Childhood, abuse, and the rights of children
by Jamie Lutton
In the story of Abraham and his son Isaac in the book of Genesis, where to satisfy God, Abraham was prepared to commit human sacrifice. He was going to offer his young son up as a offering to God, cutting his throat - but God substitutes a ram instead..
God, then, owns all the children everywhere, and could demand their murder at any time. And when God is not handy, the State will do.
This story, and others like them in the Old Testament, have been a terrible burden and obstruction, in both the West and in the Middle East to children being treated as other than chattel, or property.
Children are still seen as the property of their parents, and of the State. This is why, if a parent is abusive, children are still returned to them if they make vague promises to act better. We have read the tragic results of this policy - tiny children battered to death by insane parents. The State offers few refuges for women with children fleeing from abusive husbands or boyfriends.
This is evident especially with children who are not 'standard issue'.
Gay children, for example. These children have no rights, really, till they are eighteen to have 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. A good 10% of all children have to run an obstacle race to survive to that age.
Children of drunks, which are legion, drug addicts, and the insane as well are in as great a risk of emotional battery as gay children - but the State turns a blind eye to them and their suffering. A child has to show up with visible bruises repeatedly at public school before, perhaps, there is an intervention. And this varies from state to state how serous the intervention is.
The reason that this system does not work well, is not only are we burdened by a religious system, here and in the Middle East, that dictates that men own their wives and their children, and the State 'owns' all of us.
Only in the American Constitution, and a few derived from it, do human rights stand alone, and the State is firmly put in it's place, as the servant of humanity not the owner of her.
But still human rights for children lag behind those of women. Children are murdered, battered and abused daily, and the State puts the rights of the parent's ahead of the rights of the child. This is partly because children, except in agricultural areas, are now a burden to raise and educate.
Before the Industrial Revolution, investing in your children meant that all nations looked to the next generation to support family, As children matured and married, they were assumed to take in their parents and support them, as they had been supported by them. Social security had not been thought of till the twentieth century. But as humanity turned from living on farms or running small industries, and the State took over the care of the elderly, more or less, children became a financial burden as they no longer supported their parents.
And everyone began to live longer. Instead of say, living to be 50 or so, instead the age of 70, 75 even eighty was achieved, with the growth in general wealth and the conquering of childhood diseases,
And children were valued more, paradoxically. As childhood deaths plummeted, fewer children were born, and the average age of all populations rose.
But in this complicated, messy change that has happened in the last 250 years, the question of who owns the children comes out. Does the State? Do the parents? Or do children own themselves?
And if children own themselves, what kind of world should we prepare for them? Envisioning a world where children have full human rights is as odd as suggesting women have full human rights in, say, 1750.
But with fewer children and a more complex path to becoming the hope and engines of the future, we need to reshape the old models that do not work very well.
I was the daughter of two drunks, and I can testify that my human rights were violated by a volatile and violent mother. I can empathize, then, and say that the gays and lesbians who are born to ignorant or violent families need to be protected. And in other nations, girls are mutilated sexually, girls are killed for being girls and thus not valuable - women's rights again - and all over the world girls are denied education. And everywhere, children are treated as chattel or property by their parents and their governments,
We have just begun to change the world, but what sort of world will we have, when all humans have rights and are protected? It will be as much a miracle as the gadgets of the early 21st century would be to a king or pope in the 18th century.
We must not forget our own childhoods, and struggle for what is right. I wrote of Dan Savage's efforts through "It Gets Better' to give hope to gay and lesbian teenagers. I would like to see a similar website for the children of the drunks, the drug addicts and the insane, sot they, too, would know it gets better.
And we must not forget the suffering of gays and lesbians in Russia, who now have become second class citizens, to be attacked at the whim of the State. As I said before, this could be our greatest hour. America and the West need to go to the United Nations and protest mightily the treatment of gays and lesbians in Russia.
We must not go back.