The sophistry enshrined in the Declaration of Independence by a cabal of slave owners professing that all men are created equal with a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was not the first example of hypocrisy uttered in what was to become these United States, nor was it the last. So it should have come as no surprise that the debates about children and guns prompted by the Newtown massacre would be informed in many instances by people talking out of both sides of their mouths. Let’s focus on the children.
The slaughter of 20 6- and 7-year-old children was an abominable and horrible tragedy that evoked all kinds of expressions of horror and incomprehension, except among officials at the NRA and their more vocal supporters, who appeared to see this more as a public relations problem. There were the usual calls about “doing something to see this doesn’t happen again” but they will very likely be as meaningless as all others that preceded them. What happened after Columbine and Thurston High? Nothing.
Beyond the thought of such young children being killed, why did they get so much attention? Because slaughtering a score of children at one time rises to the level of an event that qualifies for propagation by national media.
Before Newtown, hundreds of children were killed by guns and other means each year, but they were rarely referred to in national news stories. Why not? Because they were picked off one or two at a time and rarely became an event. And, the problem with events like Newtown is they are displaced by other events and relegated to the back of some memory closet. How many people recall Columbine and Thurston High with horror? In Newtown’s case, the displacement probably began with Lance Armstrong confessing on Oprah and continued with Michelle Obama’s new hair-do and other more banal stories. Many Oregonians were probably distracted by Chip Kelly’s leaving Oregon.
As some cynical commentators mentioned, to what should have been our embarrassment but probably wasn’t, what about the children around the world killed by our government’s agencies? Or, by our “friends” and “allies” to whom we have supplied some of our most efficient weapons of mass slaughter and mayhem? How many children will die in the next few days or weeks when they become more collateral damage in more drone strikes?
The mendacity of our national claim to love children is further exposed by the version of capitalism that we have adopted. It guarantees that a significant number of people, despite working hard and long hours, will live in poverty. A recent count suggested around 46 million. That includes millions of children who go hungry and, in too many cases, are homeless. Nevertheless, the more dehumanized among us are offended by the impoverished not paying federal taxes.
But wait, as they say on television commercials, there’s more. We also have tens of millions of children without access to needed health care, thanks in large part to a profit-oriented insurance system aided and abetted by accomplices in Congress and gullible ideologues who scream “socialism” when a national health care system is proposed. Nations with better and less expensive health care systems than ours are not socialist, but so what if it is socialism or anthropomorphism or voodoo-ism or any other -ism? If it will ensure essential health care for all children, we should follow suit.
Fortunately, our national Jekyll-and-Hyde personality has some redeeming features. We have legions of people, from those active in local support groups to national organizations such as the Children’s Defense Fund, who are devoted to making lives better for children other than their own. Unfortunately, though these numbers may be large, they remain a minority when compared with the merciless and the indifferent among us.