Messing up?

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By Hal Rhodes

 “I messed up,” a local newscaster reported an Albuquerque woman to have said while being taken into police custody for allegedly brutalizing her 9-year-old son to the point of causing his death.
It was the evening of Dec. 29 and we were watching the local news, waiting for the weathercast to come on before polishing off the last pieces of Christmas pecan pie warming in the oven.
“She messed up!?” I blurted out incredulously to no one in particular.
This is a woman who allegedly has admitted to kicking her son before he died, a child on whose body were subsequently found to be bruises on his back and above his genitals, cigarette burns on his lip, chest and back, bite marks and other unspecified lacerations.
And she “messed up?”
This little boy died a horrific death; the handiwork reportedly of a mother whose cruelties transcend anything that might even remotely be considered “messed up.”
For this reporter, this hideous event has become the aberrant coda of 2013, a year of aberrant behavior low and high, a year during which representatives of a once-Grand Old Party willfully shut down their nation’s government and repeatedly tried to abort a federal law calculated to bring affordable health insurance into the reach of those otherwise unable to afford it.
Aberrant behavior, Webster reminds us, is behavior that departs from normal or standard.
Which brings us to the news story immediately following that wrenching report on the death of that 9-year-old.
It involved New Mexico drivers’ licenses, which were darn near the first words out of Gov. Susana Martinez’s mouth in 2013 when she again urged the Legislature to abolish a law permitting illegal immigrants to apply for state drivers’ licenses.
Martinez’s urgings once more came to naught, but it’s puzzling how anyone — let alone any governor — would want people driving their streets and roadways who hasn’t been required to demonstrate an ability to handle a vehicle properly and to show a clear understanding of the rules of the road.
Legal or illegal, immigrant or native born, anybody who gets behind the wheel for the purpose of driving should first be tested and then licensed. The welfare and safety of everybody else, especially everybody else on, or near the road, hangs in the balance.
So it was unnerving when the newscaster pivoted from a child’s tragic death to reporting on some state senator who wants a law passed yanking the drivers’ licenses of high school students who have bad grades, are at risk of dropping out and/or have a record of truancy.
What we have here is a legislator who wants to use the state’s power to straighten out misbehavior that properly should be dealt with by a kid’s parents or guardian.
Drivers’ licenses test for driving, not grades or truancy. Too many New Mexico politicians today want them to fix everything else.
You can walk into a grocery store and if you try to buy a bottle of wine, chances are you’ll be asked for your driver’s license. You may be 45, 55 or 65 years old and even fancy over-priced outfits like Whole Foods insist on your license before selling you a six-pack. It’s posted right there by the cash register: Anybody purchasing alcoholic beverages must have a license.
Never mind that the check-out clerk can plainly see crow’s feet around the eyes and furrows in the forehead that took decades to develop.
It is aberrant and it should stop.
Would not grief be averted, and perhaps deaths of 9-year-olds prevented, if people were required to be tested and licensed for parenting skills before allowing them to procreate?