Well, this was a predictable response to the recent incident of a Rhode Island woman leaving her 8-month-old child in the car for 10 minutes while she ran into a shop in Massachusetts (see my post, “More Kids in cars”). The sensational headlines focused exclusively on the fact that the weather was “freezing”, and that it was “one of coldest days of the year.” Missing from all but one report I read was the simple fact that the inside of the car was toasty warm, that the kid was dressed in a snowsuit, and that he was warm enough to be sweating rather than freezing to death.
Well, I actually called and spoke with Senator Raptakis yesterday. To his credit, the senator was gracious with his time, and we had a pleasant 15-minute conversation about the topic. I tried to gently explain that his proposed bill would, on its face, equate every competent, reasoning parent, who is making measured, situational decisions about the safety and welfare of his children, with those who are guilty of genuine neglect and abuse. The kids are in the car alone – you’re guilty. This is simply not good law. He said that this law would “send a message.” To whom? And what would it say? Ostensibly, I suppose it would have to say, simply “don’t leave your kids in the car, ever.” When I asked about reasonable parents leaving their kids in perfectly safe circumstances to run into the store, etc., he responded with “I’m not looking to go after every mom who leaves her kids in the car for three minutes while she runs into Cumberland Farms. (Note: I had to chuckle at his reference to Cumberland Farms…so New England!). But this woman in Massachusetts left her kid in a freezing car for more than 45 minutes, while she went on a shopping spree.” Before continuing, I had to point out that every news source I had seen was reporting something completely different, and that security camera footage had confirmed that the woman was away from the car for less than ten minutes, he paused. I also mentioned that the kid was bundled-up and sweating. He said he had heard differently, and would look into it.
The point is this, HE may not intend to go after the Cumberland Farms moms, but that won’t be his decision to make. HE won’t be going after the moms. That would be the officially-empowered busy-bodies, the local police, and over-zealous prosecutors who see easy prosecutions, and populist victories, for the forces of “child protection.” If the senator thinks that the nuances of his bill, and his selective attentions as to whom would be targeted, will translate into practice, he is sorely mistaken. Bureaucrats reach for the most effective weapon in their arsenal, and he would be handing them a really good one. Forgetful parent makes it to the store with only three of her four kids…immediately returns to the car? Doesn’t matter. Two minutes to drop a letter in a mailbox? Doesn’t matter. He would be taking the decision out of the hands of parents, and handing that decision to the government…one that clearly cares more about our children’s safety than we do.
It seems all the more ludicrous when you simply look at what is happening in his very own chamber! He is jumping on this “opportunity” to push through this law (which he tried to push through last year as well), based on a purely emotional appeal, using a case that has been misrepresented by the media, further skewed by his own misinformation, and, after all, involved no harm done, and no legitimate threat to the well-being of the child! Does he, or anyone in his chamber, actually think that other bureaucrats, in other places, at other times, will not use his law to advance a similarly sensational, ridiculous, hollow, inaccurate appeal in order to push through a prosecution to further their political or professional ambitions? Can you disagree with that with a straight face? How long have you been around politics? Is that your final answer?
He invited me, and anyone else who has something to say about this, to send him an email with all the information and input that we care to pass. I am constructing that email right now, and will post it in the comments here when I send it. Meanwhile, I invite YOU to call or email the senator’s office yourself. Here is the contact information:
Rhode Island State Senator Leo Raptakis (D):
Email: sen-raptakis@RIlegislature.gov ; PH (direct): 401-397-2720 (be ready, he answers his own phone). Debby Cook (Executive Assistant): 401-276-5567. Both phone numbers are verified, but I haven’t used the email yet.
OK, go forth and love your kids!