In "Less Than Human" Allen Long, now in his 60's, shares his honest and well-written memoir of overcoming the childhood abuse he suffered during an era when corporal punishment was considered such standard operating procedure in the raising of children that an adult's emotional dis tress and inner rage could be taken out on one's children in the name of love and with society's blessing. And to Long and his brother, though they lived in fear of a beating for the slightest childish infraction, real or imagined on their parent's part, parental beatings were just a normal part of their otherwise normal childhood in an affluent neighborhood where they were good students in a good school.
I've told a number of people of my generation about "Less Than Human."
I brought it with me to last week's meeting with my Wednesday morning Panera Posse, during which we - a diverse group of women from a variety of ethic, racial, and religious backgrounds, though more or less of the same generation and absolutely of the same political persuasion - meet for bagels, coffee, camaraderie, and to discuss everything.
I told the group about the book's subject matter and passed the book around for everyone to look at. All the women in the group were affected Allen Long's story,
One of the Posse members, a woman from Eritrea who was married at thirteen and has six children, three of them born in a Sudanese refugee camp, told us of a time years ago shortly after she'd arrived in this country when she spanked one of her children in a store for acting up. Another shopper chastised her for hitting her child, and though her English was not proficient, my friend understood that the woman was warning her that she could be arrested for hitting her child.
That evening when my friend's husband returned home from work she asked him if one could be arrested in this country for spanking one's children. He husband assured her that one could.
"After that," my friend told us, "I never again spanked my children."
A few days later I was telling some other friends about the book over dinner, which again sparked memories of childhood corporal punishment, one friend recalling some playmates whose parents were notorious in the neighborhood for taking a belt to their children.
Said my friend, "One of the children in that family broke away from their mother and father as adult and never again talked to their parents until their dying day because of all the beatings they suffered as a child."
I added that I bet that kind of outcome was probably unusual; that abused children nevertheless remained close to their parents even as adults, not psychologically separating their desire for their parents' love and acceptance from the abuse they suffered at their parents' hands.
There was a moment after our dinner when, as we were preparing to leave, I was standing with two of my friends.
"My father hit me too much when I was young," said one.
"Mine, too," added the other.
Considering the complex bonds of love and need between parent and child I doubt that childhood abuse will ever become the next #me too.
But it probably could.