The Foundation: 009

ACEs, Troubles, and Lies

The weather’s turning and the garden’s planted. Some days I find myself walking to the back porch just to look at the plants. Tomatoes, peppers, herbs, strawberries, a blueberry bush, and some flowers here and there. Greens, too. Less than years past.

The cherry tomato plants are for my son. Last year, he ate the vines clean, a few handfuls every afternoon we were outside. I’m hoping for strawberries this year for him too. The blueberries, I think are a year or two from fruit.

I’m most excited about the potential for two vining honeysuckle plants. I’m training them against the fence so they’ll take over and hopefully I’ll have a wall of beautiful orange trumpet-like flowers that come back every year.

Child Abuse

CNN ran a pair of stories this last week, the first looking at a drop in child abuse reports and the second an interview with Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, author of The Deepest Well and widely considered one of (if not the) strongest voices in the world of early childhood advocacy. 

The gist is this: reports of child abuse are down while children have far less contact with mandated reporters like teachers, counselors, and pediatricians. This is true in Illinois same as anywhere else - I checked on this a couple weeks ago and calls to DCFS during the week were down near 50 percent. (Those days, calls are likely to come from educators, doctors and others children normally have contact with during the week. Weekend calls come more from relatives, law enforcement, hospitals, etc.)

It’s also true that conditions right now - social isolation, lack of access to support systems, economic anxiety, an uptick in domestic violence reports, potentially more substance abuse - are all connected in some ways to child abuse.

Experts don’t look at the drop in calls and suggest there is less child abuse happening. Clinicians from La Rabida, Erikson Institute, and Comer Children’s Hospital all said there was cause for concern in the DCFS numbers. (A number of the experts we talked to also pointed to a study that found growth in abusive head trauma during the last recession, and that they believe there is more abuse happening now. The study was published in 2011.) 

Burke Harris often speaks to the potentially lifelong effects of different early childhood adversities that first came to light during the 1998 ACEs study. Her book, The Deepest Well, is good reading alongside The Body Keeps The Score. I know I say that a lot. I’m going to keep saying it, though. 

If there is no change in the amount of child abuse happening, it means some significant amount isn’t being reported and kids and families aren’t getting services as a result of those reports.

There are consequences to traumas left unaddressed. Early childhood adversity is linked to negative health outcomes. The more frequent and numerous the adversities, the greater the odds. This is well documented. No individual’s outcome is written in stone, but the link is documented.


Skillz - “Imagine
Spose - “Lies Song
Hail Mary Mallon - “Dollywood” (“How are you today? Jolly fuckin good.”)


Patrick Radden Keefe - Say Nothing

This book uses the story of a project murder to look at a decades long conflict. Simple framework. As a piece of conflict reporting, this is one of the best I’ve read. The sourcing on it is unique, but I don’t want to give too much of that away. I went into this book with zero understanding of the Troubles and came out of it feeling like I understood, broadly, what was what. So in that regard, the book’s a success. Granular understanding of something sprawling. 

Something I’m glad the book touched on was how easy it is to rationalize retaliation. Violence can often make sense in the context of a conflict, or as an emotional response to something … none of which is to say it’s right. Just that it makes sense. But unchecked, it can give way to rationalized violence in perpetuity. 

This, from the Say Nothing:

“When it came to the Troubles, a phenomenon known as “whataboutery” took hold. Utter the name Jean McConville and someone would say, What about Bloody Sunday? To which you could say, What about Pat Finnucane? What about the La Mon bombing? What about the Ballymurphy massacre? What about Enniskillen? What about McGurk’s bar? What about. What about. What about.”

This book is about the Troubles. But it’s impossible to not see parallels anywhere there’s community violence. And though the violence tied to the Troubles was politically motivated, the book shows how those committing and suffering (and living with) felt it in a way that went beyond political calculations.

It’s near impossible not to, which is why the use of violence to solve disputes is so often messy and unable to be confined to a single act. The ‘whataboutery’ taking hold, and the use of that to rationalize violence that becomes cyclical, is a logical consequence. It’s much more a feature of a single act, than an anomaly. 

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