Saturday, October 3, 2009

Is it okay to tattoo your kid?

Suppose you're a low-life dad in Fresno, tattoos all over. You belong to the Bulldogs, the symbol of which is a dog's pawprint. You tattoo friends, although you don't have a license to do so, so you pretty much know what you're doing.

Now suppose your 7-year-old son comes up to you and says, "Daddy, I want to be just like you; can I have a tattoo like yours?" You brim with pride and tattoo a quarter-size pawprint on his hip.

Authorities found out about it when the guy's ex-wife saw the tattoo and called them. The DA first charged the dad with aggravated mayhem, which usually refers to shootings, stabbings, and disfiguring beatings. The judge threw that out. Now he is charged with cruel and inhumane treatment of a child. He was not charged with the one thing the defense and prosecution agreed he was guilty of, tattooing a child under 18.

I think it is bizarre to claim a tattoo is cruel and inhumane. There's a good chance they cut the tip of the boy's penis off with a knife when he was a defenseless infant, and putting a small tattoo on his hip is cruel and inhumane? Kids from any number of cultures are tattooed. We allow people to teach children that God sent Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for planning to host a gay pride parade, and we let people send their kids to Jesus Camp, where they learn that evolution is false, homosexuality is an abominable choice, and they are soldiers in god's army to take America back for Christ, and giving a kid a tattoo like his dad's is cruel and inhumane?

It may be bad parenting. The kid may turn into a social worker and be very embarrassed about the tattoo when he's older, or it may be a step in the kid ending up like the old man, but it's not cruel and inhumane and certainly less so than other types of child-rearing we encourage

And I don't think it makes much difference that this tattoo is a gang symbol. The kid is engulfed in the gang milieu just by living with his dad, and other local gangs already know which gang this kid is associated with, so it doesn't seem to increase the danger in his life much

UPDATE: The more I think about this, the more the cultural bias bothers me. Would they have charged the dad with cruel and inhumane treatment if he had tattooed a cross on the kid's arm? Or if a Native American had tattooed a kid's totem on his hip? Is putting a drawing on the hip worse than poking holes in little kid's skin flaps so she can insert jewelry in the holes or cutting off the tip of his penis "so he can be just like his dad."

The dad is being prosecuted because he is a low-life. It is selective prosecution, unless the DA does the same thing for ear piercings, cross tattoos, and circumcision. The alternative is because the DA doesn't like the dad's lifestyle. Neither do I, but that's not a reason to put him in jail for giving in to his kid's desire to have a tattoo

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