“If this country ever goes under, it will be for needless, egregious hypocrisy.” — Norman Mailer, Harlot’s Ghost
That would be our children, here in the US of A, not some (generic images of a) starving orphan in foreign lands. For a nation that claims to love and protect children, the USA does a pretty damn poor job of showing it. The infant mortality rate in this country is three times that of Sweden, twice that of Germany, and not much better than many nations with a fraction of our resources, like Cuba. Statistically, our literacy rates are among the highest in the world, yet many “American” children don’t read at their grade level. Nor can they write cursive, print, or type proper alphabets, words, sentences, or paragraphs. “Texting” is destroying literacy even as we speak. If we really want to save children in foreign lands, we could start by not bombing them, or undermining their governments, or stealing their resources, or exploiting their labor (farm workers). And the children on “Indian reservations,” and in the hills of Appalachia, or on the streets of Detroit are in just as dire straights (relatively) as the children over-seas.
Despite the plethora of advertisements from NGO’s old and new appealing for “charity” in foreign lands, the United States of America has probably caused more child poverty, hunger, abuse, and deaths than any other nation in the history of the world. We could start with the people who used to live on the North and South American continents. Not only did “we” genocide them in the past, we have cast them off onto marginal lands called “reservations.” Really? Human beings on reservations? And what about the children who were and are being murdered, maimed, and/ or starved to death by our “foreign policy?” Just off the top of my head we have Imperial Adventures in Mexico, Libya, the Philippines, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Korea, all of Southeast Asia, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, The Balkans, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and Pakistan.
“We” have supported governments that harmed children in Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Argentina, Mexico (At least 300 college students killed in Tiatololco in 1968, 43 “missing” in 2014, ten’s of thousands killed and missing in between), Indonesia (OMG), the Philippines, Israel, and the other successful British colonies of Canada and Australia, whose treatment of their native populations may be worse than our own, if that’s possible. Nuclear testing in the South Pacific didn’t do the children there any favors. “Sanctions” have caused deaths, disease, and malnutrition in Cuba, Iraq, Iran, and Korea. And how many children were sacrificed in Dresden, My Lai, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki?
Estimates are that as many as 16,000,000 children in the United States don’t get enough to eat every day, and that 2,500,000 children were homeless in 2014. More than 2,000,000 cases of child abuse or neglect are reported in the USA each year. About 140,000 kids are physically injured, and about 1,500 of them die. On any given day, there are over 1,500,000 children who have a parent that is incarcerated, mostly for victimless crimes. There are about a 500,000 children in foster care and/or awaiting adoption. About 500,000 children are currently incarcerated in the juvenile justice system, and about 200,000 youths are tried as adults each year, which means they are imprisoned with often predatory adults. There are almost 120,000 women incarcerated in this country, and at least 2,000 babies are born in prisons each year. 10,000 children die or are injured in gun violence annually in this country. We’re off to a bad start here.
And just who decided that children needed their own separate world, completely divorced from reality? A world of Santa Claus and Disneyland, false idols and talking fish? I can understand an Aesop’s Fable or two, and I believe the reading of myths from diverse cultures can help a young mind see the universality of certain ideas. It’s also cool that many of these stories contain useful “morality” and history lessons. But the commercialization of childhood: toys, games, books, television, films, theme parks, clothing; isn’t this taking “make-believe” a bit too far? First we get the innocent, trusting child to believe these fantasies, then we spend the rest of their childhood dealing with the shock of them finding out we lied. Any definition of “sin” must include “exploiting a child’s naïveté for profit.”
It might also include “selling chemicals and offal as food.” I actually wince, shudder, and cringe when I see what many parents are feeding their children. Most laypersons cannot understand the lists of ingredients on the labels (when there are labels), chief among which is corn syrup in all it’s disguises.
Hydrogenated oils, soy, colorings, processed flour, and “flavors,” (all possible allergens) barely qualify as “food,” and yet make up the bulk of any processed or prepared “food products.” An offal-burger and GMO fries once a week may not do much harm, but a steady diet of “fast” and other prepared foods, especially chips and soda, has lead directly to the present “epidemic” of childhood obesity. If we loved our children, we wouldn’t feed them crap and set them up for juvenile diabetes, (also epidemic).
And what makes a “dult” (thanks, Maura) think a child would rather spend their precious childhood talking about a cartoon fish, as opposed to learning about the fish he had for dinner this week, or a fish that weighs 1,500 lbs. and swim 50 mph (bluefin tuna), or a fish that has been around virtually unchanged since the days of the dinosaurs (coelacanth)? Children are perfectly capable of understanding the “real world;” indeed, they are designed to learn. Nemo, Schmemo, the anchovy/ salmon/pinniped/great white shark food chain story is at least as interesting as anything “created” for a children’s book or movie. It is also a true story; something that has actually happened, is happening today, and will happen tomorrow, i.e. the much- hyped, but seldom engaged “reality.” Shouldn’t a child have a grounding in the observable Universe, i.e. Nature, as opposed to “fantasy?”
I see looks ranging from foot-dragging, to pouting/sulking, to sheer terror on the faces of the little tykes being drug off to school on cold, dark, rainy Winter mornings. My Little Friend Sheena was in full rebellion mode on the first day of school this year; Mom Jeena could hardly console her. No self- respecting child wants to be separated from their siblings, parents, and toys to sit in a room full of snotty-nosed strangers listening to another stranger blather on and on about…..whatever. Telling a child to “Sit still and be quiet!” may be actually be child abuse, seeing as they are designed by Nature/God/ Great Spirit to run, not walk or sit (developing their bodies) and scream and yell (developing their heart and lungs). The proof that this system of education/ childcare is not natural, efficient, or proper is the fact that one in four children in the USA is now on psychotropic drugs. Seriously? History will not look upon us kindly.
It does not require a classroom to learn…anything. Hustling the little persons off to a brick and mortar building so they can sit in rows is so 19th century. In case you missed it, this is the 21st Century. How about a field trip to the Farallones to see the process in action, live and closeup? Getting out into the real world would also a chance for them to learn a little math (miles, knots, kilometers, fathoms), Spanish (Farallones, Alcatraz, Tiburon, Lobos, Yerba Buena), oceanography, geography, ornithology (how many types of gull ARE there? Many, several; lots.), invertebrate zoology (whales, dolphins, porpoises, the difference between seals and sea lions), natural history, meteorology, basic navigational principals (buoys and lighthouses), and how to prevent and recover from seasickness. If necessary, demonstrate the cherished nautical tradition of keel-hauling (with their teddy- bears) if they don’t behave…..
Speaking of water-boarding, the average child has seen 200,000 acts of violence and 16,000 murders on television by age 18. Video games, movies, and random pop culture also contribute to a culture where killing or torturing another human being is commonplace, expected; normal. Any rational person would recognize this as child abuse. But in our “culture,” this behavior is normal and accepted; unless you are a member of a racial or religious minority. Then it is considered a “criminal” act, or a “terrorist” activity. This is but one of many mixed messages we send to our children. “Thou shalt not kill, except when you believe it’s alright to do so, based on… whatever.” No wonder many people (mostly males) grow up not really knowing the difference between good and evil, or between right and wrong. Hint: it’s always wrong to kill, except maybe some types of euthanasia. This probably even applies to animals, although the question remains: if we weren’t supposed to eat animals, why do they taste so good?
So the next time you see some NGO asking for your money to “Save The Children,” well, “Just Say NO!” Save your own child; save the children in your extended family, your village/neighborhood/ community/city/state/country. Stop feeding them junk food and junk information in the form of “entertainment.” Let the children play, at least for their first seven to eleven years. “Life” will get serious soon enough. Trust in their innate ability to self-organize.
Decentralization will be the key “disruptor” of the present economic and social milieu. Home schooling by an extended family, a 21st Century library and museum system, and a network of certified freelance mentors should be able to provide all the education any child needs. As for “oh, the children, the children,” let’s remove the tree from our eye, before we worry about the splinter in our neighbor’s.
Joseph Thomas is a San Francisco writer, photographer, and video producer.
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