Hating Kids the American Way

Photograph Source: Pabak Sarkar – CC BY 2.0

In the guise of protecting children, lunatic anti-vaxxers, radicalized by the covid shot, now object to routine childhood vaccinations. Thus they would willingly, knowingly expose children to a host of killer diseases, illnesses far more lethal than covid: Tetanus, with 60 percent mortality for severe cases; one in 10 dead for meningitis (one in five have serious complications); and a five to 10 percent death rate for diphtheria. And those are only the mega-killers. Other diseases, whose vaccines children will be “protected” from, like hepatitis B and measles, excel in the critical illness and death departments too.

Why would any parent risk this? Why would any parent eschew vaccines that have saved children’s lives for decades? The unhelpful but accurate response in that people are nuts. More thoughtfully, I’d say that mistrust of science has attained the epidemic proportions of a mass psychosis. Many of those who benightedly believe covid vaccines endanger them more than the virus also doubt the reality of climate change. In fact, to protect their lethal product from righteous outrage at its role in the climate collapse, oil and gas companies deliberately, over decades, cast aspersions on science and thus sowed the poisoned seeds of doubting it.

And yet…antivaxxers have been around a long time. As long as vaccines have, which takes us back a few centuries to the life-saving arrival of the smallpox shot. What’s different now is that social media amplifies their madness. This does not mean our dysfunctional empire needs an official Censor or Ministry of Truth. That lousy idea only makes things worse. If weirdos want to mouth off on Facebook and make idiots of themselves squawking about how the tetanus vaccine belongs to a pedophile Dem plot to turn children into lizard people, that’s their insane prerogative. Withholding that vaccine, however, shouldn’t be.

More evidence of the twisted American relation to children comes with the plague of school shoot-‘em-ups, in which regularly, psychopaths, enabled by this society’s demented failure to regulate guns, slaughter elementary schoolers. This should be simple. Any civilized society puts protecting its young at the top of the to do list. One that allows regular mass slaughter of babies is deeply barbaric and diseased. You could almost say it worships Moloch. In fact, gun fanatics do. By insisting that teenagers and even, de facto, the mentally ill be allowed to purchase AR-15s, judges, legislators, the NRA and countless gun-loving citizens drown Moloch’s altar with the blood of children. Bizarrely yet fittingly, many of them claim some sort of divine justification. For those wondering what deity they worship, the demonic slaughter they tolerate speaks for itself.

Then there’s psychological projection. Those same imbeciles who won’t vaccinate their kids against killer diseases and who permit madmen to slaughter school children, believe that the political party that might try to control these two abominations – the hopeless, hapless, Weimar Dems – is run by blood-drinking pedophiles. But anti-vax gun nuts are the ones whose actions and deranged beliefs cause the carnage. When they shriek about pedophiles and child slaughter, that’s called projection.

More mundanely, and therefore almost totally neglected in the news, is that fact that 11.6 million children out of a U.S. child population of 73 million live in poverty. That doesn’t mean the remaining 62 million luxuriate in opulence or even the relative security of the middle class. Many live just above the poverty level, you know, the level at which infant mortality reaps lots of little corpses. At 5.8 deaths per 1000 live births, the U.S. ranks 33 out of 36 among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

This statistic reflects very poorly on the Exceptional Empire and shows yet again that in the U.S. the powerful, so concerned that women carry their babies to term, couldn’t care less what happens to those infants once they’re born. Countries that surpass the U.S. in numbers of newborns who survive after birth include Cuba, the EU, Slovenia, Israel, Japan and many others. Infant mortality in the U.S. is an international scandal, but aside from a few tepid congressional bills and some HHS money to states in 2021, you don’t see any huge push to cope with it, because, oh, that might involve a health care system different from the nearly non-existent abysmal one we’ve got, like maybe single payer, and no, we don’t talk about that.

Finally, in America’s big, fat, political center, there was covid vaccine neglect of toddlers. Sixteen months after adults could get the shot, these kids still didn’t have it. The excuse was that the virus did not afflict children so badly. But in some cases, it’s fatal, and in more it’s serious. And who knows about the developmental effects of long covid?

This scandalous delay seemed endless. It just went on and one. Now supposedly it’s ending, with the CDC set shortly to approve a covid vaccine for the under-five crowd. But this ridiculous postponement didn’t have to be. Vaccine trials in infants and toddlers could have run concurrently with those of older children. They did not. Desperate parents just had to wait and wait. Why? Because adult Americans were looking out for themselves first. Children last. That should be the motto on the dollar. Because that’s how the U.S. treats its kids.

So despite loudly proclaiming their love for children and babies, especially before they’re born, Americans by their deeds tell a different story. Actions speak louder than words. Take the current infant formula shortage, brought to you by the comedians in the FDA. That went on for months before corporate media even mentioned it. Now substitute “meat” for “infant formula.” Imagine empty supermarket coolers where beef should be. No more burgers, steaks, chicken or fish. Public howls of outrage erupt at once, accusing the monsters who withheld this so-called essential food of coercing us all into vegetarianism. Right-wingers screech about a green plot to end the bloody business of slaughtering livestock, and conspiracists take to social media comparing meat-deprivation to the plot to save lives by vaccinating against covid. It’s hard to doubt for an instant that this public geschrei would be the response. Yet babies ran out of food and Americans waited months to notice.

So the evidence is in. The U.S. is not a child-friendly society. In fact, it features a hysterical culture of child hatred. Individual Americans may love kids, but the late capitalist tycoons who’ve captured our politics have installed a grotesque system that’s brutal to the young, that ferociously neglects them until some nutcase comes along with an AR-15 and slaughters a classroom full of 10-year-olds. Then you could say our system takes a break from ignoring the young; it chews them up and spits them out, with its regularly scheduled blame-fests over the butchery that lash impotently against a granite wall of Republican resolve to do absolutely nothing.

This problematic relation to its children riddles American life and manifests itself in many peculiar ways. On the macro scale, we’re the only society in the world with a bona fide school to prison pipeline. But then there are ubiquitous, call them micro oddities. We’ve even got a congressman who called Big Bird a communist. Maybe that was because Big Bird doesn’t carry a gun. Whatever it means, it reveals an unseemly eagerness to drag a beloved childhood figure into the arena of gladiatorial political combat. If you keep company like that, it’s no surprise that you get a country that, overall, hates kids.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Hope Deferred. She can be reached at her website.