Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Value (less-ness)Of Our Children's Lives


Every year nearly 2,500 children die from child abuse. U.S reporting tracks only about 1,800 deaths from abuse and mistreatment because these stats are based on the numbers of deaths that have been reported by child welfare agencies.  But the number is estimated to be much closer to the stated 2,500 because not all children who die from abuse or mistreatment have had contact with these agencies and therefore are not reported by these agencies. Recently, here in Las Vegas, a 7 year old boy was beaten to death by his mother and step-father for reportedly failing to read the bible and do his homework.

When I first heard this story all I could do was cry and it haunted me for days and continues to haunt me as I allow my mind to think about what this baby must have been going through at the hands of those who were charged with luving and taking care of him. This child will never get to live out the dreams that he had for his life. He will never grow up to experience having his first kiss, graduate from high school, getting accepted to the college of his dreams, fall in luv or to have children of his own. He, like many other children who have lost their lives at the hands of abuse, has been robbed of his future.

The child pornography business is big business. Peruse just about any porn site and you will see haunting images of girls that appear to be no more than my own daughters' ages of 14, 12 and 9. As a parent I'm sickened by the fact that even though our country has some of the strictest laws against child pornography it's still a business-one that is thriving.

The child sex trafficking business is another one. Every day young girls are forced into the business of prostitution. One story I recently read details what happened to a young girl in Los Angeles who was brutally murdered, set on fire and burned to death in the middle of a Los Angeles street. She was only 17 years old. There was barely a word about it in the media which highlights some of the attitudes that we share in this country when it comes to our children and abuse.

Child sex trafficking has become one of the most common forms of organized crime  yet we continue to turn a blind eye to it in this country. The U.S Department of Justice reports that 12 is the average age of entry into pornography and prostitution in the U.S. 12! A most impressionable age where young girls are beginning to grow into who they are becoming. An age where they are wanting to go to the mall and hang out with their friends, exchange hair, make-up and homework tips, talk about choir performances and what boy is cute. It's also an age where their self-worth and self-esteem is most vulnerable; a time when they are most vulnerable to the advances of an unsuspecting pimp telling them how pretty they are.

A recent report by UNICEF found that of the 35 worlds richest countries the U.S ranked second on a scale of what economists referred to as "relative child poverty"--second only to Romania. According to the report 23.1 percent of America's children live in poverty. The report states that:

 "failure to protect children from poverty is one of the most costly mistakes a society can make. The heaviest cost of all is borne by the children themselves. But their nations must also pay a very significant price – in reduced skills and productivity, in lower levels of health and educational achievement, in increased likelihood of unemployment and welfare dependence, in the higher costs of judicial and social protection systems, and in the loss of social cohesion." 

I agree.

And what about these children? How do you dream the "American Dream" when you are going to bed hungry at night or being beaten on a daily basis or having to sell your body for money? What about these children's dreams? What about the loss of these precious lives?

In this country we are all too willing to turn a blind eye to these epidemics and as a result throw away our children at the hands of abuse and neglect. And the entire nation is guilty!  We all read the stories and cringe...for a moment. We cry, light candles and say a prayer for the families and victims of these heinous crimes. We post on social media about how outraged we are. We post prayers and quotes and for a brief moment hug our children a little closer and shower them with luv. But do we think about the children who have no one to hug them but instead deprive them of life? We begin to blame everyone who we believe blame should be placed with...except ourselves. We look at the laws on the books and insist that "someone" do "something" to prevent these crimes from every happening again but rarely do we address the societal problem of how we treat people in this country.

Of the top 5 wealthiest nations the U.S is the only one that does not provide for it's citizen's well being through a universal healthcare system. Those most affected by this is, of course, our children. The U.S has the highest infant mortality rate of any of these nations and the lowest life expectancy at birth. Says a lot about what we really think of our children.

So when a gunman goes to an elementary school and opens fire killing 20 of our nations most precious citizens and the country is outraged and demanding that gun laws be changed to prevent this from ever happening again, I wonder. I wonder where our priorities as a country really are when it comes to our children. I wonder why it is that we are so outraged that these children will never grow up to live their dreams but not so outraged at the thousands upon thousands whose dreams die each year because their young lives have been snuffed out by child abuse, prostitution, neglect, and hunger. Will somebody please, please tell me the difference!