This is unspeakable, seriously. As we withdraw physically from one another and see dangers and threats around every corner, so we become yet more obsessed with "sharing" guilt and grief in an increasingly embarrassing manner, whilst others value the lives of others as nothing more than a punchbag for the culmination of a drunken night on the piss.What I found most worrying was the report of the diocesan spokesman for his Bishop (Lichfield):
We are becoming a nation paralysed by paranoia, seeing "paedo's" behind every door and, in the meantime, our social services turn a blind eye to little girls being beaten, tied up in baths, sexually assaulted and murdered by their own relatives.
The conclusion that Mr Barrett had acted inappropriately is not a finding of guilt or negligence, but recognition that in today's climate, previously acceptable innocent behaviour is now subject to misunderstanding and suspicion.Right, a common greeting across the world now has "potentially damaging consequences". Let's get this straight, if a young kid, known to me, comes up to me very happy with something (s)he's done, and I, as my parents and grandparents were wont to do, kiss that child on the cheeks, it's "potentially damaging"? Because an overly suspicious parent, fed on a diet of tabloid scare stories and misinformation, is convinced that anyone who actually likes children is a potential abuser?
"As the complaint and subsequent police investigation demonstrates, the simple act of a kiss on the cheek - a common greeting throughout the world - has potentially damaging consequences.
As Paul and I discussed a few months back, the biggest threat in all of this is fear itself. Most abuse happens away from the public eye, behind close doors, and is perpetrated by someone known, not only to the child, but to the parents as well. The idea that a vicar and school governor should be investigated by the police and his diocese for simply congratulating a young girl with a public display of innocent affection is simply wrong.
If, as the spokesman says, this sort of behaviour is now subject to misunderstanding and suspicion, then we need to do something about this. When thugs start using the Cross of St George or the Union flag as part of their racist reportoir, the correct response is not to proclaim such items as racist, but to reclaim them, and assert that they are not racist, that they are worthy symbols. When people use the word "ghay" (pronounced gay) as a synonym for rubbish, the correct response is to reject such homophobic stupidity and assert that being gay is not rubbish.
If people misunderstand public displays of affection, presumably because they are so rare, the correct response is not to promise not to do it again; it's to do it more often, and ensure that innocent affection is allowed towards children, for without it, their innocence will truly be lost, wrapped up in a safety blanket that hinders their progress.