(About a 6 minute read)
“Ignorance is the root and stem of all evil” — Plato
Trigger Warning: Explicit references to child sexual abuse, etc.
Shannon’s father and two uncles were widely reputed to be the three most evil beasts in Champaign County, Illinois. For one thing, before the Chicago gangs moved in with their greater numbers, the brothers and their friends controlled the hard drug trade in the county.
To call them “beasts”, however, is somewhat misleading since it might imply that the brothers were somewhat on the dull side. In fact, just the opposite seems to have been true. The brothers had a reputation for brains. It was pessimistically said, they could not be outsmarted.
I myself do not know how true that was, since I never had direct dealings with any of them. But I do know that Shannon was no slouch herself when it came to brains, and her cousin, Rae, who I knew better than I knew Shannon, was a genius. Rae’s daughter, Amanda, was also a genius — at least, according to the schools. The evening I first met Amanda she was five years old and wielding words like a high school honors student.
When Shannon told Rae the details of her upbringing, Rae’s response was that she was glad her own father had merely physically tortured her from time to time — in between the beatings, that is. It was the first time in her life, Rae said, she felt gratitude towards him.
Shannon grew up to be a pretty woman. She wore her blonde hair short; her pale blue eyes were perhaps her most beautiful feature, and her face crowned a petite, fit, almost athletic body. She had been systemically abused, of course, since nearly before she could remember.
Systemically abused. There was nothing even the least bit haphazard in Shannon’s “upbringing”. Her father was the oldest of the three brothers and their leader. Please bear with me now while I tell you a story so incredible I will forgive you if you think I am exaggerating any of it.
I do not now recall whether Rae said Shannon was six or seven when the abuse started. All I recall is it was either one or the other age, and that some foresight and planning had gone into it.
As Shannon told it to Rae, it began when her mother and father quit holding her.
That might seem a strange beginning to a tale of genuine abuse, but again — please allow me to tell you the significance of the event before you judge its importance. Her mother and father quit holding her so that Shannon would be encouraged to bond with her uncle (not Rae’s father), who now made his lap available to her.
Shannon responded to the encouragement as you might expect, finding the love her parents denied her in her uncle’s lap. Six months went by and then, once her uncle was dead certain that Shannon was well bonded with him, he refused her his lap.
When she tearfully begged him to relent, he told her she must kiss his penis first before he would allow her back in his lap. Naturally, that’s what she did. He rewarded her with a quarter.
That now became standard. If she wanted lap time — the only lap time in her whole world — she must kiss her uncle’s penis. And that went on for about a year. Her uncle then “graduated” her to taking his penis in her mouth. Again, there was a months long period while she was being instructed in precisely what to do with his penis once it was in her mouth. Following that, her uncle again “graduated” her to nudity.
Then came his touching her genitals, and so forth, step by step until he penetrated her on the day of her 11th birthday.
Meanwhile, her primary caretakers had also been busy minding her upbringing. Her mother and father were progressively introducing Shannon to harder and harder drugs. By the time Shannon was eleven, she was a crack addict.
Moreover, her parents were no longer giving her drugs for free. They were not charging her much, but they were charging her a dollar per use.
The day came when, at age eleven, Shannon begged her parents for a hit. They refused because “she didn’t have the money. Go ask your uncle for a dollar.” Shannon ran down the street to her uncle’s place.
He too refused. He’d been giving her a dollar for intercourse, but this time he refused. Shannon was frantic now. Her uncle told her to go walk the street until she came upon someone who wasn’t a cop. “Tell him what you’ll do for a dollar”. Shannon obeyed.
From the age of six or seven until eleven, Shannon had been consciously and systematically plotted against by her parents and her uncle. She had been turned into a child prostitute with foresight and planning.
And why? For what reason?
When Shannon asked her parents that, they replied they had done it so that they would not need to support her themselves, “on account of her being able to support herself as a whore.”
They hadn’t even done it to her so that she could support herself, really. They’d done it to her so they themselves would not have to support her.
Of course, Shannon still got her share of the beatings and occasional torture sessions that Rae got. It wasn’t like kids could escape those things in that clan.
Although I knew Rae much better, I knew Shannon well enough to know she was incapable of loving by the time she was in her twenties. She had two young kids by then, and she loved neither one of them. She had a boyfriend — one after the next, really — and she loved none of them. She could become emotionally dependent, but she could not love by the time I knew her.
At eleven, Shannon told her school guidance councilor what was happening to her. Initially she had believed Shannon. However, as Shannon added detail upon detail to her story, the councilor had become skeptical. Surely the girl was making it up. No one plans out, and then executes, such a plan! The councilor told Shannon how sorry she was that she couldn’t help.
I have left out parts of Shannon’s story either because they are merely repetitious, or in one case, because the incident is so perverted that it might distress some readers to hear of it happening to a child.
It is in large part because of Shannon — or more precisely because of her family — that I wonder about Plato’s notion that we do evil only because we know no better than to do evil. That, if only we knew better, we would refuse to do evil, and would instead do good.
I don’t scoff at Plato’s notion, but it seems to me it would be difficult to prove that Shannon’s parents and uncle didn’t know what they were doing was evil.