When Kids Are in the News

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Children shouldn't be in the news. Unless they've won a spelling bee or taken the state basketball championship, the only time kids are in the news is when we, as adults, have failed them. We've failed to screen out the potential child predators from our communities. We've failed to break family patterns of abuse and addiction. We've failed to distribute resources globally to prevent famine and disease. We've failed to provide adequate healthcare. We've failed to create or promote stable governments that value human life.

For these reasons, children absolutely must be in the news. There is no more unrelenting light on our shortcomings as when we see kids suffer from our mistakes. There's a collective gasp, and pause, when we see the images, when we hear the voices of the grieving parents. Raising children binds us all. it is the thread of empathy that knits us together into one fabric as a species.

I'm torn as to how much of this news to let my kids see and hear. I want them to trust grown-ups. I want them to feel like adults make mature, informed, well thought-out decisions that are in their best interests. The news consists of a comprehensive argument that exactly the opposite is happening, a meticulous accounting of our failings.

One night I was in the kitchen, putting dishes in the dishwasher, listening to the radio. My seven-year old daughter was dancing around the kitchen -- we've just shared a rib-eye, and red meat puts her in a feral mood. She has a piece of French bread and butter in her mouth that she is shaking around, growling like a wolf pup. The newscast arrives at a story about a Syrian girl, caught in the blast of a bombed-out building. The explosion left her beheaded. There's a young woman shouting in Arabic, crying to the reporter. My daughter stops and asks "Why is that woman saying Daddy, Daddy, Daddy?"

I stop to look at her, the tail of bread hanging from her mouth, and turn off the radio.


With a Perspective, I'm Mike Newland.

Mike Newland is an archaeologist. He lives in Santa Rosa.