Florida Shootings Another Sign We Don’t Value Children Nor Their Lives


Before the slaughter at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, The New York Times produced a powerful graphic showing the millions of NRA dollars some individual, yes, individual, U.S. senators and members of Congress have received, juxtaposed with their prayers and condolences to the families of shooting victims. That kind of hypocrisy didn’t surprise. It’s what we, as a nation, have become. 

What did strike me was the last paragraph of another New York Times story — a story that demonstrates the undeniable relationship between high access to guns and mass killings. (Undeniable apparently unless you are a senator or member of Congress receiving millions from the NRA.)

The story’s last paragraph repeats a British journalist’s tweet on the 2012 Connecticut elementary school massacre, saying, “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

How bearable is it? Again The New York Times: “People have been injured or killed in eight school shootings in the first seven weeks of 2018 alone.”

Let’s take another story this week on how we as a nation devalue our children. We have watched for months as the House, the Senate and President Donald Trump have used DACA youth and children, with my emphasis on youth and children, as a bargaining chip. What kind of nation allows youth, children to be used as a political bargaining chip? Only a nation that no longer values children.

Here is what NPR reported on a poll taken in October 2017: “91 percent of Democrats, along with 76 percent of independents and 70 percent of Republicans, said they are for banning assault-style weapons.”

Well, people, then do something. Don’t wait for Congress and the president’s thoughts and prayers and millions of NRA dollars to make something positive happen for our children. It has not and will not.

Here is a finding from a recent Pew Research Center poll: “A large majority (74%) favors granting permanent legal status to immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children …”

That, ladies and gentlemen of the U.S. Congress and Mr. President, would be our DACA youth.

A country that values its children would never dream of holding them hostage. It would pass a bill that simply said DACA youth have permanent citizenship. Then worry about the other issues separately.

We devalue our youth so much that even putting their lives at risk is nonchalantly dismissed. This piece of information has bothered me for years. A mom whose teenage son was being sent to a detention center was told by a social worker that her son was being sent to an inherently dangerous place.

Every one of us knows that too many youth prisons are inherently dangerous places — and apparently we are OK with that. Why? There is only one recurring answer: We as a nation devalue our children.

Yes, we can blame politicians on the dole or those who we put in charge of our children. But this is our country and we have failed and are failing our children. How we are going to fix it is up to you and me. Let’s not wait for another mass killing of our children, let’s not make any DACA youth have another sleepless night and let’s not have another young man or women assaulted while in detention.

There are movements around the country demanding that these travesties stop. Perhaps it is time for those of us who profess to care about our children to join those movements to demonstrate that we value our children in action as well as in word.

Leonard Witt is the executive director of the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University and publisher of Youth Today and the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.


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