Understanding Erin

For the past couple of days, I’ve been trying to understand Erin. On the surface, it is a very simple, perhaps exaggerated, morality tale. A teenager gets pregnant, keeps the child. Four years later, the mother gets arrested for felony child neglect. Her son, at age four, weighs only ten pounds. This woman is the worst possible kind of monster, the sensational press tells us. Child neglect is extremely frightening. It pokes a dangerous whole in the ideas of self made men and powerless women.

We are not self-made. In our earliest years, we are absolutely dependent on the women that gave birth to us. We cannot survive without their nurturing, or the nurturing of someone they have handed us off to. These women are not powerless, they have more power than the male managers that we will work for years later. Our bosses can fire us. The first women in our lives can leave us to die.

Digging a little deeper, we find an even more complicated story. Erin’s son has lissencephaly, a rare birth defect. Children with this birth defect rarely make it past their second year. They have frequent convulsions and have difficulty absorbing food and medicine. Now, some extremists will suggest that this is Erin’s punishment for having had sex as a teenager. They are like the Pharisees asking Jesus who sinned, the blind man, or the blind man’s parents. Erin, like all of us, have done things in the past that we shouldn’t have done, that we aren’t proud of.

Yet, what did Erin do when she had a child with a birth defect? She sought help. She participated in leading network of people dealing with lissencephaly. She tried to find doctors that could understand and deal with this birth defect. For this, a couple of weeks after she brought her son to the hospital for medical help, she was arrested for child neglect.

If we believe we are all self-made and can overcome any adversity that is thrown at us, then we must believe that Erin is some sort of monster who didn’t try hard enough, or was at least some sort of failure. However, if we believe that we are all in this together, we need to see if there are other failures. Where was everyone else while Erin’s son was wasting away? Sure, there were people in the lissencephaly network that were helping Erin. There were researchers trying to understand lissencephaly and educate others about it.

Yet, where were the doctors, the social workers, the insurance companies, or even those in the faith-based community? Perhaps, it is easier to blame a teenage girl who is in over her head, than to look at our own failings. Perhaps that is the real reason she was arrested. Perhaps the way her story challenges the myths that we are self-made and that women are powerless is the reason the sensationalist media wants to spin a different story.

As I’ve explored this, I’ve spoken with people that have helped the parents of children with birth defects for years. They have told me that Erin’s story, sadly, is not that unusual. We don’t know how to deal with birth defects. They frighten us. They challenge our feelings of invulnerability. So, like the Pharisees, they we blame the parents.

On Thursday, the courts will hold a dependency hearing. Then, on April 16th, Erin is scheduled to be arraigned on the felony child neglect charges. My prayers go up for Erin and her son, that there might be forgiveness and healing. I also pray that we may all be convicted (in the religious sense) of our own culpability in not doing enough to prevent the neglect of children, whether they have birth defects or not, that is intrinsic in the system.

(For more information, read my previous post about Erin and lissencephaly).

Building Crowds

Yesterday, I received two emails, which I think provide an interesting contrast. Terry McAuliffe, Chairman of Hillary Clinton for President wrote to me to say,

When I turn on the TV all I hear is negative words. The news stations keep telling you that we're down and out. But that's plainly not true. I'm on the trail every day for Hillary and the crowds are bigger than ever before, and let me tell you - they are excited!

I wanted to show you a video from a recent event with Hillary in North Carolina - you can see for yourself Hillary's packed events and enthusiastic supporters.

Click here to watch the video.

For some reason, the old line from Monty Python came to mind, “I’m not dead, yet!”. I’ve been in many crowds like what the video shows and I wonder how many of my pundiocracy friends will be mutter about Potemkin villages. Beyond that, the ask, to the extent that there is one, didn’t very compelling. Watch a video. Don’t give up hope. It seems just to reinforce the idea that we are in the endgame and Hillary is way behind.

The other email I received was from the Obama campaign.

Right now, you can help build a base of support for Barack in Indiana and bring more voices into the political process.

To participate in Indiana's primary, voters must be registered by this Monday, April 7th.
Tens of thousands of Obama supporters may not be registered yet, and we need to act quickly to reach out to as many of them as possible.

Each call you make could be another vote for Barack in an area where we need your help the most.

Instead of bewailing that everyone else is say things are falling apart. The narrative here is that lots more people want to get involved, and don’t know how. So, all the insiders need to reach out to those people who want to become insiders and help them in. It is about building up the party, not only so that Obama does well in Indiana, but so that there are more registered Democrats, which will hopefully help him in the general election, as well as candidates further down the ticket.

It sure looks like Obama’s team has the better idea on how to build crowds.

(Categories: )


Lissencephaly? Until today, I had never heard of it, and if it wasn’t for something horrible going on in Florida, I probably never would have heard of it. Yet from horrible situations, it is possible to bring about some good, raising awareness about health issues and how the government doesn’t always respond wisely.

Lissencephaly, which means ‘smooth brain’, is a genetic defect caused by mutations of genes on chromosome 17 and X. For the biology geeks, ‘Classical lissencephaly may be caused by mutations of genes in chromosome bands 17p13.3 and Xq22.3-q23’, according to the lissencephaly research project. The Wikipedia article about lissencephaly states that “The prognosis for children with lissencephaly varies depending on the degree of brain malformation. Many individuals show no significant development beyond a 3- to 5-month-old level. … Many will die before the age of 2”

So, what do you do for a 19 year old woman, who has managed to keep her child alive to age four, even though he has only managed to grow to ten pounds? Perhaps you find special ways of helping her with this difficult situation, provide her with extra support, or something like that.

Well, that isn’t how they handle things in Florida. Instead, she was charged with second-degree felony child neglect. She was arrested and spent more than four days locked up, held on $100,000 bail before a judge ordered her release.

Today, I received emails from a few different sources. Each of them were forwards of messages sent by Dr. David Ledbetter of the Department of Human Genetics, Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. Dr. Ledbetter is noted for his work on Lissencephaly and was sending on a request from Dianna Fitzgerald. Ms. Fitzgerald is president of the Lissencephaly Network.

She has started a petition to Exonerate Erin and Give her child back. The petition asks Florida Governor Crist to “Drop the charges against Erin and send her son home.” Personally, I think the petition asks for way too little. There needs to be a serious investigation into how the Santa Rosa County’s Child Protection Team could have handled this so badly.

So, please, sign the petition, and use this to help raise awareness of lissencephaly and other childhood illnesses that parents struggle valiantly to cope with.

Checking the Grids

For the past fifteen hours or so, Second Life has been having significant problems and has been down much of the time. So, like many hard-core virtual world residents, I’ve used this as an opportunity to check in on some of the OpenSim based worlds.

My inventory on all of the grids seems to have gotten lost, a frequent problem on the OpenSim based grids, and my avatar has reverted to an OpenSim Ruth. Second Inventory may be a key to addressing this, and the latest version supports backing up and restoring objects on a few of the key OpenSim based grids.

Central Grid was up and running nicely. There wasn’t anyone logged in when I stopped by before. I partially uploaded some of my objects that I had backed up from Second Life Main Grid before it went down. I’ve logged back in, and find a few other people there. Unfortunately, chat and inventory are not responding, so it is pretty useless.

OSGrid was up and running nicely for a while. It gave random error messages claiming I was logged in, and I could not get Second Inventory to log in. For quite a period, I couldn’t get in with a regular Second Life client either. I’ve gotten back in, but I can’t change what I’m wearing. Chat has been sporadic as well.

I briefly checked into OpenLifeGrid, but not only was no one there, there was no thing around either.

I just wish some of the new virtual worlds that will be going into beta this month or over the next few months, that I saw at Virtual Worlds 2008 were up and running. They might really be the place to hang out.

On the other hand, I need to catch up on email, writing, housework, family time, and for that matter simply catching up on my sleep.

(Categories: )

#vw2008 : A Users Perspective

One of the sessions at Virtual Worlds 2008 was entitled, "Why Virtual Worlds Are The New Saturday Morning TV". Well, it is Saturday morning. I am home after recuperating from the show and Fiona, my six-year-old daughter, is watching Growing Up Creepy on Discovery Kids. Virtual worlds haven’t completely overtaken Saturday morning comics form my little digital native in generation avatar, but they are close. For while she can’t read well enough to do quests in Runescape or chat with other players, her total level there is already 249, with special strengths in woodcutting, firemaking, fishing, and cooking.

As I sit with her in Runescape from time to time, I use it as an opportunity to work on her reading. As messages appear on the screen we work on sounding out the words. The text seems much more compelling than stories about Tom, Dick or Jane.

She is very excited about the Habbo pillow that I brought home from the show, but she knows that it belongs to her, and her sisters, and I expect there may be battles over it.

When I explained the show, she wasn’t sure what I meant by Virtual Worlds, but she sure knew about Runescape, Neopets, Webkins, and many other virtual destinations. She offered the following commentary, which fits pretty nicely with what the folks at VW2008 were talking about:

If you get a chance to talk to them again, tell them that what kids really like is fun games. Like in Webkins, they’ve got a whole big arcade in their world, and there’s all kinds of different games, like the cooking game.

I remember it because it is like a competition and the judge will test it and see who wins. It’s really fun.

You can create a room. In Webkins you can create your own room, a whole house. You can create a bathroom. Isn’t that cool?

You have to make food for Neopets for dinner and lunch, like our world. It’s really cool. I think you can even make them have a shower or bath.

I also think you can, like, hmm, I don’t know how to say this, you earn money from those games I told you about. You have to buy stuff with it. I’m not sure, but I think you can buy clothes for the Neopets.

I really think you might be able to put some nice clothes and nice stuff for your Neopets, like in their whole room, a whole house.

That’s really all. That’s a lot, isn’t it. Oh, and one more thing, thanks for having time with me.

I’ve often felt that it is about time for Fiona to start her own blog. She can provide great political commentary, and she is now expanding into talking about marketing of emerging technology. Look out, world, at what happens when these generation avatar, digital natives start entering the workforce.

(Categories: )
Syndicate content