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In other little girl news…

Laura Dekker sails aboard Guppy
13-year-old Laura Dekker wants to challenge the recent round-the-world age record, but the Dutch government prevented her departure on the grounds that 13 might be too young. Dekker’s supportive parents are being painted as reckless and cavalier. The spin from the Netherlands bookends well with the little-girl-lost klaxon out of California: eccentrics are untrustworthy. Behavior deviating from norm can be probable cause all of itself to suspect a) child neglect or b) even horrific criminality.

On the improbably wisdom of circling the world at 13: probably if you’re not of legal age to represent yourself on a contract, let alone customs documents, you shouldn’t be traveling solo by boat or plane. That preempts the debate about whether under-age or marginally qualified recreational sailors should put an unwarranted burden on maritime rescue resources.

Shrouded by the implied criticisms of the Dekker family, were some very relevant details that their daughter was born while the couple was circumnavigating the world, and spent her childhood on the sea. Laura Dekker got own yacht when she was six. SIX. And was sailing solo by age ten. Does that register? TEN. Who are we, past-our-prime landlubbers, to assess her competence?

Junior Ms. Dekker ran afoul of authorities when she sailed to England alone. The British insisted that her father fly to accompany her return. He protested that his daughter was fully able to return of her own, but was forced to relent. He flew to England, but secretly cast her off and snuck back by plane. When the Dutch authorities discovered that the daughter was still sailing alone, they intercepted her arrival.

A family of eccentrics shut down.

The off-the-charts ugliness in California, with the rescue of Jaycee Dugard, appears more inhuman with each day’s revelations. And more queasily human, as her zealously religious abductor attempts to communicate to the press about a forthcoming “heartwarming story” he forecasts will emerge.

Victim too of the repulsive mess is feeding of paranoia: the public’s impulse to image how the young Dugard could have been rescued sooner. If only neighbors had been more alert to Phillip Garrido’s creepy behavior; religious zealousness, homeschooling, differently behaved children, the odd eccentricities, become in hindsight the probable cause for our regret not having searched the Garrido backyard sooner.

How many estranged neighbors are now calling the police on each other, hopeful to unearth depraved sexual deviance. How more uncomfortable are we making eccentrics, especially the solitary sort without family, more self-conscious about merely behaving differently?

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Comments

Comment from Brother Jonah   (IP: 174.22.134.111)
Time: October 20, 2009, 10:30 pm

The British and Dutch (and American) navies used to recruit children as young as 8.

Old enough to be able to do the work and small enough (and reckless enough) to do all the dangerous cramped quarters duties aboard ship.

Being of small stature is actually a desirable trait among sailors. My brother was in the USN “canoe club” and according to him, there’s actually a MAXIMUM size limit for sailors.

Which misses the point, I know. I guess Rabid Hysteria must be fun in some way. There certainly are enough people willing to participate.

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