Thursday, December 30, 2004

On the Large-Scale Loss of Children

So many people want to ignore the news stories, to continue with their holiday celebrations, but to do so is inhuman. Essay writers are starting to intrude into the psyche, to become a catalyst for the conscience, and make us feel the pain that we ought to feel.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the Tsunami disaster is the loss of so many children, almost simultaneously. Many more in the next weeks wills succumb to injury and disease in the absence of adequate medical care. From In the Loss of Young Lives Far Too Soon, The World Is Gripped by a Special Grief,
in today's Post, Libby Copeland discusses the loss:

The waters rushed in and the waters retreated and at least a third of the bodies left behind were those of children.

In one picture from India, a father carries his son. The son's head flops, the grave worker's arms extend like the arms of Hades to take the child to the underworld. There is no morality in nature; if there were, a parent would never have to cradle his dead child.

Now, on the other side of the world, there are thousands of children being buried in mass graves, or starving and vulnerable to disease from dirty water and dead bodies. It is on a scale too big to imagine, so you think about it small, think about what it does to parents when their future is gone.

It was irrational, Lifton says, but many of those parents felt responsible for their children's deaths. It was their duty to shepherd their own flesh to adulthood. They failed.

Newspapers give two numbers: the number killed and the number of children killed, as if they are separate populations. The Beslan school hostage crisis in Russia: more than 170 children. The Oklahoma City bombing: 19. Columbine: 12.

Part of the reason so many of the tsunami's dead are children has to do with demographics. In most of the 12 countries affected, 30 to 50 percent of the population is younger than 18, according UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund. The agency also cites eyewitness accounts indicating that children had trouble holding onto trees and other stable objects that might have kept them from being swept away. What of the parents who were able to save some of their children at the expense of others? What of the parents who were unable to save any? What of the parents who still don't know?


SugarDuck said...

Who wants to ignore the news stories? It's all everybody I know is talking about.

I kind of feel sorry for Iraqi parents about this. In November, a Johns Hopkins study was released that said about 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died because of the american invasion.

Two events. Both 100,000 and counting deaths. One an unpreventable natural disaster. The other a totally preventable human creation. Why does one get saturation coverage from the press and the other is ignored?

When the Johns Hopkins story came out it was quietly covered in a few newspapers and quickly sunk out of sight.

What if the press saturation-covered the Iraqi civilian deaths the way they are covering the tsunami? After all, a lot of those Iraqi deaths are children too.

Canowine said...

Right, I think that the point here was that we care now, and everyone is talking about it now, but the day that it happened, the world, for us, did not stop the way it did when we lost some 3,000 people when the twin towers fell. The initial tsunami toll was 20,000, and not a whole lot of people were stunned by that. A couple of days later, some video on CNN and in entertainment news, and NOW people talk about it. The president included. He spoke the day the towers fell.

I agree that the loss of innocent Iraqi lives is no less tragic. Equally tragic are the deaths from AIDS, influenza, and tuberculosis in countries where public health programs are meager and medical care is less accessible than ours. What all of these things have in common is that none of these things are happening in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Yes both the Iraqi situation and the Tsunami are equally bad but the main difference is what the government's spin control in on different events. the government wants you to support our little activity over in Iraq so they are reluctant to point out civilian and children deaths; and believe me the american people would know a heck of a lot less (the prison incidents)(the Iraqi shot in the mosque who was unarmed) if it wasn't for the embedded newspaper reporters or the single soldier in the unit you can't put up with his conscience and sends a note to someone who checks it out.
It is unimaginable to visualise children being lost and not being able to account for them. I have two children - one maintains a pretty good blog - and it would be devastating to lose either one. You kind of expect everything to happpen in a chronological order with grandparents dying first; then parents; and so on.
My heart goes over there to those families and a charitable donation will also. And to end - GOD BLESS OUR MILITARY.

SugarDuck said...

Sorry for the rant. too much death, I guess it got to me. Yesterday I found out I was wrong about people getting this story anyway. I was in Target, there were only a few registers open. Even the express lane that I was in had a long line. Everyone was getting angry. There was a mother and son behind me and at one point the mother says, and she was not kidding: "This is unconscionable". Remembering this tsunami post I thought, yes, lady, having to wait in line is a real tragedy.

I do know why some stories get ignored and others grip us. First, there's just something about tsunamis. Secondly, although a human-cause disaster is preventable and a natural disaster is not, it's easier for the press to cover a natural disaster because no one is to blame. If the networks had given the Iraqi civilian deaths the coverage they've given the tsunami, they would have been accused of being biased against the president. Also, 100,000 deaths occuring in a couple of days is very overwhelming while 100,000 deaths over a year is not.

Yes, God bless our military. And their families.

Canowine said...

We like rants, though, don't we, SD? Sometimes I can't resist, either. I agree with everything you just said. I was going to say something similar, where people dying over a long time is sort of diluted by the mind.

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