Today at least three children in America will suffer an appalling and terrifying death, most likely at the hands of a parent, or an adult they know.
More children under 15 die in America from physical abuse or neglect than any other country in the industrialized world. When adjusted for population, America ties for the bottom of the pile, with Mexico.
In Britain, the maltreatment is less violent, but more insidious. According to a report by UNICEF, the quality of life for children growing up in the U.K. is the worst of all the “economcially advanced nations.” America? Second worst.
You can judge a society by the way it treats its young, and it is apparent that two of the richest countries in the world have stains on their conscience. And guess what? The situation isn't getting any better.
Take a few moments to read this BBC America report. The Grit challenges you to watch Emma’s story and remain unmoved. Aside from the horror of what adults are capable of doing to children, ask yourself why. Why is the scale of abuse in America three times that of Canada’s and 11 times that of Italy’s? How do so many people get away with mistreating kids on a daily basis?
There are evil people, and there are twisted people who become evil when their behavior goes unchecked. More often than not, abusers are abetted by the feckless and weak, who cover up or ignore what they know is going on. This indifference does not “just happen.” The social circumstances have to be created to allow this to take place.
Children today grow up in a culture that bombards them with images of unattainable success. They see their own situations and recognize from very early on the life presented by advertisers and lived by celebrities is the only thing that will make them happy, whilst being totally beyond their grasp.
Their parents suffered in the same way—society judges them solely on their material wealth.
Without intervention, children who grow up in dysfunctional homes can go on to become damaged adults, where their own misery and confusion causes more pain for themselves and others.
Faced with the relentless psychological assault that conditions the most disadvantaged to failure from the very start, is it any wonder behavioral norms collapse? Criminality, gang culture, drugs, broken families, violence, and sexual violence quickly fill the void.
Historically, America and Britain do not give childrens’ services nearly enough money. There is a tendency in both countries to lambast the public sector for being a drain on the country’s resources. We resent the child protection workers doing difficult jobs in impossible circumstances, because it’s our taxes they’re spending, godammit.
There is a cycle here which can be broken, yet we appear content for it to grow more vicious. Without intervention, children who grow up in dysfunctional homes can go on to become damaged adults, where their own misery and confusion causes more pain for themselves and others. Dealing with these chaotic individuals as they ricochet through life carries a significant social and financial cost.
The UNICEF report points to inequality and materialism as two of the key factors that make growing up in Britain and America such a grim experience. When UNICEF asked children what would make them happy, the response was simple and poignant:
- a stable family
- plenty of things to do (especially outdoors)
Too much to ask? Apparently so. We can’t keep our families together, and even when we do, we use a relentless barrage of materialism as a substitute for time and love.
Shamefully, we don’t even seem to recognize it as a serious problem. To do so would require us to question everything our society stands for. So we ignore it. And every day, more children die.