Isn’t he a catch?

Stephanie Dolan

I was on Facebook the first time I saw Toya Graham slapping the crap out of her 16-year-old son. Frankly, my first reaction didn't mesh with what is my typically liberal social and political outlook. Don't get me wrong. It's not as if I never go off the reservation. I've seen myself exuding an atypical reaction to a "heavily-felt" issue, the kind of atypical reaction that my broad-minded peers may view as less enlightened than they'd commonly expect from me, and I have as a result wondered both at my stance and their bemusement.

And my bemusing reaction? Was almost celebratory as I watched Graham following her son across the street as he tried vainly to outrun her. I had learned of the riots only a few moments prior. My blood immediately chilled when I saw that this was occurring in Baltimore because this is where my boyfriend had been that very day. He had to take a vacation day before losing it. After a spur-of-the-moment decision, he set off for his first visit to the Baltimore Zoo. He told me later that he'd had to drive through the area where the largest part of the violence had taken place.

When I first saw news of the riots I knew that he was already home, but my initial reaction was still one of panic that he may have barely escaped being surrounded by that kind of violence. So, when I saw Graham delivering several right hooks in a row to a hooded rioter, I almost cheered like I was front-row at a prize fight... on which I'd bet a lot of money... for Graham to win.

Ironically, a conversation with my partner is what began to change my outlook. He reminded me of another story about parents and children near Baltimore. Danielle and Sasha Meitiv of Silver Springs are being investigated by both Montgomery County Police and Child Protective Services for allowing their two children — Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6 – to walk home from the park, which is only about two blocks away.

Now, I'm not saying that I agree with someone's decision to allow a six-year-old to walk two blocks to or from a public park when they are not present to monitor for safety. But how is it that many of us initially cheered on a mother who beat her child on television, yet parents with happy, healthy children are being threatened with their removal for a trip to the park? Am I the only one who sees this as a head-scratcher?

I've been in enough Wal-Marts to be familiar with the children who throw the kinds of tantrums that you just know they've already had a LOT of practice throwing in the past. I've gritted my teeth and hurried by wishing that the parent would DO something already!

But then, Toya Graham sure did something. Did she go too far? Is any kind of corporal punishment completely ineffective? Is it always damaging, or is there ever a time and place? Unfortunately, the "time and place" for Graham's son is running on a near-constant loop on CNN and MSNBC.

Awkward.

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