular. It is not legal (well, in theory) for the government to use physical pain as a criminal punishment. Aren’t you at all concerned by the idea of Garza- or any agent of the judicial system- using his power as a government official to force private citizens (as Rad Geek said, calling it an “option” when the alternative is legally enforced punishment is disingenuous) to carry out punishments that the government could not legally inflict itself? You seem like a man who cares strongly about people respecting the rules, so it seems curious that you would approve of Garza’s end-run around the law.

  12. quasibill

    And as confirmation (at least in part) of Aster’s comment, we have Jay. And he’s proud of it.

    These people make hash of the neo-cons’ arguments that all people want freedom. All we need to do is look at Jay to realize that quite a few people revel in their own oppression, so long as they are allowed to use it to inflict their desires on others as well. Order and stability as penultimate values, regardless of the justice of the status quo, so long as there are others for you to look down upon…

  13. Natasha

    Jay,

    I don’t give a fuck what your classes have thought. You don’t win an argument by making illogical appeals to popular opinion or authority.

    Morality isn’t about obeying authority and submitting to the will of sadistic thugs.

    What precisely do you consider evidence of some kind of “moral” decline? The fact that people are enjoying themselves outside the limits proposed by your thug of a god?

  14. Rad Geek

    quasibill:

    The saddest part of this article, to me, is that I can recognize some of the less offensive comments as positions I might have taken 15 years ago (possibly even as recent as 10 years ago). It took alot of time and effort to overcome my ignorance - I don’t hold out a lot of hope that my conversion can be repeated en mass.

    I agree with you that it probably can’t. But I’m inclined to believe that no worthwhile conversion can be repeated en masse; these are things that have to come about largely through critical thought and reflection, and individual conscience — at least in the beginning, when very few people are challenging the violence of the status quo.

    Speaking personally, my hope in writing articles about this stuff is not to convince the world of my crazy-ass position on children’s rights (or, mutatis mutandis, anarchism, radical feminism, anti-psychiatry, etc.). Instead, I have two goals, somewhat more limited in scope. The first is to inform as much of the world as I can of my crazy-ass position, and to state that position as sharply as possible, without making much effort to convince anybody of it who’s not already halfway there — this is not to make converts so much as to open up unchallenged assumptions to public challenge, and to push the limits of acceptable dissent. The second is to reach out dialectically to a much smaller, somewhat self-selected audience of people who I know better, who are much more inclined to care, and who are much more likely to be open to the radical position, if it is defended well, possibly with some work of translating it into the terms that they can most easily grasp. With that much more limited audience I have a great deal more hope of persuading the unpersuaded, convincing those who are already persuaded of a halfway version of the position to go for a more radical position, and, hopefully, to encourage those who are already half-persuaded or persuaded to make more of a fuss and, where possible, to take some action.

    If each of us can really persuade or half-persuade a few people, and they can persuade or half-persuade a few more, and so on, and so on, and all of us, by making a fuss and taking some action can push back the limits of acceptable dissent, then we move the moderate center, and thus the path of least resistance, along with them; and we can start to think about changing the culture, and changing the conditions on the ground.

    When I get around to posting my talk on ALL from the LP of Clark County meeting — soon, soon! I promise! — this is most of what I mean when I talk about mass education and targeted persuasion.

    Does that make sense? What do you think?

  15. Mike Gogulski

    Natasha said: Morality isn’t about obeying authority and submitting to the will of sadistic thugs.

    Wild applause here.

  16. chris-acheson

    Jay,

    These children are growing up weak, defenseless, and incapable of making sound moral judgments

    So what’s your excuse? You clearly aren’t making a sound moral judgment here. By your logic, perhaps you weren’t beaten enough?

  17. LadyVetinari

    And since when is it immoral not to attend school?

  18. Aster

    I don’t think it’s that people don’t want freedom- I think that as children we all fought for it very hard, and only lost after long years of utterly lonely battles against overwhelming odds, with our chief enemies always those we were supposed to respect, trust, and love.

    But throughout history those cultures which have mutilated human desire for the sake of tribal cohesion have dominated all of history, and likely pre-history. Societies which allow individuals to be happy, instead of crushing human beings into miserable cogs of a giant breeding and soldiering regimes, do not tend to survive; and even their much greater capacity for producing wealth and knowledge continually runs up against centuries of deeply ingrained fears of individuality and freedom. Beating produces broken, mangles people- but broken and mangled people much more reliably transmit cultural identities than real human beings who can reason and love.

    The good news is that when human beings are treated with kindness, fairness, and respect for their own growth and potential we do pretty much all desire freedom. The bad news is that most people have and have always had this desire destroyed by the brutal logic of necessity and authority before their adult human voices are ever heard. The Enlightenment allowed a very small portion of the Earth’s population to partially and unevenly break free of this psychic death-trap, and everywhere the old ways (and the ruling classess vost vested in them) are trying to recapture even these exceptions and throw them back in the pen.

    The wars over modernity are largely a battle between those who want to preserve and extend this island of freedom and reason, against the mass of humanity still trapped within such brutalised social systems and knowing no spiritual or material way of surviving outside of it. And this is made worse by the fact that within an authoritarian society- and all societies in the world are still authoritarian to a very large degree- a life of duty and discipline, repression and rage is functionally adaptive to society, even if it inevitably creates the kind of brutalised spirit we see in our friend Jay here. Thus every broken-spirited father and mother believes that they are doing a favour to their children by breaking their spirits as decisively and early as possible. Andrea Dworkin’s Right Wing Women, for all of its faults, understands this perfectly.

    If the human spirit is to have any hope, me must stop making excuses for and cutting deals with this kind of society and the mentality which sustains it. I despair when I see that leftists, libertarians, anarchist, feminists- everyone who should be standing up for the human individuals- refuse in various ways to do so. We must open up spaces for people to break free and practically survive outside of the closed society and cease appeasing any of its forms.

    Natasha-

    My wild applause as well. Goddess, are there so few with your fiery tongue and mind.

  19. JOR

    Of course people want freedom. They want the freedom do dominate others and shape their lives to cater to their own will.

    Children present an easy target for the exercise of this sort of freedom - grownups can be downright dangerous if you push them too far.

  20. Natasha

    Aster,

    Your words are very touching. And you just helped enlarge my ego by a few inches…I can’t find the right measurement!

    Anyhow, your view of the optimal environment for people to develop in sounds like what an unschooler or Sudbury School proponent would say. Sudbury School stories are among the most beautiful any friend of liberty can happen upon. They provide a real world example of how people can learn what is necessary to function well in the world without the pain of having it beaten into you.

    Read this: http://www.mountainlaurelsudbury.org/Rithmetic.asp

    “Class began — on time. That was part of the deal. “You say you are serious?” I had asked, challenging them; “then I expect to see you in the room on time — 11:00AM sharp, every Tuesday and Thursday. If you are five minutes late, no class. If you blow two classes — no more teaching.” “It’s a deal,” they had said, with a glint of pleasure in their eyes.

    Basic addition took two classes. They learned to add everything — long thin columns, short fat columns, long fat columns. They did dozens of exercises. Subtraction took another two classes. It might have taken one, but “borrowing” needed some extra explanation.

    On to multiplication, and the tables. Everyone had to memorize the tables. Each person was quizzed again and again in class. Then the rules. Then the practice.

    They were high, all of them. Sailing along, mastering all the techniques and algorithms, they could feel the material entering their bones. Hundreds and hundreds of exercises, class quizzes, oral tests, pounded the material into their heads.

    Still they continued to come, all of them. They helped each other when they had to, to keep the class moving. The twelve year olds and the nine year olds, the lions and the lambs, sat peacefully together in harmonious cooperation — no teasing, no shame.

    Division — long division. Fractions. Decimals. Percentages. Square roots.

    They came at 11:00 sharp, stayed half an hour, and left with homework. They came back next time with all the homework done. All of them.

    In twenty weeks, after twenty contact hours, they had covered it all. Six years’ worth. Every one of them knew the material cold.

    We celebrated the end of the classes with a rousing party. It wasn’t the first time, and wasn’t to be the last, that I was amazed at the success of our own cherished theories. They had worked here, with a vengeance.

    Perhaps I should have been prepared for what happened, for what seemed to me to be a miracle. A week after it was all over, I talked to Alan White, who had been an elementary math specialist for years in the public schools and knew all the latest and best pedagogical methods.

    I told him the story of my class.

    He was not surprised.

    “Why not?” I asked, amazed at his response. I was still reeling from the pace and thoroughness with which my “dirty dozen” had learned.

    “Because everyone knows,” he answered, “that the subject matter itself isn’t that hard. What’s hard, virtually impossible, is beating it into the heads of youngsters who hate every step. The only way we have a ghost of a chance is to hammer away at the stuff bit by bit every day for years. Even then it does not work. Most of the sixth graders are mathematical illiterates. Give me a kid who wants to learn the stuff — well, twenty hours or so makes sense.”

    I guess it does. It’s never taken much more than that ever since.”

    http://www.mountainlaurelsudbury.org/Rithmetic.asp

    I don’t know what Jay thinks of as making “moral” decisions, but I reckon that learning this basic math is objectively necessary for living in a modern society.

    These children were interested, and they never got beat. I daresay that they display a eagerness for knowledge, kindness, and initiative that rivals plenty of adults that physically abuse young people.

    You want to learn about morality? You just need to talk to these children.

  21. quasibill

    Charles,

    I agree with your strategy - even if only because all others have proven to be false. The road will be long and hard, but then that’s true of almost all things worth achieving.

    I’m a big believer in the idea of punctuated equilibrium type progression. I think that changes of the sort we are advocating for can only occur during some form of crisis - otherwise, there is just too much inertia. By most educated reports, we are entering into a (at the very least economic) crisis period, where writings such as yours will hopefully steer enough of our society in the right direction to make a difference.

    My comment was more along the lines of self-indulgent melancholy than anything else. Keep up the good work - you’re building very important bridges that will be very necessary in the future.

  22. Misspelled

    Aside from all the other craziness documented in your post… if this judge were really concerned for these kids’ futures, or had the ability to exercise any type reason instead of indulging a knee-jerk impulse, he would’ve realized that using corporal punishment in that setting, under those circumstances, makes zero sense. What’s the kid supposed to think? “Gee, I’d better not skip school again, or I might somehow end up in court instead of in the vice-principal’s office, and if the judge is a little bit crazy, he/she might extort my parents into hitting me again!” The idea is CONSISTENT CONSEQUENCES, for Christ’s sake, not “there, that’ll teach ‘er… FOREVER.” But no, clearly this man is the lone voice of reason in a country gone mad.

    Seriously, it’s the sign of someone more concerned with enjoying the power he possesses to impose his childrearing preferences on other people’s families than with actually making a positive change in anybody’s life, and he’s a JUDGE, and yet people are congratulating him for it. Makes me crazy.

  23. Aster

    Rad Geek-

    I’d contest the notion that our model of humane treatment of children should center on restraining a desire to hurt them. It suggests that our desire to do violence to small people is natural and inevitable, which I think is terribly unjust towards human beings; I think the desire to do violence comes from the repression and rage of parents who are themselves deeply hurt and repressed, most relevantly but hardly exclusively in the sense of the parents’ own repression and (usually) brutalisation as children.

    I think what we need to do is learn that that there are better ways of being as emotional creatures in this world, and better ways of responding to relationship difficulties than violence. I think reason and empathy can certainly lead us there- encouraging a psychology of restraint even in a good cause is still incorporating a dominating psychology into our worldview and sense of life. We don’t really lust to beat children, and the view that we do so only naturalises the existing abuse- much the way some otherd view rape as natural (and I wish certain kinds of feminists would apply self-actualisation principles to men and realise that men rape not from selfhood but the brutalisation of selfhood- and yes, the more I think it over the more firmly i conclude that I still believe this).

    I don’t wish to be holier than thou- I can feel like this easily towards children, but I have a terrifically difficult time dealing with grown-ups by encouraging the good instead of pushing down the evil; I know others in different situations might feel differently (especially women and men forced into parenting). It is so difficult to take the risk of trusting. But I still think it’s the ideal and the only long-term practical way- I don’t believe in original sin and think any inclusion of any form of the notion into our politics will only plant an evil seed which will eventually germinate into even still more domination.

    I personally think the most important way to prevent child abuse is to normalise contraception and abortion and fight the class sytem, so that children aren’t burdens and sources of pain for parents (why wouldn’t you hate a child who is a living reminder of all of your abandoned dreams and an unwilling source of endless burdens?). That, and get rid of the notion that children are property of parents and extensions of their parents’ moral, cultural. and socioeconomic identities. We’ve got to get rid of the notion that parents are childrens’ bosses- and here again, I don’t think it’s so much that parents shoudl restrain from bossing children so much as collectively learn that there are so much more beautiful ways of relating to small people- at least once the wolves of society and necessity are firmly chased from the door (and hopefully, eventually, driven to extinction).

    I think any person free of brutalisations would realise that the chance to bring up a free and proud human being is an indescribably wonderful thing compared to beating that same human being into a clone, serving (wo)man, and instrument . The kind of parent who believes in ‘family values’ thinks it is right and proper to treat a kid as a domestic servant, socioeconomic pawn, and projection of pseudo-self-esteem via an ersatz immortality. It’s really a pathetic and sad thing- the act of a person who has always been a tool themselves breaking another human being in the hopes of the pottage perks and prestige.

    If I could raise a child I’m sure I’d encounter strains and difficulties I can’t now imagine and it would change me irrevocably. But I don’t think I’d want to hurt them or restrain myself from doing so. Tho’ to be honest I’m not certain that it’s not a terrible thing to show a child the world today, given what that world would inevitably and eventually do to her- what’s the point of teaching someone to know the value of their soul in a world which everywhere lets you live on the priot condition that you renounce that soul?

  24. Aster

    “Your words are very touching. And you just helped enlarge my ego by a few inches…I can’t find the right measurement!”

    If you were a guy, I’d say ‘write your own joke here’. ;)

  25. Rad Geek

    Aster,

    I’d contest the notion that our model of humane treatment of children should center on restraining a desire to hurt them.

    I agree with you.

    I’m sorry if my words gave a different impression; if so, I failed to convey my meaning.

    The lines I wrote above about discipline, and about the suggestion that a parent, if angry and if feeling an impulse to strike out, ought to exercise restraint, is that I think the constant repetition of the word discipline is a really good example of a stereotypical patriarchal inversion. A lot like the way that, for example, men talking about rape — both rapists and non-rapists — often reply with tirades about how powerless they feel towards women, especially women that the man finds attractive and women that he feels are teasing. The inversion serves to derail discussion into an argument over the Bizarro World constructed by it, and also by projecting the fears, anxieties, angers, etc. of the aggressor onto his chosen victim, in order to naturalize the violence and project its causes outward onto the victim, rather than the aggressor. And I think it works just the same way, when an adult lashes out violently at a child, and is called to account for that choice (by others or in his own conscientious self-reflection), and replies with the rhetoric of discipline, meaning not personal judgment or deliberation in the face of temptation, but rather the alleged need for inflicting your idea of judgment and deliberation on somebody else who doesn’t agree, by means of restraint or beating. But I agree with you that this is not and should not be the central point when it comes to thinking about how to relate to children.

    If an adult feels angry or frustrated and desires to take it out by hitting a child, then I think that adult should exercise whatever discipline and restraint may be necessary not to act it out in violence. But the most important questions to ask are where the anger and frustration come from, and where the impulse to translate them into violence comes from.

    Of course, just about everybody gets angry or frustrated with their fellow human beings at some point, and certainly not least with children. But it’s important to realize how much anger and how much frustration come from expectations that are themselves constructed by past experiences and by the culture that we live in. And also that there’s no necessary or even particularly natural connection between being pissed and being ready, willing, able, and proud to hit somebody over it. I don’t think that child-beating is a natural force that needs to be restrained; I think it’s something that many parents choose to practice, in part because they are convinced that it’s their right and duty, and in part because self-styled childcare Experts, and especially other parents (who, when in this mood, all style themselves Experts, after their own fashion) will do their damnedest to second-guess, lecture, ridicule, or bully a parent who doesn’t come out cheering enthusiastically or slinging over-the-top braggadocio about how much they believe in beating their own kids. (I think this is the basic social function of the kinds of rhetorical competitions for most over-the-top praise for child-beating that I mentioned: it’s a way for parents to reassure themselves of the propriety of child-beating, and to keep potential defectors in line. The process is more or less identical to the locker-room dynamics by which young men cultivate, reinforce, and reassure themselves in unscrupulousness and sexual aggression towards women. People have to be bullied and trained into maintaining this kind of tough guise at the expense of a human face, and without these dynamics the cultural cartel that helps uphold mass violence would crumble.)

    If you want a good example, just look at the stepfather in this case, and how he has been treated by both the judge and the bellowing blowhard busybody bully brigade — for not wanting to beat and humiliate the young woman he has chosen to care for, he is browbeaten and extorted by the judge, and endlessly abused as useless or worse (in part by repeatedly impugning his masculinity, natch) by the hostile commenters. When he caves in order to avoid the threatened fine and try to save his stepdaughter from getting stuck with a criminal record, Da Judge snipes at him again because he, naturally enough, wasn’t particularly into beating her up, and wasn’t laying it on well enough. His hesitancy and his mercy is as much a part of natural human potential as the cold sadism that the peanut gallery contemptuously demands, but in the culture we live in, many people are very aggressive about stamping out that kind of natural response wherever it may occur, in the name of holding the front lines of patriarchal authority.

    As for what to do from here, I more or less agree with everything you suggest; I’d just add that I think the most important thing is simply to abolish all forms of systemic and institutionalized restraint on children’s choices about caretaking relationships. Culture can be changed, and I hope that individual sufferers can, to some extent or other, heal themselves and make better choices — and in fact this is, slowly but noticeably, happening; many more parents today are categorically opposed to corporal punishment than used to be, say, 30 or 40 years ago, and many forms of child-beating, such as whipping children with a switch or a belt, are now very widely considered brutal and unacceptable, even by parents who do believe in beating children with their bare hands. But, I’d just stress the real urgency of focusing not only on the vices of the parents, but also on the legal inability of children to escape those vices, where they occur, being inflicted on them — the only answer to which is the complete abolition of all truancy cops and Fugitive Child Laws, along with systematic efforts to change the culture towards harm-reduction, solidarity with, and aid for — instead of collaborating in the capture of — so-called runaway children.

  26. Aster

    “I think this is the basic social function of the kinds of rhetorical competitions for most over-the-top praise for child-beating that I mentioned: it’s a way for parents to reassure themselves of the propriety of child-beating, and to keep potential defectors in line. The process is more or less identical to the locker-room dynamics by which young men cultivate, reinforce, and reassure themselves in unscrupulousness and sexual aggression towards women. People have to be bullied and trained into maintaining this kind of tough guise at the expense of a human face, and without these dynamics the cultural cartel that helps uphold mass violence would crumble.”

    Charles, this is absolutely BRILLIANT and as far as I know original analysis. I would immensely encourage you, if you can ever spare the time, to put this up as a public post in its own right. At least. It deserves an essay, and the implications deserve a book on the level of The Second Sex.

    You know, there’s really a whole plane of thought which needs to be opened up with regard to the liberation of children- something as detailed in understanding as (say) feminist or queer theory, at the very least. If libertarians (if any are to be found in this world) could get there first, and if they could spin out a radical theory of familialist* oppression of the oppressed ahead of the statist left, it would go a very long way towards winning a much improved individualism the place it deserves. Thomas Szasz is the only person I can think of who’s done something similar at this point (and anti-spychiatry also needs further development).

    *I borrow the word from Ellen Willis.

    If it can be done, this is precisely the way to make a jump. I think Shulamith Firestone was really, really onto something in understanding that dealing with children’s liberation is the unlooked-for ground under feminism as feminism was unlooked-for ground under liberalism and socialism. An integration of this kind of politics into liberation thought would change everything (and would be as bitterly and savagely resisted by the familialist left and libertarian movement as feminism has been resisted by male leftists and libertarians).

    I smile fiercely every time I read the phrase ‘Fugitive Child Laws.’ If someone had given me a pamphlet with that phase when I was 14 or so I would have had a very, very, very different and a far happier life.

    As children nearly all of us learn in our souls and bodies that we are other people’s property. We do not know what kind of world would be possible if we all learned to be free, strong, passionate, and confident from our first moments. When I think of the idea Trotsky’s utopian visions of each of us being a Goethe, a Marx, or an Aristotle seem absolutely reasonable… a part of me very much agrees with John Taylor Gatto: ‘genius is as common as dirt’, and what we see around us are incalculably mangled remanants of human beings. Speaking almost seriously, i sometimes think we could solve climate change, war, and poverty forever in a week if people were just able to truly be what they are capable of. But I just don’t know.

    You want a real radical action? Distribute pamphlets on child liberation outside a local high school, telling young people they are not the property of any God, state, or parent. Then one would see the heart of darkness of raw, naked power. This is the great oppression covered by the kind of suffocating silence of an unchallenged ancien regime; a feminism which ahs hardly begun even a first wave. My heart tells me that when we have won the liberation of children to the degree that the idea of freedom of speech has been won now, and extended that notion to every corner of the Earth, that then and only then will the project of Enlightenment and the liberation of the human species from the cave finally and forever be won.

    It seems impossible. But there is something incredibly inspiring in even being able to seriously consider that in our time we may perhaps be able to finally envision it.

  27. Natasha

    Viva le truants!!!!!!!!

  28. Natasha

    Imagine if there were I.W.W. esque unions for high school students with supportive caretakers.

    They could demand better conditions, teachers, and all kinds of neat stuff.

  29. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-06-19 – The Root Cause:

    […] GT 2008-06-11: Beating up your teenaged daughter isn’t just a good idea. It’s the law. […]

— 2009 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2009-07-11 – For your reference: Rothbard against the Fugitive Child Act:

    […] GT 2008-06-11: Beating up your teenage daughter isn’t just a good idea. It’s the law. […]

  2. Discussed at orange-road.com

    Ken’s Weblog » Blog Archive » Anarcho-capitalism and child abuse:

    […] GT 2008-06-11: Beating up your teenage daughter isn’t just a good idea. It’s the la… […]

— 2012 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2009-10-13 – On Big Charity:

    […] talked here a couple times before about the notion of mass education and targeted persuasion and how important it is to what I take myself to be doing in writing a crazy-ass blog about all my crazy-ass positions like I do. (The basic notion here is […]

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