One day I visited a teen prison. Inside the prison I met one of the wardens. I asked her about one of the inmates. The warden told me that the inmate always offered to help around the prison, even before she started to do the forced labor (aka homework) she was ordered to do at an affiliated prison (aka school). Then the warden told me this inmate was an "angel."
Last night I got a text message from this angel. She told me the warden had hit her. Later we chatted on MSN. (It is good that some of the angels have access to the Internet these days) She told me she had been talking to her boyfriend on the phone. But the warden decided she had been talking too long. So the warden ordered her to hang up.
In "normal" prison you know exactly how long you can talk on the phone. It might be something like five minutes or ten minutes. But in this prison it depends on the mood of the warden, and whether he or she approves of who you are talking to.
Now I hadn't realized it before, but this is another way that some teenagers are treated worse than criminals and prisoners. At least in a prison the warden doesn't have the power to stop you from talking to certain people that they just happen to not like. Nor does the warden have the power to tell you that you can't receive visitors who they happen not to like.
Arbitrary, discretionary power.
That is what the wardens inside teenagers' homes have.
So anyhow, this warden started to shout at the inmate she had called an angel a few days earlier. Now I am wondering, is it necessary to shout at angels?
Then the angel put on her headphones to block out the sound of the shouting. This seems like a logical response. But the warden felt defied, out of control. So she hit the angel. She hit her at least three times. Then, in self defense, the angel hit the warden back.
Now I am wondering again, is it necessary to hit angels?
The angel told me she felt guilty for hitting the warden. She told me that she does not believe in violence. She truly is an angel in my eyes.
But I would expect that the warden does not feel guilty, or at least cannot admit it, and has not apologized. I expect that the warden believes in justifiable violence upon your own daughter, even one who you boast is your "angel."
This is all a little hard for me to believe. I was sitting there talking to the warden a few days ago. It is a little hard to believe she would hit a 17 year old female when this beautiful, intelligent, sensitive person is what we commonly call the warden's "daughter."
Most of society assumes that parents will protect and nurture those they bring into the world. But I have found that this is not always the case. Even when things look good on the outside, there is often physical, verbal, emotional and psychological violence in the home. And often the home is more like a prison than what many people would call a home.
I want to keep bringing these cases to light. I want to keep exposing the parents who call their daughters "angels" and then a few days later, hit them.
I had been talking to my angel friend about caring vs. control. A few days ago I wondered if the warden said she wanted the daughter/inmate back at the prison by a certain time each day because she cared about her or because she felt a need to control her. The inmate had almost had me convinced that the warden cared about her. But last night, what was the main motivation in hitting the angel/inmate/teenage daughter?
Was she just showing how much she cared about her and how concerned she was for her health and happiness? Is this her way of showing these things?
I wonder if the warden would sit and look me in the eyes and tell me that yes, she hit her because she loves her. This reminds me of the school director who said love was the highest value at his school. This is the kind of myth that is perpetuated by adults to try to confuse children and teenagers: I hit you and punish you because I love you.
But if this is the way they show their love, I would say, "No thank you. I would rather look elsewhere for love."
No, I don't believe this warden/mother was showing how much she cared about her daughter's health and happiness. Instead, I believe the mother felt out of control. I have felt out of control, too, in my life. Sometimes I have used violence to try to feel more powerful and in control. But often when I realize I care about someone but I can't control them, I simply break down and cry.
When someone cries over us, I suspect we feel more cared about than when someone hits us or punishes us. I'm not sure about this for everyone, but I think I would certainly feel more cared about if someone cried than if they hit me.
I know that if someone hit me and tried to use force on me to get me to hang up the phone when I was talking to someone who I really wanted to talk to, I would definitely not feel respected. Nor would I feel understood. These are essential components of love, so I would not feel very loved.
I can't really picture what it would feel like to be hit by your own mother. At least as far as I remember, my mother never hit me. She hurt me in other ways, but I can't remember her hand ever coming down upon my head or back or anywhere else. I remember her hands reaching out to hug me when I was crying, but I don't remember them coming towards me in anger.
It is hard for me to just sit here and write about this. This angel is truly an angel to me. I want to do more. I want to go there and literally pluck the angel out of the prison grounds and help her fly away to safety. To a place she will never have to feel afraid of being hit again. To a place where hands reach out to hug her, not to hit her. I also want to talk to the warden. I want to help her see that this is not really what she wants to do. I want to help her see she is driving her daughter further and further away and only making it more likely she will end up in the arms and the bed of the person she disapproves of.
I am wondering...what happens when you hit an angel? What happens when you frighten them? The angel told me last night she was afraid of what her mother, the warden, would do next. I am also afraid.
Are angels supposed to live in fear? I thought angels represented love and kindness. I didn't know they were supposed to be hit until they had to strike back in self-defense. This is not my idea of angels. Or loving mothers.
I am really confused.
March 2006 note: This file was written about Daniela and her mother.
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