Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Concrete Angels Never Make it to Heaven.

For the first time in a while, I took a walk around the block this evening.  It was hot, and I'd changed into shorts.  I like to wear my headphones, too, when I'm going to be alone in a quiet space for a while, to listen to my music library.  It is an eclectic collection, ranging from country to celtic to classic and way back to the rock & roll of my youth. (Ha!  I had you there with all the c's, didn't I?)

When I set the iPhone music app to "songs", it bounces around and I never know what song will pop up next, or even which genre!  Kinda nice sometime.

I was about halfway around the block when one of my favorites came on, Concrete Angel by Martina McBride.  It's the story of a child, a girl, and how she is abused physically by apparently a parent or guardian, which results in her death.  Hence the "concrete angel" part, describing both her outer defensive facade in life and the statue on her gravestone in death.

The verses describe the story, which is literally legion around the world, and is not unique, so I won't bother to quote any of it here.  What I want to talk about is the refrain.

Through the wind and the rain she stands hard as a stone

In a world that she can't rise above

But her dreams give her wings and she flies to a place

Where she's loved 
concrete angel

Now, Martina McBride is a wonderful singer and performer, and her recording of this song is truly magnificent.  She is really one of my favorite country performers.  She is a devout Christian, apparently, and she makes no apologies for it.  Her music reflects that belief, which I do admire.  (The reflection of the belief, not the belief, folks.  I'm not re-converting!)

I also admire her use of her music and her public platform as such to stand against both child abuse and violence against women.  She deserves full and complete recognition and credit for doing that - many people wouldn't have the guts.

So, don't take this as any criticism against her personally.  It isn't.

This is something I noticed in the past week or so, but it really didn't hit me until now, listening to that song - the refrain, specifically.

There has been another spate of men being caught molesting children recently.  Some ministers, some not.  This is not a screed against religious guilt in child abuse.  Not today.  I want to mention that what I noticed is that we focus primarily on the abuser.

The stories always tell us about the abuser who commits these horrid crimes, but we quickly turn the page (so to speak) and shake our heads, thankful that another one is getting removed from where he (or she) won't hurt any more kids.  That IS true.  We ARE glad of that.

But what about the kids?

This country is supposed to have one of the best health care systems in the world (it really doesn't, by the way) but one thing we lack is a competent and easily accessed mental health system.  The system we have is expensive and is usually covered by health insurance only minimally, if that.

We know, from research, that children who have been molested sexually have a fairly high number of victims who turn into perpetrators.  And those who do have a fairly high rate of recidivism if not treated immediately after their victimization by competent mental health professionals who deal professionally and often with these victims.

As a country, we fail miserably to care for the victims of crime in general, but especially those victimized by pedophiles.  One reason, of course, is that it is a difficult crime to detect, and is often not reported or prosecuted properly.  Another, I think is embarrassment.

But, I have different idea why not.

Look at the refrain of the song.

But her dreams give her wings and she flies to a place

Where she's loved 

It is often difficult to interpret someone else's poetry - and poetry set to music is what a song is.  It is often imbued with double meanings, and this one is no different.

Obviously, it speaks of her dreams in life - dreams of having a loving family or at least someone who cares and won't abuse her.  We do "fly" in our dreams, don't we?

But there is another meaning here, and the song's title reflects it.  Angels fly, too.  And they fly to heaven, where they will, in the modern sense of the Christian afterlife, be loved.  So, according to this song, even though abused and eventually beaten to death (Look at the video of the song, and that is heavily implied), she flies to heaven and is there loved as she never was in life.  The video implies that she will be joined with other abused kids there, where they apparently form a self-help group.

As an atheist, my attitude is different.

Having no faith in an afterlife, and having the belief that once dead, we simply cease to exist as living entities, I think this gives a false and deceptive picture of a happy ending where in life, sadly, there isn't one.

Every single child who is killed by an abusive adult will never grow up.  He/she will never know the pleasure of getting out from under the cruel control of that abusive adult, and experience the ability to control their own life.  This false picture of a happy ending gives us cover.

It gives us the cover to ignore how badly we fail to protect children from abuse and how badly we fail to provide the healing treatment needed by the survivors.  It gives us the false impression that even if we have failed (as God says we do every day) He will step in and take care of these kids in our place.

Forever, right?  So, hey, it might have been bad for them on earth, but they're in God's arms now, right?  Happy?  Loved?

Not so fast.

From my perspective and the perspective of every atheist on the planet, there is no heaven, no loving arms of god, there is only...death.  A life cut short, and not cut short by accident, but cut short in cruelty, in violence, in raw, unadulterated anger.  A loss for all of us, for all the decades of productive adulthood cut short and thrown away, like trash.

How can I convey the horror, the sheer terrible loss of just one single child, and the decades of life lost?  How can we, even with a false sense of relief over an imagined happy ending, ignore the cruelty of that child's death?  However temporary one might see this mortal coil to be, while here, it is very real, and we feel, deeply and at our deepest levels, every emotion, every physical cut or bruise or broken bone.

It should cut us to the center of our being, that failure to protect.  The failure of care, of healing for the survivors.

For some, it does, and those folks do all they can to help.

But for others, we see the false ending, the happiness of "heaven", and imagine that there is a god who has our backs.  And we sit back and turn the page or click on the next story.

Religion hurts.  It provides, every day and in a thousand ways, the excuses for us to sit back and keep on being comfortable in our faith that this deity, this "father" figure, will make it all right.

Well, I hope from now on, you'll see those concrete angels and remember.

Thanks, Martina, for a beautiful song, and for using your platform to speak of human cruelty and the need to fight it.

#childabuse  #cruelty  #mentalhealth  #healthcare  #martinamcbride  #concreteangel  #harmfromreligion  #violence  #violenceagainstwomen

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