Imagine the indignity of having your parenting skills called into question.
On national television.
Cary Smith and Donna Powers didn't have to imagine it. It happened to them on Wednesday night, on CNN Headline News. Perfect strangers were telling them how they failed. They failed to get treatment for 15-year-old Wayne Treacy (Powers' son, Smith's stepson), following his brother's suicide last October, expert strangers said. Smith in particular failed by seeming to voice approval for the March 17 beating and stomping of Josie Lou Ratley, for which Treacy is facing an attempted murder charge and, possibly, a healthy prison term.
"Who are they to judge me and my wife?" Smith yelled at me Thursday morning. "Who are you
to judge me and my wife?"
Smith was referring to my appearance the night before on "Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell" (excerpted in the attached video). I was on to talk about an online support group showing compassion for Treacy.
Neither Smith nor Powers was on the program. I can only imagine they sat at home and watched strangers criticize them for not insisting that Treacy see a therapist to come to terms with the suicide of his older brother, Michael Bell. Smith also faced criticism for a jailhouse phone call in which he told Treacy he harbored "a lot of anger" toward the victim over the incendiary text message exchange that prompted the attack.
"She ain't giggling now, is she?" Smith said in that now-infamous phone call.
Panelists on the show excoriated Smith. He, in turn, lashed out at me for being the first to find and report on Treacy's jailhouse calls.
But most of Smith's anger seemed to be directed at having his parenting skills scrutinized by people who have no idea what it's like to lose one child to suicide and another to the justice system while struggling to keep your wife comforted and your life in one piece.
"Blame the parents! That's what they said, right on television," Smith barked at me.
Actually, I've always said blaming the parents
in this particular case is a simplistic approach that solves nothing. And for the record, I said nothing about parenting on the Issues program Wednesday night. I tried to interject at one point as they were discussing the jailhouse call, but I failed to get a word in edgewise.
I would have liked to say that Cary Smith and Donna Powers did not assault Josie Lou Ratley and they did not hang Michael Bell.
Is it realistic for people to expect them to emerge from Bell's suicide emotionally unscathed, with enough perceptiveness and acuity to recognize that Treacy needed
therapy whether he wanted
it or not? That's an easy question to answer in hindsight, sure, but it wasn't so easy for them as they lived through it.
I imagine that if one of my stepkids committed suicide and another nearly killed someone, I might, in unguarded moments, say a few things I'd rather not see quoted in a newspaper or on television. In any event, Smith and Powers already live daily with the consequences of the actions of Michael Bell and Wayne Treacy. Jumping on their parenting skills strikes me as gratuitous.
It's probably not my place to offer an opinion on what they need, but I think I'm on safe ground expressing what I think they don't need.
They don't need more judges.
Doctors say Josie Lou Ratley was left with irreparable brain damage after the March 17 assault. Updates on her condition and information about how to contribute to her cause is available at the websites of attorney Sean Domnick or the non-profit group National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment.
Keep up with Sun Sentinel writer Rafael Olmeda on Facebook and Twitter (@rolmeda).
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