War on Children
“In the future, wars will be fought in air-tight rooms and by underaged children. Men will still push buttons indoors, but it’ll be the kids who’ll rule the killing fields.” Delmonico Saint Croix
* Child soldiers of Mogadishu are being trained by the U.S.’s own allies.
* Underage farm labor is no longer a foreign monopoly but a reality in the backward of America’s richest cities.
* The Army may fund makers of computer games because there’s no cheaper recruitment tool available in the market today.
No Child’s Play
While 12-year olds roam the streets of Africa, armed with assault rifles and empowered with military authority, we wonder whether we’ll be giving our own children a new cellphone on their next birthday.
As we obsess about our kids’ meals, we ask whether some that are younger than them picked these vegetables.
We read about another village destroyed by remote missiles and wonder why our own sons and daughters spend so much time playing video games based on war raids.
Disrespect for the integrity of children and their right to grow in a safe environment is a pervasive issue and, some say, an unavoidable legacy of the Industrial Revolution and the demographic explosion and ongoing border conflicts and/or any other reasonable cause you could come up with, locally or worldwide.
It may be originated by lack of funding for education affecting so many nations; by a global market ever hungrier for cheaper labor; or an out-of-control defense industry that will profit equally from either a legitimate struggle for peace and justice or the ambition for power of warlords the world over.
Children As Prey
They’re forced to kill so not to be killed, and their victims can be their own parents or members of their community. They master these evil deeds before grasping what’s at stake, and that’ll cripple them emotionally for the rest of their lives.
They’re grabbed in their shacks, raped, maimed, completely subjugated, and then given an automatic rifle and told to go and roam the streets and enforce their captors’ law.
There’s no way around the pain and suffering involved when such horrors happen to an adult. But there’s also a twisted relief of sorts that happens during the time it takes for someone to grow up: with a little luck, there’s always a brief glimpse of another reality, one they can dream about it or be thankful for it.
For a child who hadn’t yet had time to dream, to play, to be a child before it became a killer, though, there’s no such redemption.
In 2000, when a desperate thug sequestered a commute bus in Rio de Janeiro, the TV cameras documented the drama live as it unfolded into a bloody gunfight. When it was all over, with several passengers killed, there was a natural public outrage that last exactly 20 minutes. Or until a documentary about the tragedy reached theaters a few years later.
The outrage took a startlingly turn, though, when it was revealed that the kidnapper was a survivor of what had become known as the Massacre of Candelaria. The shooting of a group of street kids in downtown Rio, a few years earlier, also caused an intense but all too brief sense of outrage by the public.
The main suspects, paramilitary forces hired by local retailers, never stood trial for the crimes. And everybody else just forgot all about it.
Everybody but Sandro do Nascimento, a survivor of that massacre, already a voiceless lumpen, who witnessed in silence his tragedy fade into oblivion. He could never wake up from that nightmare or leave his life in the streets.
Instead, the abandoned kid became a killer too, just like child soldiers survive to become warlords. And the cycle remains unbroken.
The War Within
While the tragedy of children thrown at war, at forced labor or at manufactured dreams of destruction and power are an ingrained vein within the fabric of our reality, they’re by no means all there is to be startled about.
At the U.S. and Mexican border, for instance, children are the most likely to be caught in the crossfire, even when not breaking any law. Like the 15-year old was shot twice for just looking like an illegal immigrant trying to cross the border, which it turned out, he was not.
At the corners of American cities, the astonishingly misguided war on drugs is carried on by underage soldiers too, stuffed with cash and loaded guns, guarding territories that don’t even belong to their wealthy underground bosses.
And equally tragic are children having children, or parents leaving theirs behind, out of immaturity or unwillingness to sacrifice personal dreams. Or kids of parents who do away with their own lives, and their legacy of suicidal chain reactions, and more and more.
Certain demons that populated this world, one can argue, are just too much for most people and it’s the children they bring about who’ll inevitably bear witness and response to the consequence of their wake. And that there’s very little that can be done for them, so help them god or allah or whoever they think must be on duty.
But some beg to disagree. And dare to lose sleep over it. And got ready this morning just to do something about it. If necessary, they’ll bear arms, shovels and video players to get this job done. And, yes, in case you’re wondering, they’re accepting volunteers.