Email to Philip Muldari of KPFA Radio: I enjoyed your recent excellent and necessary conversation with Meredith Maran about her book on mistaken accusations of child sexual abuse (“My Lie: A True Story of False Memory,” Jossey-Bass, 2010)
However, may I respectfully suggest that it is possible to go much deeper into these issues by considering some of the mythic narratives that have driven Western history for hundreds of years.
My recently published book, Madness at the Gates of the City: The Myth of American Innocence, speaks of one of these narratives: “The Killing of the Children.” Beginning with Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac, patriarchs have sent generations of young men to be killed in war, while diminishing the potential of all children with every form of mistreatment, from foot-binding and rape to the soul-killing irrelevance of public education. In order to deny these historic crimes, adults for centuries have displaced their culpability by idealizing the very children that they have abused.
Children are indeed innocent, and this is not in any way to deny actual abuse. But the decade of the 1980s (the years of Maran’s story) is a good example of this theme. During this time (just after the wholesale slaughter of a million and a half children in Southeast Asia), countless well-meaning people became obsessed with the issues of either child abuse or abortion. For many people, however, it was far easier to scapegoat certain groups (gay men, abusive fathers, preschool teachers and abortion doctors) than to accept the fact that our national leaders were systematically destroying the federal safety nets that protected millions of children. We were labeling the scapegoats as the agents of abuse when the nation as a whole was (and continues) crushing the souls of its children.