I share the horror and dismay over the 200 young women kidnapped in Nigeria, just because they were attending school. However, my horror does not stop there. It hardly even registers there.
Millions of children all over the world are forced into sexual slavery or heavy labor every year. Pre-teen girls and boys are smuggled into India, where they become the playthings of traffickers. American children are brutalized for pornography -- babies, even. Kids make bricks, dig gold, pick cocoa beans and coffee. They sew hair on Barbie dolls and make sneakers.
When did children cease to be important, except as commodities?
One of the most chilling books I've read in recent years is this one, about a boy in Sierra Leone who became a child soldier. But there's no smirking from me on this side of the pond. Camden has child soldiers too.
When did children cease to be important?
I submit that the brutalization of children began when the world population grew to saturation point. At some time in our past, there must have been more food than there were people to eat it. This was before recorded history, so we have no way of knowing when that time might have been. Then children were valued. Then their education and health were important. Both genders.
Last night, I was looking at Facebook and someone had posted a picture of a child's skull that still had all its adult teeth. The caption was, "They really are aliens." I sat there aghast. That skeleton with the adult teeth still up in the gums represents a dead child, one who died at a very tender age. Little do we care. Call it an alien, make it a joke.
Again, far be it from us to point fingers at Nigeria and cry for justice there. Our culture has a pervasive anti-child bias as well. From the age of three children are told to sit still and learn their letters and numbers, sitting ever stiller for ever longer as they grow, facing ever more rigorous school work, until many of them need drugs to be able to stand it. Their play has become regimented, their imaginations usurped by technology. There are 12 children under 10 years of age on my block, and I never see them outside, just playing. They aren't making bricks, but they're not being kids, either.
Lately I have noted another interesting phenomenon, as well. Two weeks ago or so, there was an outcry over a rape scene in Game of Thrones. After that I saw several earnest editorials about the cavalier rapes in the book and on the television show. But I have not seen one commentary on the heroine Arya Stark, who is a killer by age eight. As I read that series, I grew ever more uncomfortable with Arya. She is a child soldier, and we root for her to kill people. Maybe if I wasn't acquainted with Ishmael Beah, I wouldn't mind Arya's role, either. But kids don't belong in armies any more than they belong in brothels. And they populate both. Seems alright if they're killers, especially if the victims are adults.
If this episode in Nigeria does anything, it should remind us to put a value on childhood. We grow too soon old in this world. And yet still we rush the process along. It is our worst sin.