Tuesday, September 22, 2009

For the Hate of God

For the Hate of God
One day in Bethel, I had a completely routine assignment to assist a teenage Yup’ik girl in pleading out to a charge of public intoxication so she could go home with time served. I seem to recall that she had double-digit priors. During our conversation, minutes before the judge took the bench, she mentioned that she was pregnant.

I then said to her in the most solemn, dead-serious tone of voice, “You can go home today, but for the love of God, don’t drink while you’re pregnant.” She let out a loud giggle and said, in a thoroughly silly voice, “You mean, for the hate of God.”

At that moment, my blood turned to ice. I repeated to her, in that same tone, “For the love of God, don’t drink while you’re pregnant.”

Once again, she let out a silly giggle and once again said, “You mean for the hate of God.”

I was beyond appalled, and not with her language. If anyone reading this doesn’t understand the depths of my disgust that she would endanger the health of the child she was carrying, perhaps you’ve never seen the all-too-common results of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which is quite common in Western Alaska. When the magistrate asked me if my client wished to enter a plea, I took a deep breath and said that I did not think my client was competent to enter a plea.

That young woman spent another day in jail. And I was admonished not to do that sort of thing again. As far as I know, she went home the next day. I have no idea what happened to that woman or her child. I like to think that I gave the kid a break at least for one day.

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