Today we believe we are in an age of social consciousness. We join groups to save the environment, to give aid to the poor and to offer a better life to the mentally and physically- challenged. With our eyes seemingly open to these omnipresent needs, we are closing them to the needs of others: our children.
In our country, neglect and murder of children are far from unheard of. We have yet to truly begin to protect our most precious resource.
Children are left unsupervised to drown in pools, leaving many dead and some brought back to life with severe brain damage. Eric Boehm is a victim of this fate. Now at age 12, he cannot walk, speak or in any way care for himself.
Other children have discovered guns carelessly left around by a parent. The result almost always ends in death.
Parents too "busy" to involve themselves in their children's lives discover, usually too late, that their child is a gang member. Unfortunately, when parents finally wake up to the activities of their children, either their child or someone else's has been gunned down.
I suppose that you could argue that parents can't watch their children 24 hours a day. You might also say that children should be allowed to be independent. There is a fine line between independence and gross negligence, however, and many parents guilty of the second often cry the first. We believe them most of the time.
Maybe the worst part about our offenses against children is that some of them begin before the child is even born. Pregnant women, too many to count, use drugs, smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, causing thousands of children to be born with defects. But it's not the mother's fault, really. She is an addict. How unfortunate. For the child, I mean.
This onslaught is continuously being waged against our children and someone has yet to muster up a voice loud enough to get anyone's attention.
And what must the kids who are growing up in our society think?
So many accidents involving children come off looking like mishaps or stark tragedies. And the parents sob at the loss of their child as the cameras flash. As well they should. If mom or dad had put a fence with a locking gate around the pool and kept a watchful eye out, their baby would still be alive. If that handgun of dad's hadn't been lying around on a closet shelf little Bobby wouldn't have shot his sister. If mom or dad had investigated Jennifer's behavior sooner they would have found out that she was in a gang and could have prevented her from slicing the throat of a thirteen-year-old kid on Friday night.
You can arguethat there are many organizations who try to preserve the lives of our children, to help them find their worth. So then, why have the numbers of child shootings gone up as well as gang enrollment? Why are there more and more child drownings every year? Why do we find thousands of children in need of medical attention because they were born with disfunctional organs or a crack addiction? Why is Child Protective Services swamped because mom or dad cracked their kid's skull open or sexually abused them?
We are the ones who have the power to change things and yet we sit back, feigning powerlessness, as they keep getting worse. Perhaps it's because we live in such a plastic, disposable society and we think that our children are replaceable commodities. But is that an acceptable reason for our behavior? Hardly.
Susan Smith pushed her car into a lake with her children trapped inside. Jennie Bain left her babies to die in a steamy 120 degree car. Steven McRae told his children that they "needed" to die and poisoned them with carbon monoxide. Gary Christian admitted to murdering his girlfriend's five-year-old daughter because she wouldn't recite her ABC's.
What kind of a message are we sending to our children?
And how can we possibly explain to them why a family member or trusted adult or stranger or clergy member sexually abused their friend? Or even them? We shudder. We do a good job of cringing, too. But what do we DO to stop crimes against children?
Maybe all of these offenders of neglect, murder or assault have had a bad day. Maybe they were just fired from their job. Maybe they are under an amazing amount of stress.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
There is no excuse for the murder or abuse of a child.
And so our children will keep listening to the statis-
tics which appear everywhere: billboards, newspapers, radios, and television sets. You just can't run away from it. And our children will wonder why. And they won't get an answer from us.
Children DO live what they learn, and what they learn today might come back to haunt them. And us.
When we are older and society falls out of our active control, our children will hold the reins. But what kind of a society will it be? It seems that all we are teaching our children is that they don't mean much to us, that their lives aren't worth saving. Lessons like these can be deadly and detrimental to a society. We should know; after all, we are witnessing a small taste of what is yet to come. The worst part is that the problem is just going to grow. Unless we stop it. Now.
Through the actions of others and through our own apathy we keep telling our kids that they don't deserve to grow up happy, or grow up at all. With these acts going on against their entire generation, how can they grow up to be anything but angry, vengeful and cold people?
The clock is ticking ... and how many more children will be murdered by an adult? How many will be physically, mentally or sexually abused? How many will die in a car accident because mommy was too tired to strap Junior into his car seat? Just how many children DO have to die before we put a stop to this?
And just how many of us are going to keep watching as it happens?
Denise Frank is a columnist for the Summer Wildcat and a senior English major.
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