To those of us who see all civic life as World's Wildest Police Videos by other means, it's been a glorious few days. Temperamental mom Madelyne Gorman Toogood's performance in the parking lot of an Indiana Kohl's was, it turned out, just a warmup for a bravura display of press conference scenery-chewing. But the self-incriminating, self-pitying Irish Traveler faces stiff competition from William Ligue Jr. and his 15-year-old son, the free-stylin' Chicago White Sox fans who attacked Kansas City Royals first-base coach Tom Gamboa.
Toogood's story would seem to be the more compelling of the two, not least because the Ligues' floppy overhand hitting style seems positively girly next to the power of Toogood's devastating upper-arm pump. Toogood's background in the itinerant "Traveler" culture also allows her the luxury of casting herself as a victimized member of an underclass—a luxury of which she has already availed herself, despite the fact that she drives a car worth more than many peoples' homes. (On the downside, defense attorney Steven "Rocketman" Rosen courts honesty by calling her "Attila the Hun.) Ligue could always claim media bias against poor white trash, but that doesn't seem like the Ligue style.
The two stories present interesting contrasts in contemporary parenting. Ligue and son, in an echo of Chinatown's unsavory denouement, look even closer in age than their 19-year difference would suggest. The father is waiting on $200,000 bail, and the son will remain property of the state for at least another two weeks.
Disturbingly, so will Toogood's four-year-old daughter. Indiana child protection officials have two weeks to determine whether they will leave the child in foster care or turn her over to family members. It's an odd policy—and an inconsistent one, considering that little Martha's two brothers get to remain with family members, though they're presumably in no less danger from their mother's predations.
Foster care has become a default solution every time some dummy places an infant on a strict vegan diet or abandons a toddler in order to watch Attack of the Clones. In many cases, this may be the least objectionable solution. That parents may have the right to kill their own children is a concession to individual rights most Americans are not willing to make, and it's less offensive to the public to see the state take control than to leave kids in the care of crackheads or doctor-eschewing Christian Scientists whose only authority is a blood relationship. The hideous Toogood, whose first action after learning she was being pursued was to take pictures of her undressed daughter and whose blubbering press conferences make the public hate her even more, is a lousy mouthpiece for the principle of parental rights. But does that mean the state should make its first order of business the acquisition of her daughter by strangers? Is it wise to dismiss her when she complains that the child would be better off with family members?
And an even more pressing question: Don't the White Sox have an interest in insisting that the Ligues be assigned as fans to some foster team? Maybe the doomed Montreal Expos would be willing to take them in.