A Difficult Judgmentalism

While by no means condoning his behavior, some commenters decline to judge the lifestyle of George Holland, which Marc described on Thursday. Writes Joe:

I don’t know – it seems the guy was genuinely liked by these women [with whom he fathered children] – they probably wouldn’t all get on the same page to fabricate a story if he were that bad. I don’t like to judge other peoples’ lifestyle arrangements because there are “conventional” families wherein the worst imaginable types of abuse occur, out of sight, out of mind.

Our society has determined that non-judgmentalism is a virtue, but it seems to me to be as facile and irresponsible as a judgmentalism that follows a strict, unconsidered line and conveniently exempts the behavior of the person who’s being judgmental. Passing judgment shouldn’t be done frivolously or as a means of directing attention away from one’s own behavior, but leveling all personal decisions ignores millennia of cultural experience and shirking the duty to exert individual social pressure ensures that we’ll all pay the price, in the forms of both government cleanup and cultural decay.
Tabetha offers anecdotal evidence of one such abusive “conventional family”:

Lakesha Garrett, who was recently accused of murder, was once a promising straight A student at Classical HS with 3 scholarships lined up for college. I know this because she and I were very close friends as teenagers. However, she was the victim of horrible abuse – abuse so terrible that there is actually a child abuse law in RI named for her family. To the outside world, Lakesha came from a “conventional” family. Her mom and dad were married, she and her siblings shared the same two parents, and her parents were outwardly religious, church-going folks who owned several rental properties in the West End and Southside area. However, there was a much darker side to this family. … So, while the children of this guy Holland may not be living in what many consider ideal circumstances, perhaps they will turn out much more well-adjusted than some kids that you think are living with “proper” families. The mothers of these children may be doing a better job than some of the families you think are great. I don’t know since I don’t know these people myself. It is not always easy to see where children are most open to harm.

Perhaps. Maybe. Earlier, Tabetha implies that the children of folks like Holland might be justifiably removed, but it shouldn’t be difficult to find examples of foster and adoptive homes that turned abusive.
Humanity isn’t formed with cookie cutters, and few are entirely evil. Therefore, it isn’t enough to say that one guy who resigned his children to an “unconventional family” was decent and tried to do the best for them, while this other family looked normal and did horrible things to their kids. If Holland had made the not-so-difficult decision to limit his fatherhood experience to the mother and children with whom he’d begun, it’s reasonable to suggest that he would have advanced in a more healthy direction, rather than a direction such as Tabetha describes in the Garretts. On the other hand, imagine if Mr. Garrett had lived after Holland’s example.
Holland’s children and others who’ve observed his story have learned from him and from the women’s reactions, that his behavior was just fine. And maybe we could accept that if the qualities that mitigated the effects, on his part, were universal. But his sons might not be so apt to consider their children. His daughters might not see similar behavior in their boyfriends as a warning sign. To the extent that societal approval affects those who are making the right decisions (and the effect isn’t nil), why should they work so hard at building families and restraining their temptations when they’d avoid negative reactions were they to freewheel just shy of abuse and drug dealing?
Pretending that we don’t know where this path leads when taken not by a single family, but by a society, is irresponsible and doesn’t absolve us of guilt any more than freely pointing fingers at everybody else does.

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Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
12 years ago

If memory serves, Charles Manson had a “family”. I think most people would describe that family as “unconventional”.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Justin-it’s nice that on AR we can debate without being downrated for not being politically correct like happens on certain party-line dominated sites,such as RIF and Kmareka.
If we were all on the same page,this would be a pretty boring mutual backrub society.

12 years ago

Diversity of opinions and thoughts makes life more interesting, that’s for sure.
I guess I would like to clarify my statement on the suggestion that children in certain situations should be removed from the home. My concern comes from the possibility of imminent harm. I thought the fact that Holland was dealing drugs could certainly have put his children in harm’s way. If he were doing this from his home, he would be inviting potentially violent people and situations into contact with his children. In such cases, the children are in danger and should not be left in that setting. I don’t think that children should be taken out of their homes, however, just because a family is unconventional. My example of the Garretts showed that it can be difficult to determine just what makes a family safe, happy, and nurturing for children. Some families that look to be ideal from the outside may not be while others that seem unconventional could well be decent. As I stated, I don’t know the mothers of these children. They may be good moms; they may not be. I can’t say how Holland treated his children since I don’t know the man, but perhaps he was generally good to them. My concern regarding judgment is that unless you have intimate knowledge of a family’s situation, it is very difficult to say what kinds of families are best. The construct of a “good” family is somewhat subjective in nature.

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Yeah, I don’t know how folks expect to improve their own arguments when they ignore contrary points or dismiss the opposition as arguing in “bad faith.” Even if the points are offered in bad faith, sometimes there one can glean substance that’s worth taking into account in one’s own arguments.

12 years ago

Yo – I really need to get in touch with Tabetha but can’t find a profile on this site? I was close with Lakesha’s sister Sheila, who killed herself in 1993 – also knew Lakesha, and right now a bunch of us are trying to collect as much info about the Garrett family as possible. So Tabetha, if yr there, or anyone knows how to contact her: reverandjuha@gmail.com
Such a blessing to find this.
Much love,

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