It has almost become predictable in our national life that some suburban, relatively well to do (and white) community will be stunned by a mass murder of some sort. Typically, the victims are children- think Columbine or other school shootings in our past. Predictably, the reactions are prayers, tears and outrage that children could be the target of such senseless violence. Yet I often wonder in such times, “Do we really care about kids?”
Since our country invaded Iraq, well over 100,000 civilian deaths have been documented; many of them children, obviously. Our ongoing drone attacks in Pakistan have killed close to 200 children. In Chicago, more citizens have been killed since 2001 than soldiers in Afghanistan in the same time period. Perhaps even more disturbing, between 2008 and 2011, well over 200 school children were murdered in that city. Speaking of school children, on the same day of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, a man in China stabbed 22 kids as they were arriving for class. Just two days before Thanksgiving, Jordan Davis, a black teenager, was killed in cold blood by a white, 45 year old software developer in Florida. Just like all the other stories I highlighted, nobody batted an eye at this heinous act, committed against a minor.
These examples reveal our indifference to violence committed toward children on a daily basis. Perhaps we justify our lack of outrage and/or response because the examples I gave featured children overseas and thus it doesn’t strike close to home. Perhaps others might say the examples I gave on the domestic front are not as dramatic as twenty plus dying in one location at one time. Whether those arguments are legitimate is up for debate. Whether we struggled, as a nation, to be equally sympathetic in the examples I gave earlier due to issues of race and class is another debate to be had. Ultimately, it still rings true that we are selectively concerned about the suffering of children.
This is true when innocent children of color die in this nation, three in five teachers report that students regularly come to school hungry, innocent children overseas are killed by our war machine, 3 million are being sexually abused and even as we allow 22% of our children to live in poverty every single day in this country. Perhaps our reactions to Columbine-like shootings (media coverage, political discourse- temporarily- etc.) are entirely appropriate. Even so, they are still, at best, selective. Perhaps we as a nation should be a bit more honest and admit that we care about certain children in certain dramatic instances. To say that we universally, truly care, would necessitate not only a consistent response to the suffering of children but also one that is substantive: balloons and teddy bears are not.