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The Newtown massacre seems to have awakened America’s concern for its innocent young children enough to revive gun control. And a ban on assault weapons might very well help ensure the safety of America’s children from assault by individuals.
But it does nothing to protect America’s innocent children from the egregious assault by their own country on their very lifeline – their safety net. This society’s abusive economic policies are themselves assault weapons targeting our own children, no less insidious than the assault rifles our citizens insanely embrace with camouflaged pride.
Some sample statistics tell the tale:
* The United States ranked at the bottom of a UNICEF survey of child welfare in 21 wealthy countries and finished dead last in the survey’s health and safety category, based on infant mortality, vaccinations for childhood diseases, and deaths from injuries and accidents.
* A recent survey by the Luxembourg Income Study reported that the safety nets of children in the US are weakest of all industrialized countries. The U.S. woefully underfunds services to families with children, such as subsidized day care services, adequate health coverage and preventative care for children.
* The US easily leads the industrialized world in child poverty, with more than one in five US children living below the poverty line. Children of color are disproportionately poor, with over one in four Black and Hispanic children, and two in five newborns to kindergartners, living in poverty.
* Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the US, giving it the worst record among the industrialized nations – losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths.
We must, of course, also remember America’s continuing deadly assault, by drones or sanctions or bombs, on the lives other nations’ children, betraying the hypocrisy of any claim that we as a country cherish the innocence of childhood. But this society’s callous disregard of its own children’s welfare, itself a violent assault on innocent young lives, renders our nation’s mourning at this tragic moment sickeningly hollow.
Doug Noble is an activist with Occupy Rochester NY and Rochester Against War.