Thoughts & Views: Let the children live

They’re all nuts. They should be lined up against the wall and shot. With bullets.

Because neither the government nor the insurgents in the awful, prolonged Syrian conflict wants to cooperate with global health authorities to get innocent children vaccinated against an outbreak of the polio virus that, according to international news reports, has reportedly reared its ugly head in the Middle East.

On Sunday, Oct. 27, the British publication, The Independent, reported in its online version that the World Health Organization was investigating 22 cases of suspected polio in children who live in Deir Al-Zour, an eastern province of Syria where combatants are actively engaged.

How the polio virus made its way into Syria isn’t yet clear but if left unchecked, it can spread among those yet to be immunized and, ultimately, the disease can cause irreversible paralysis, The Independent noted.

Members of the Taliban are alleged to have prevented health aides from undertaking a vaccination programs in Pakistan’s Waziristan region in 2012, resulting in more than 200,000 children being left unprotected, according to reports.


If all these reports are valid, it is simply unfathomable how these adults can allow children – who have espoused no political or religious dogmas, who have harmed no one – to be sacrificed as political pawns in a game certainly not of their choosing.

The adults found to be responsible for such outrage should be hunted down, apprehended and tried as war criminals before an international tribunal.

Before their executions, they should be confronted with visual evidence of their crimes – images of the children left forever crippled thanks to their willful, wanton behavior.

So in that part of the world, we see how children are likely to be maimed or killed through grown-up indifference and we, sitting here in the “enlightened” USA, wonder how such things can play out.

But we shouldn’t be so smug. The Children’s Defense Fund reminds us that here in America, “A child is killed or injured by a gun every 30 minutes…. More children die every three days in America than died in the Newtown massacre.”

Last week, a 13-year-old boy in Santa Rosa, Calif., was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies after he was spotted carrying what appeared to be an AK-47 but which, the deputies later learned, was a plastic toy. A parent of the dead boy told the cops his son got the toy from a friend. The boy was described as a trumpeter in his middle school band, smart and popular with his peers.

Mind-boggling all around.

But it reminded me of a striking photo published in last Saturday’s New York Times which showed what was described as a group of Chinese kindergarteners dressed in kid-size versions of Chinese Army uniforms and carrying toy weapons as an adult accompanied them on a stroll through a park in Dongyang.

Some cultures figure it’s never too early to start the process of military education. In our country, we have ROTC.

Are guns inherently evil? Should we try to outright ban them? No to both questions. Just consider what Texas would do: Gun enthusiasts recently staged a rally at The Alamo in San Antonio, with special dispensation from local authorities. If we took away their toys, the Lone Star State would, I dare say, be sorely tempted to secede.

But serious thought needs to be given to how we can control the flow of guns – particularly those unregistered, defaced, etc. – into the country, between states, etc., for criminal use. Seems to me we need some type of federal controls to deal with that.

And if guns are going to remain part of American culture – which, given the popularity of electronic war games among teens, they’re likely to be – we need to find a better way to train kids, early on, in their proper use.

And maybe get them interested in, say, fishing or hiking as a healthy outdoor alternative.

A postscript: How can our government manage to cybersnoop so well on our enemies and allies, alike, yet when it comes to setting up a software system to facilitate getting health insurance to those without, it turns into glitch city? So much for domestic priorities.

– Ron Leir

Learn more about the writer ...