Bleary-Eyed Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/21/2019: The Child Endangerment Follies

Abby Sunderland, now and then.

Not awake, don’t expect to be awake…

…any time soon.

1. Where have I been? Yesterday’s 16 hour marathon for the D.C. bar, followed by another three hours bright and early this morning, pretty much have me operating with one-half of my brain tied behind my back while functioning like a lesser Kardashian with a closed head injury. That I got through it all relatively intact is all due to the Ethical Arts Players, my team of brilliant actors who frequently enhance ProEthics programs—in this case, Esther Covington, David Elias and Chris Davenport, who played 10 comic characters in the ethics training video we were shooting, and Paul Morella, who has been portraying Clarence Darrow with me for almost two decades. It was long day and an exhausting day, but thanks to them, a very proud day for ProEthics.

2. Terrific open forum, everyone, and once again, thanks.

3. On child exploitation...Since you asked about my view of children setting “youngest” records doing dangerous things: the opening thread on the forum was sparked Keith Walkers comment,

Yesterday on the Today Show there was a feature on a 10-year-old who just became the youngest person to ever successfully climb El Capitan. I immediately thought of Jack and this blog, wondering what he would think of the parents’ decision to let this happen, since someone who is 10 is clearly too young to understand the potentially deadly ramifications of failure. Several friends agreed with my leanings toward “what on Earth were the parents thinking??”, but some made some good points the other way as well. (The parents were well-trained climbers, were with her the entire climb, clearly professionals, etc. – the girl was surrounded with experience, if that makes a difference in your opinion.)

As several commenters knew or guessed, my position on this kind of thing is fixed, and I have expressed it many times. Like…

  • …in my several posts about the dreadful “Biking Vogels,” who dragged their twin boys out of school to engage in “a two and a half-year quest to get their twins the Guinness Record for the youngest boys to spend their childhood on bikes, or something like that…requiring them to abandon a normal childhood to be part of their parents’ chosen lifestyle. It is being funded by the presumption that this is a novel and healthy experiment in home-schooling. Fans of the Vogels, including a fawning American media, pronounce the effort a wonderful educational opportunity for Daryl and Davy…and the adventure of a lifetime.”

  Ethics Alarms’ position was that the boys were being exploited by their parents at the cost of the children’s comfort, safety, health, and socialization: “John and Nancy Vogel are the latest example of high-profile parents compromising the safety, welfare, comfort and emotional development of their children for selfish motives.”

  • Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, who brought their 1-year-old daughter Lyra and her 3-year-old sister, Cora along with them as they embarked in March on the great adventure of sailing across the Pacific as the first leg of a planned circumnavigation of the globe. “In a 36-foot sailboat.  Alone. With a toddler. And an infant. Morons.”

What happened?

“Little Lyra developed a fever and a rash was circumnavigating her body, and her parents had run out of ideas for treating it. The Kaufmans issued a satellite call for help to the U.S. Coast Guard after their  sailboat, Rebel Heart. lost its steering and radio about 900 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Would the fever have been sufficient to alarm the Kaufmans if the sailboat was still functioning? Who knows, with these geniuses. Their thought processes are a mystery. So four California Air National Guard members had to parachute into the ocean to rescue the family and its sick child.”

  • Haris Suleman and his father, Babar Suleman, from Plainfield, Indiana, “who were attempting to fly around the world with the newly licensed  teen piloting their single-engine aircraft. The journey, to be completed in 30 days, would have set a record. Gotta set those records! …As the plane piloted by a 17-year-old novice pilot took off from an airport in Pago Pago in American Samoa, it suddenly lost power and crashed into the water. The boy is dead; the father’s body has yet to be found….”

I wrote,

Whether children fully understand it or not, they trust their parents to guide them away from harm, not into it. That is, unless they have parents who see their children as a vicarious or direct way to realize their own ambitions. We are told that Daddy Suleman “had long dreamed of flying around the world” and that “he and his son decided to make the adventure a fundraiser for the Citizens Foundation, which has built 1,000 schools in Pakistan.” Right. His son decided that. All by himself. Sure. The father decided to realize his dream by endangering his son, and that’s a the sad and unpleasant truth.

  • Paul Romero, who was determined to have his 13-year-old son climb Mt. Everest. I wrote in part,

A 13 year old has neither the judgment or the strength of an adult, and he does not have the maturity to be responsible for his own decisions. This all started because Jordan wanted to climb all the major peaks in the world by his 16th birthday.  Cute: and this is when a responsible parent says, “No.” If he tries Everest when he’s 21 and dies, as people who try to climb the world’s highest mountain do with some regularity, at least he made an informed decision and at least he lived 21 years. …The parent protests that it [is] the child’s choice, and the child [is] “experienced.” Well, no child is experienced enough to agree to subject himself or herself to peril, physical, or emotional.

  • Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old whose parent allowed and encouraged to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo by sea. She nearly died; that she did not was pure moral luck. I wrote,

That a tragedy may have been averted, however, doesn’t mitigate that unethical abdication of responsible parenting and trust by Abby’s parents that set the stage for a calamity. Had the ill-conceived adventure ended fatally, it is certain that we would have heard her heart-broken parents eulogize their daughter as intrepid, courageous and mature beyond her appearance, who lived a full life in her sixteen years, and perished “living her dream.” All true, but those aren’t the facts that matter. What matters is that she is a dependent, trusting, sixteen-year old child who desperately needed her older and supposedly wiser parents to say “No. Being the youngest woman to sail around the world is good, living long enough to go to college, have a family, have a career and experience the joys of life over many decades is better. Sorry. It’s too dangerous. When you understand a little bit more about life, you may be capable of deciding when to risk it.”

Abby is perhaps the best poster child for all of these fiascos. She tried to circumnavigate the globe a second time in 2011, but her boat lost its mast, and she had to be rescued again. This rescue cost $300,000, and Abby and her family were criticized by French papers by not contributing to pay for it. Her father  continued to exploit his daughter’s yachting failures, at one time seeking a reality show for her and making a documentary. Abby wrote (that is, her ghost-writer did) a book, and went on book-signing tours. She claimed then that she would be getting a pilot’s license so she could fly around the world solo.

Now 25 and her 15 minutes of fame long gone, she lives in Alabama, and is married with three children.

I confess, I hate all of these stories of child exploitation and abuse, which are almost always cheered by a shameless and irresponsible media that give the unethical parents exactly what they want: publicity, morning TV interviews, and their pathetic measure of fame and false importance.


12 thoughts on “Bleary-Eyed Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/21/2019: The Child Endangerment Follies

    • Yup. Every time democrats enact stupid gun laws with absolutely no basis in safety, manufacturers simply make an adjustment here & there. Vast amounts of time, effort, & money down the toilet. A really good example of this is the Series 80 Colt M1911. A lawyer with absolutely zero firearms expertise theorized that, if a 1911 were dropped just so on its muzzle from beyond a certain height, the inertial firing pin would fly forward, causing an accidental discharge. Funny thing is, no one has been able to make this happen in countless attempts, from any height, under any conditions.

    • The same thoughts I have about all child stars of any kind, including actors, models, singers, gymnasts,skaters, swimmers, and instrumental prodigies. The parents are exploiting and abusing the kids, who are not old enough to consent to what is happening to their youth, life choices, socialization and mental health.

  1. Re: the Biking Vogels. I have to wonder if
    anyone in the fawning press floated the fact that, statistically, children are more at risk of death and injury while riding their bikes to school than they are of encountering a school shooting. It could only have been exponentially worse with the Vogel’s itennerary.

    Actually, nahhh, I don’t wonder at all if that came up

    • But Bikes are healthy exercise for our obese kids and don’t use fossil fuels that destroy our environment…we’ve covered them with padding and helmets so they should be fine!

      So, yeah, no.

      Frankly, I think it’s a miracle the Vogels weren’t robbed at gunpoint on their trek through Central America. One of their kids lost his toys to some pint-sized thief, though.

  2. Re: #2: you’re welcome.

    I may not have contributed anything (except my watchful eye). Rest assured, had heads needed busting, I would have.

    Again, you’re welcome.


  3. I think we’re never wiser than we are in the minutes or seconds before our imminent deaths. I can’t help but wonder if these parents had a flash of insight into just how stupid and pointless the demise of their family was, just before the end?

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