Sickening violence involves children at home and abroad

07/24/2014 5:30 PM

07/24/2014 6:22 PM

It would be difficult to look at the news these days and conclude that humanity is moving forward. We aren’t even civilized enough to remove children from the violence equation.

You see it far and near.

Children were killed and injured in Gaza Thursday when rockets from an as-yet undetermined source struck a school that the United Nations had designated as a shelter. “I will never forget the utter shock on these kids’ faces — they thought they were safe in a U.N. school,” Dan Rivers, a correspondent for the British ITV News service, posted on his Twitter account, along with a photo of bloodied children.

As many as 80 children, some of them infants, were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 when it was blown out of the sky over Ukraine as an act of a war that none of the 298 persons killed on the plane had a thing to do with.

Abroad, we have more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls still missing after being abducted by the Boko Haram terrorist group, which has massacred dozens of Nigerian boys who dared to attend school.

Close to home, 5-year-old Cadence Harris of Atchison, Kan., was killed when her mother’s boyfriend engaged in a chase and confrontation with police. Investigators have not revealed who fired the fatal shot.

All of these acts are willful, although the perpetrators may deny that. Perhaps the shelling of the school was in error, but both Israel and Hamas have used the most innocent of civilians as pawns in their conflict. Russian separatists in Ukraine may have thought they were firing a missile at a military plane, but to not have accounted for the possibility of passenger jets in the area is a willful omission.

As for the local incident, involving a 5-year-old in a high-speed chase and armed confrontation with police is itself an act of violence. Marcas McGowan of Atchison is charged with first-degree felony murder and other crimes.

And now we come to the border children, tens of thousands of them slipping into the United States from Mexico after fleeing nations in Central America, often without a parent or even a friend.

Impoverished conditions prompted some to make the trek. But violence is a factor in many of the jaw-dropping stories.

A 7-year-old in Honduras was tortured and murdered, apparently because his 13-year-old brother had attempted to quit a gang, reported The New York Times. The brother is dead, too. At the morgue in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, technicians told of routinely seeing corpses of young children, including an 11-year-old boy whose throat was slit by other children because he wouldn’t pay a 50-cent extortion fee.

How is it possible at this point in the world’s history there are nation states too weak and disorganized to protect children from organized and systemic violence? But clearly that is the case in more places than we care to think of.

It is not the case in the United States, however. We have a system of law that does not tolerate acts of violence against children, which is why the Central American migrants are traveling hundreds of perilous miles to get here.

They are refugees, and they should be treated well. We need better policies to deal with the influx, yes, but arbitrarily returning them to life-threatening situations should not be an option. It’s shameful that some Americans become hysterical enough over the presence of migrant children to confront them with angry signs and faces and — seriously — a drive to collect dirty underwear to prove a point. It’s even more shameful that politicians respond to that kind of hatred.

Hug your children tight if you’re lucky enough to have them with you. But it’s not enough to protect our own. We need to speak up on social media and everywhere else we have a voice to shame the perpetrators of violence against the most innocent and the governments that enable them.

Reach Barbara Shelly at 816-234-4594 or bshelly@kcstar.com. Twitter: bshelly.

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