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I hear much about protecting our children.  We must, I’m told, protect them from Drag Queens and Transgender people.  We must protect them from homosexuals and lesbians.  And Atheists are evil and going straight to Hell.  The children need to be protected from history books that will make them “uncomfortable.”  To Kill a Mockingbird is upsetting. 

We can’t teach our children about what happened in Birmingham in 1963.  They’re likely to be upset that four little Black girls were killed by the explosion in the church.  The story of Emmett Till is likely to give them bad dreams. 

Teaching them that it’s “normal” to have two fathers or two mothers is to groom them to become deviants.  Showing them science that declares the Earth to be well over 6,000 years old is going to cause them to doubt their Faith, and this is completely unacceptable.  Far from the separation of church and state, we need to return prayer to the classroom so we can save our children from the liberals. 

These arguments are commonly found all over Social Media, and they’re fairly frequently encountered on what we now call News, although I think that’s an unfair characterization of what journalists intended to do. 

I agree that we need to protect our children.  There are few parents who wouldn’t give their lives to save their progeny.  Those that wouldn’t are parents I probably wouldn’t like very well.  Our children are the future of the world.  They are the best part of humanity.  I know of nothing more beautiful than a newborn infant, all the hope in the universe residing in each breath she takes.  Every smile is a source of soaring Joy.  Each laugh is more beautiful than a Mozart aria.  The first steps she takes are an Event.  Her first words are a celebration of human achievement.

I don’t, however, think they need to be protected from the possibility that they may be different from their parents, their peers, or even different from me.  Each child is a new chance to make the world more beautiful, more meaningful, safer, smarter, and more resilient.  A child represents Hope for a brighter future.  They absolutely must be protected.  But protected from what?

One of the things from which they need to be protected was in the news a couple of weeks ago but ignored by most of my friends. 

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott‘s escalating measures to stop migrants along the U.S. border with Mexico came under a burst of new criticism Tuesday after a state trooper said migrants were left bloodied from razor-wire barriers and that orders were given to deny people water in sweltering heat.

In one account, Texas Trooper Nicholas Wingate told a supervisor that upon encountering a group of 120 migrants on June 25 — including young children and mothers nursing babies — in Maverick County, a rural Texas border county, he and another trooper were ordered to “push the people back into the water to go to Mexico.”

The trooper described the actions in an email dated July 3 as inhumane.

An unfinished strand of orange buoys sits in the Rio Grande River in response to migrants crossing the river, near Eagle Pass, Texas, U.S., July 11, 2023. REUTERS/Kaylee Greenlee Beal

You could argue that those were not “our children,” but then I would probably want to slap you.  These are the children of human beings, and there is no morally defensible argument that can be made for pushing them back into the river.  We don’t deny dehydrating humans water, ever, under any circumstances. 

While few of us have any difficulty saying we would die for our children, too few of us can imagine crossing deserts, rivers, and rough terrain to save them from the horrors of cartels found in many other countries.  If you want to tell me that these people were never in any real danger, then I have to ask why in the hell they would go through all that just to get to America.  If it’s because America, with its homelessness and huddled masses, is better than where they came from, then their place of origin must suck pretty badly.  We shouldn’t shun them.  We would do better to welcome them.  We have a moral obligation to help them.  If you’re going to tell me Americans first, I’m going to search for a bridge off which, if I were strong enough, I would try to push you.

American children (more than those in any other country) need to be protected from the school shooters who will be returning in another few weeks.  And those who talk so much about protecting them from Drag Queens have little interest in preventing mass shootings.  They’ll scream about the Second Amendment, as though it were carved in stone tablets Moses brought down from Mount Sinai.  Our right to own guns is infinitely more important than protecting our children from psychotics.

Do we want to protect children from sexual abuse?  Then let’s find those who are actually abusing them.  Being a Drag Queen, being gay, being transgender, or having a different form of sexuality does nothing to suggest one is a pedophile.  We fight about who we will let into bathrooms while children are being molested by priests.  Priests, though, get passed from location to location while their abuse is actively covered up, and many of us look the other way.  I’m told that teachers abuse children as much as ten times more frequently than priests.  The thing is, teachers don’t get passed over to a new school.  They get fired, and they are often put in prison.

Child abuse absolutely happens.  It absolutely needs to be stopped.  We agree on that.  My interest is in finding those who are doing it so we can prevent them from repeating that behavior.  I’m interested in evidence, not innuendo.  We distract ourselves from the problem by pretending that those we don’t like are secretly committing atrocities.  While we’re looking in that direction, we’re not looking at the perpetrators we would all like to stop.

We don’t want to frighten children with history, but many of us are more than happy to terrify them with the thought that if they don’t follow a set of rules strictly, they will burn in eternal flames.  Teaching them this mythology is allowed because it’s a deeply held religious faith.  I can’t prove they’re wrong, but I do know that it’s difficult to imagine anything more horrible than Hell. 

We want children to understand Love, and many of us teach them that love is accomplished by threat.  You can love God, and you will have a wonderful Afterlife.  If you follow all of God’s rules, as interpreted by your particular church, you get to be happy.  If, however, you don’t, you will suffer the most painful torture our imaginations can create.  Man is capable of many kinds of torture.  We are expert in it.  That’s a failing of Man.  It’s a sickening fact of our species.  For God, it’s seen as a feature, not a bug.  God loves the children, but that might mean they will feel fire melting their skin off of their bodies, and not just for a little while, as witches once did when they were burned at the stake.  The witches were finally released by death.  God doesn’t grant that release.  Hell is eternal.

We can’t teach them facts of history, but we absolutely must teach them to believe in Heaven and Hell.  Our sacred traditions need to be carried on through every successive generation. 

If we’re truly interested in protecting our children, as I believe we should be, we need to start by not hurting them, ourselves.  Stop traumatizing them with mythology we repeat as though it were history.  Stop hiding history from them so they have a chance to learn from it.  They can learn that we have perpetrated more than our share of evil.  They can learn that we have a chance at redemption.  They can help to make us better by recognizing where we came from and where we are going.  They can steer a better course for our ship if they know what to avoid and what to embrace. 

If we want to protect our children, let’s see what we can do to keep them from being shot while they’re at school.  Let’s make some effort to keep guns out of the hands of those who are likely to use them to commit mass murder.  We know it happens.  It’s not innuendo.  It’s history.  It’s Parkland.  It’s Sandy Hook.  It’s Uvalde.  It’s a list that gets longer every year.  It’s a list that will probably be longer by the time this episode is a week old.  And I don’t believe any rational person would make any effort to argue against those facts.  Alex Jones is not rational, and he’s not listening to this.  You are rational, and you’re listening.

The moment we bring up any hint of gun control, the NRA leaps straight to the extreme argument in order to frighten us at the thought of losing our ability to use our weapons to defend ourselves.  It’s the all or nothing position.  We can all own any weapons and all the weapons we want, or no one can have any weapons at all.  Forget nuance.  Ignore the possibilities between the extremes.  It’s Heaven or Hell.  It’s Love by Threat.  I won’t be able to use my gun to defend my children from some psychotic who breaks into my home with his gun.  And if guns are illegal, only criminals will have them.  We have to let everyone have all the guns they want because a good guy with a gun will stop the bad guy with the gun… except, you know, in Uvalde where more than a dozen good guys with guns stood outside while children were being butchered by a monster with an AR-15.  And the good guys with guns were afraid of the bad guy with a really bad ass gun.

And now we get to hear the gun experts jump in with how much they know about guns and how stupid we are because we don’t even know what the hell an assault weapon is.  And that’s a phenomenal distraction.  Again, it takes our eyes off the bloody bodies of our children and their teachers and focuses us on the mechanics of tools used primarily for killing people. 

Wait, here come the hunters who want to tell us why they need an AR-15 to take out the feral pigs or defend themselves from marauding bands of malignant mice.  Let’s look over there at the pigs, and let’s ignore the body parts of a first grader that are spread across her classroom like one of Speedy Shine’s chew toys. 

As long as we live in an Us vs Them, Either/Or, Heaven or Hell, All or Nothing world, we will continue to expose our children to horrendous harm.  When we begin to think more carefully, when we begin to look for effective solutions, we can protect our children. 

What if we decided that before we sell someone a gun, we check into their background a little?  Who gets to have guns, and who doesn’t?  What are the requirements they must meet?  I don’t have definitive answers to those questions, but they’re worth asking, aren’t they?  Intelligent people of good intent can certainly have different opinions, and we should consider as many ideas as are reasonable before we decide.  But that’s the conversation we need to be having. 

What if, instead of telling children, who still believe Santa Claus comes down their chimneys on Christmas Eve, that they are going to be tortured endlessly if they don’t obey, we tell them stories and help them understand the difference between pretend and real?  What if we teach them that Love is about acceptance and joy, and is never accomplished by threats? What if we show them love and acceptance and encourage them to be who they want to be, even if that changes three times a day?  Can we share our religious faith with our children without traumatizing them?  How would it be if we focused on real dangers to our children, and we tried our best to eliminate, or at least to minimize, them to the greatest extent possible?  Protect them from real abuse and stop wasting time on whispered stories that have little relation to the truth.  Our children are too important to be sacrificed at The Altar of Innuendo.  We’re entrusting our children with The Future.  They’re entrusting us with Their Present.  Let’s be worthy of their present trust so they can be worthy of the future we trust them to create.