Chesler Chronicles

Child Barbarians in Phoenix: Obama Extends Their Stay.

Liberian Boys Gang-Rape an Eight-Year-Old; Just Like Old Times.

Most Americans have no idea how different our culture is from cultures in the Middle East, central Asia, or Africa. If differences are acknowledged, America and the West are blamed for them. The barbarism, genocide, perpetual civil and religious wars, the cruelties of Sharia law (stoning, cross-amputations, be-heading), and the utterly tragic treatment of women, children, and the poor in the Third World– all are blamed on western imperialism, colonialism, and capitalism.

Not true–or so I have been arguing for years. Some barbarism is indigenous to a region. But even if it were true–what’s to be done now? Should we willingly welcome cannibals, gang-rapists, child-rapists, polygamists, (dis)honor murderers to our shores?

Terrible things happen in the Third World: Children as young as five are routinely kidnapped into slavery, or forced to become suicide bombers or child-soldiers. Children see their mothers raped, their fathers tortured, their parents and other relatives brutally murdered. Male children are forced to rape their own mothers, female children are forced to sexually service men old enough to be their grandfathers. No one protects, consoles, re-educates, or “treats” them as trauma victims.

Immigrants bring both their barbarism and their traumatized histories right along with them when they come to America.

For example, an eight-year-old girl from Liberia was recently savagely gang-raped in Phoenix, Arizona, by a gang of Liberian boys, aged 14, 13, 10, and 9. The poor child was lured to an empty shed with an offer of chewing gum. The boys held her down as each took turns raping her. These boys knew her and live in the same immigrant community. Sgt Andrew Hill said: “She was brutally sexually assaulted for a period of ten to fifteen minutes.” The police and others heard “hysterical screaming” and found the girl “partially clothed.”

This much we know. All else is somewhat in question.

Instead of comforting her, the girl’s family was said to have rejected her for bringing “shame” upon them and upon the community. Alternatively, the Arizona Child Protective Services (CPS), the local police, and the pastor of the African Faith Expressions church, persuaded the state to protect the girl from her own family, which might have accepted her back but which might have tormented her further–or worse. The child will now be in protective state custody for at least three months.

According to Pastor James Nyemah, a native Liberian, “Some things happened in the past. The family has to work with CPS in that process.” Apparently, although the raped girl was visibly wounded, her father “initially denied that she had been raped.” He “told investigators and CPS caseworkers that he no longer wanted her in his home because she brought shame to the family.” The father has since denied “disowning” the girl. In fact, the father does not speak or understand English very well and the entire conversation with the police and CPS may have flown right over his head. Interestingly, the recently unemployed father is the girl’s (temporary) primary caretaker; his wife works, which is unusual in Liberian culture.

Yesterday, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, issued a statement. “We are so saddened. We are deeply distressed at this behavior on the part of our young Liberians and very saddened at this 8-year-old child who has been so victimized.” The Liberian ambassador, Milton Barnes, has offered to help the victim. Barnes said that these “refugees have endured much trauma” but that “does not excuse attacking or rejecting an 8-year-old girl.”

Tony Weedor, a Liberian refugee in Colorado and the founder of Centerpoint International who helps other Liberians said: “It’s a shame-based culture, so the crime is not as important as protecting the family name and the name of the community. Some people will not care about the trauma she’s going through–they’re more concerned about the shame she brought on the family. Coming here does not mean they leave their worldview behind.”

What do we know about Liberia? Its early settlers were freed American slaves who brought with them the culture and religion of the American South. Forty percent of its citizens are Christians, 40% practice indigenous religions which have been influenced by Christianity, and 20% are Muslims. Liberia went to war against itself in 1986. Charles Taylor’s band of rebels, many of whom were children, engaged in gruesome attacks upon unarmed civilians. Taylor is the first African leader to appear in the dock at The Hague accused of crimes against humanity. On his watch, many, if not most Liberian children witnessed and engaged in terrible atrocities. Hostilities formally ceased in 2003–but not exactly.

The civil war had been exceptionally brutal and long-lasting. Rape, public gang-rape, was extensively used as a weapon of war, not merely as a spoil of war. Doctors Without Borders has said that children as young as 4-years-old were routinely raped, by both adults and children in Liberia.

Until 2006, rape was not even considered a crime in Liberia. The shame still accrues to the victim, not the perpetrator.

Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl has said: “It’s practically impossible for us to understand a society which has precisely the opposite idea about who should be blamed and who should feel shame and who should be helped or not helped. It’s not just a problem for Liberians. There are other people with a similar culture that is, frankly, the problem.”

Indeed, yes. And what is our solution? To grant a token number of culturally “different” people immigrant status and then allow them to create parallel universes of Hell on American soil? How many such immigrants can America afford to heal, re-educate, house, feed, and train? Can we do this in situ? Can anyone?

In September of 2006, the Department of Homeland Security announced its decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Liberians. This status allows people to remain in the United States temporarily, during an armed conflict or environmental disaster. In 2007, President George W. Bush granted Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). The grant expired on March 31st, 2009. President Obama extended DED for another twelve months.

On the one hand, I have argued that we should grant political asylum to the victims of violence–especially women and children. On the other hand, I have also raised the question of what, exactly, Americans can currently afford to subsidize. More important: Do we really want to offer protected immigrant status to barbarians who have been wounded by barbarians and who have neither the tools nor the will to change their views and behaviors?

Well, I for one am happy that this precious, wounded 8-year-old is now in the care and keeping of Childhelp in Phoenix where she is “surrounded by teddy bears and murals” and by people who know how to comfort her. However, what ever shall we do about the larger problem, the larger numbers?

I do not know what to do about the child barbarians who gang-raped this girl and who live with Liberian families who will blame the girl, not their sons. Do you?