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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

When we teach children that only some people count...

... we can't really be surprised when something like this happens.

It seems that the number of teenage assaults on homeless people is growing.

"It's the perception that it's someone insignificant that doesn't matter," said Emmanuel Smith, a counselor at the Pine Street Inn, a Boston homeless shelter.

In the overwhelming number of cases, the attackers are teenagers, according to the national report.

How can we really be surprised, when our society has spent a generation and a half working hard at ensuring that children never doubt the privilege of the strong over the rights of the weak? They learn that babies are disposable, and we can't really give any better reason than the intuitive understanding that they can't speak for themselves. Same with Terri Schiavo. Those who can't speak for themselves, our children are being taught, don't deserve any rights. They are non-people.

Even those who don't agree with this thought about the weak are generally told to shut up and keep their opinions to themselves. "Don't be intolerant of those who disagree with you," we teach them. Yet few are teaching the same message to those who approve of abortion and euthanasia. The homes, the parents, the churches, who continue to teach compassion for the weak, and genuine equality of all people regardless of ability, age, or health, are marginalized and treated by media and courts alike as extremists.

Since when is it extremist to believe that all sorts of people have an equal right to exist?

This is a subject that has been on my mind much lately, when I hear phrases like "advanced maternal age" thrown around as though a 1% increase in the possibility of giving birth to a child with disabilities constitutes a medical condition or a disease. The implication is that older mothers should have high-intervention pregnancies so that they have the opportunity to destroy any offspring who turn out to be "imperfect." At least, the subtle message tells us, we should be less inclined to make babies when we know that some of them may be disabled.

If questioned, those who laud the destruction of "damaged" babies will often give very lofty sounding arguments about not wanting a child to suffer. But I ask you, whom have you ever known who did not suffer? Have you yourself led a pain free existence? Has your mother? Your next door neighbor?

If your ten year old got injured in an accident and would suffer headaches for the rest of his life, would you suggest that he should be killed? Replaced? Can you even imagine anyone saying "It's ok, you can always have another one"? So why is society so ready to write off unborn people who will suffer?

I don't really believe that abortion is meant to alleviate the suffering of a child. I think it's just easier to believe that than it is to admit that we don't really feel as bad treating an unseen, unspeaking person as a non entity, as we would if this person were bright, visible, and well-spoken.

And when we teach kids this way of looking at it, they show that they are smarter than the grownups who teach them. They understand that the message isn't really one of compassion, but of the worthlessness of those who don't have the power to speak up.

No, we can't be surprised if we teach children to kill unborn babies, and they set homeless people on fire.