I snagged the graphic below from Ace of Spades HQ. The story it tells, though four and a half years old, is an important one. It’s easy merely to allow yourself to be appalled and then pass on to other things. In today’s sociopolitical environment, that’s no longer wise. Anyone could be caught in the toils of something greatly similar.
Please read the story in its entirety. You may have to download the graphic and magnify it for ease of reading. Then return here and follow along with me as I unpack it, step by step, and invite my Gentle Readers to confront the questions it raises.
First, the behavior of the would-be baby-snatcher. According to the narrator she was “brimming with nonchalant confidence.” Yet she was about to commit a heinous crime which was once punishable by death and is still regarded as worthy of life imprisonment. That’s a penalty that would deter the overwhelming majority of us.
Why was she so confident? Was it a veneer and nothing more? Stipulate that it wasn’t; what would have given her such a degree of confidence that there would be no penalty for her theft – indeed, that she would get away with it cleanly?
Note here that the baby’s immediate guardian was a man and the baby-snatcher was a woman. This will also factor into subsequent developments.
Second, the father’s stunned incredulity at the baby-snatcher’s brass. If the narrator’s description of his reaction is accurate, he could not accept that the snatch was really happening for a vital few seconds. He sat stunned long enough for her to get baby and carrier some distance away, which might have played into the reaction of the bystanders.
Why was Dad so utterly stunned? Did he still believe, perhaps subconsciously, in the high-trust / low-crime civilization of seven decades ago? If not, would he have reacted differently or more promptly?
This goes to the degree of situational awareness prevalent among law-abiding Americans.
Third, the baby-snatcher’s defensive tactic upon the father’s (eventual) reaction. It was apparently immediate to the point of being reflexive. There are only two possible explanations:
- She was completely insane and truly believed the child was hers;
- She’d planned it in advance, as with the snatch itself.
Explanation #1 doesn’t hold water. Her actions throughout were too calm and too calculated to make it plausible. Might she have counted on her sex to give her a tactical edge big enough to get away with the baby?
If I’m correct, this indicates that the story is unlikely to be unique…or, if it is, to remain unique.
Fourth, the reactions of the bystanders who intervened in the baby-snatcher’s favor. Given the bare bones of the situation and a typically unobservant crowd in the parking lot, perhaps their conclusion was defensible: i.e., that it was the man, not the woman, who was the criminal. That would be consistent with prevailing attitudes toward men in public places when children are nearby.
This question isn’t asked nearly often enough: Have Americans become prejudiced against men and fatherhood? The family courts certainly are. Prompt reactions such as the one the father suffered in the story above testify in support.
Consider the implications with regard to American men’s willingness to marry and become fathers.
Fifth, the immediate reactions of the police on the scene. Their attitude was defensive of the actions and intentions of the baby-snatcher…who, by that time, had escaped completely, unimpeded by anyone. I find the police’s behavior the least comprehensible thing about the tale. Certainly it’s the least praiseworthy. Perhaps that’s my lingering desire to believe that most police are good people sincerely dedicated to “protecting and serving” the public.
It’s widely observed today that police are reluctant to intervene in a violent incident, regardless of its nature. Yet in the aftermath, with father and mother both present and testifying, what accounts for their protracted attempt to exonerate the baby-snatcher? Surely by then the facts of the matter were clear. Were they worried about lawsuits? Interrogation by higher-ups? Perhaps an unfriendly inquiry from a political source?
In any such situation, there’s a possibility that the police on the scene will make a mistake. They’re human, after all. But their fear of the possible consequences “should” not keep them from acting according to the law and the observable circumstances.
All the above relies, of course, on the narrative in the graphic being an accurate one. If there are any among my Gentle Readers who know differently and can substantiate their claim, please step forward.
While it is true that father and mother retained their baby, it’s insufficient to say that “all’s well that ends well.” That is not the case…or perhaps I should say that it “shouldn’t” be. But then, we “shouldn’t” have squandered the high-trust society that would once have made all the events above unthinkable from the very first.
I urge you, Gentle Reader, to pass this one around. If I may once again use that dispreferred word, it “should” be widely known. It would have great impact if it were.