America’s Anti-Child Culture

CommentaryEvery decent human being is grief-stricken at the horrendous murder of 19 fourth-grade children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. In the wake of the targeted atrocity, the usual commenters jumped to make the usual arguments about the need to restrict gun ownership or, on the other side of the political spectrum, to train and arm teachers to protect against intruders. It’s all so predictable, depressing, and banal. The time has come to analyze the causes of this event through a wider lens and understand that a society in which schools are attacked repeatedly is profoundly unhealthy for children in ways that extend far beyond the very slight risk of becoming the victim of a school shooting. Let’s start with abortion. Whatever one thinks about Roe v. Wade, there’s no denying that more than 60 million nascent human beings have been killed in the womb since the Supreme Court conjured a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. That isn’t morally inconsequential. What’s the connection between abortion and Uvalde? Mother Teresa would tell us. At the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, she said: “It is really a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” I used to think of such statements as pro-life hyperbole. But I now realize that isn’t what the saint was getting at. I think she was saying that the ubiquitous resort to abortion has created a general cultural atmosphere that’s both anti-child, and at the extremes, promotes violence. Think about the dehumanizing arguments we often hear that the unwanted gestating baby is a “parasite,” akin to a tumor that needs to be excised. Such dehumanization of offspring has attitudinal consequences within the culture that extend well beyond the issue itself. Even advocates who aren’t so crassly anti-pregnancy often claim that unwanted babies’ lives conflict with the future happiness of the mother. For example, the actress Uma Thurman wrote in The Washington Post that she would not have become a movie star but for aborting her first child, which she said paved “the path to the life full of joy and love that I have experienced,” which includes three children she allowed to be born. I understand that argument. But her current joy still came at the cost of an innocent’s death. Abortion rights may allow women greater freedom, but regardless of legality, it seems to me that Mother Teresa’s thesis that it also unleashes dangerous nihilistic social forces can no longer be ignored. But even if Mother Teresa was all wet—after all, other Western countries that allow abortion aren’t as violent as ours—it’s becoming increasingly difficult to consider our country “pro-child.” Think about the toll inflicted on children by our anti-COVID policies, under which children in many states were locked out of school—even though COVID-19 poses little serious risk to their health. The consequences were devastating. As studies have shown, our children weren’t only severely stunted in their educational advancement, but the loss of socialization also severely increased childhood depression, opioid abuse, mental illness, and youth suicide rates. Speaking of youth suicide, numbers were soaring even before the COVID-19 school shutdowns. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24. Nearly 20 percent of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide and 9 percent have attempted to take their own lives. Even more startlingly, suicide is the eighth-leading cause of death in children aged 5 to 11! Something is seriously wrong when so many children are in such existential despair that they believe the best solution is to cease existing. The transgender panic offers another example of how we’re willing to harm children in the name of furthering adult interests and causes. Children with gender dysphoria are having their puberties blocked—with the active support of medical societies and the promotion of the U.S. government. But France’s National Academy of Medicine (pdf) identified potential side effects of puberty-blocking, such as “impact on growth, bone weakening, the risk of sterility, … and for girls, menopause-like symptoms.” Wait, it gets worse. Some girls who identify as boys are even being mutilated with mastectomies while children of both sexes may receive “bottom” surgeries that leave them sexually dysfunctional and physically sterile—this despite there being no objective medical test that can tell doctors which patient is experiencing “persisting gender dysphoria” and which are experiencing “transient adolescent dysphoria.” Advocates for these radical interventions say they want to prevent suicide. I’m sure they do. But I suspect other more adult agendas are also at play. What else explains the angry o

America’s Anti-Child Culture

Commentary

Every decent human being is grief-stricken at the horrendous murder of 19 fourth-grade children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. In the wake of the targeted atrocity, the usual commenters jumped to make the usual arguments about the need to restrict gun ownership or, on the other side of the political spectrum, to train and arm teachers to protect against intruders. It’s all so predictable, depressing, and banal.

The time has come to analyze the causes of this event through a wider lens and understand that a society in which schools are attacked repeatedly is profoundly unhealthy for children in ways that extend far beyond the very slight risk of becoming the victim of a school shooting.

Let’s start with abortion. Whatever one thinks about Roe v. Wade, there’s no denying that more than 60 million nascent human beings have been killed in the womb since the Supreme Court conjured a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. That isn’t morally inconsequential.

What’s the connection between abortion and Uvalde? Mother Teresa would tell us. At the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, she said: “It is really a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”

I used to think of such statements as pro-life hyperbole. But I now realize that isn’t what the saint was getting at. I think she was saying that the ubiquitous resort to abortion has created a general cultural atmosphere that’s both anti-child, and at the extremes, promotes violence.

Think about the dehumanizing arguments we often hear that the unwanted gestating baby is a “parasite,” akin to a tumor that needs to be excised. Such dehumanization of offspring has attitudinal consequences within the culture that extend well beyond the issue itself.

Even advocates who aren’t so crassly anti-pregnancy often claim that unwanted babies’ lives conflict with the future happiness of the mother. For example, the actress Uma Thurman wrote in The Washington Post that she would not have become a movie star but for aborting her first child, which she said paved “the path to the life full of joy and love that I have experienced,” which includes three children she allowed to be born.

I understand that argument. But her current joy still came at the cost of an innocent’s death. Abortion rights may allow women greater freedom, but regardless of legality, it seems to me that Mother Teresa’s thesis that it also unleashes dangerous nihilistic social forces can no longer be ignored.

But even if Mother Teresa was all wet—after all, other Western countries that allow abortion aren’t as violent as ours—it’s becoming increasingly difficult to consider our country “pro-child.” Think about the toll inflicted on children by our anti-COVID policies, under which children in many states were locked out of school—even though COVID-19 poses little serious risk to their health. The consequences were devastating. As studies have shown, our children weren’t only severely stunted in their educational advancement, but the loss of socialization also severely increased childhood depression, opioid abuse, mental illness, and youth suicide rates.

Speaking of youth suicide, numbers were soaring even before the COVID-19 school shutdowns. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24. Nearly 20 percent of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide and 9 percent have attempted to take their own lives. Even more startlingly, suicide is the eighth-leading cause of death in children aged 5 to 11! Something is seriously wrong when so many children are in such existential despair that they believe the best solution is to cease existing.

The transgender panic offers another example of how we’re willing to harm children in the name of furthering adult interests and causes. Children with gender dysphoria are having their puberties blocked—with the active support of medical societies and the promotion of the U.S. government. But France’s National Academy of Medicine (pdf) identified potential side effects of puberty-blocking, such as “impact on growth, bone weakening, the risk of sterility, … and for girls, menopause-like symptoms.”

Wait, it gets worse. Some girls who identify as boys are even being mutilated with mastectomies while children of both sexes may receive “bottom” surgeries that leave them sexually dysfunctional and physically sterile—this despite there being no objective medical test that can tell doctors which patient is experiencing “persisting gender dysphoria” and which are experiencing “transient adolescent dysphoria.”

Advocates for these radical interventions say they want to prevent suicide. I’m sure they do. But I suspect other more adult agendas are also at play. What else explains the angry objections made by activists and President Joe Biden to a new Florida law that merely prevents these issues from being discussed in kindergarten through third grade?

Which leads us to the profoundly inappropriate sexualizing of our youth, which can also adversely impact their emotional well-being and mental health. Children have ready access to obscene pornography on the internet, which reports say can distort the development of healthy sexuality. More pointedly, the child welfare advocate Rebecca Friedrichs has warned against children’s books and educational curricula that promote sexualization at early ages, including lessons in masturbation and the use of sex toys, encouraging “sexting,” and “videos that indoctrinate 10-year-olds on a range of gender choices.” No wonder the number of children expressing gender confusion has multiplied exponentially in recent years, a worrying phenomenon multiplied by the pernicious peer influence of social media.

Not that some of the institutions that supposedly convey traditional values down the generations can look down their noses at the radicals. The Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Church (pdf), and the Boy Scouts all covered up the sexual abuse of children by clergy and lay leaders, clearly placing institutional reputation over and above the safety of kids. Shameful.

There’s far more to worry about than I can detail here. What about the breakup of families that leads to so much childhood misery? And the ubiquitous number of “fatherless” homes that leave boys at particular risk of anti-sociality and even severe mental illness—which, not coincidentally, seems to have been the case with the Uvalde shooter. Good grief, if we really cared about children, the country would be in an uproar at the number of youths murdered on the streets of Chicago, a toll that far exceeds the number of children killed in schools.

And what are we to make of reports that at Robb Elementary, as at Parkland High School in Florida, police refused to enter the building even as children were being shot? If you had told me when I was a boy that law enforcement officers would put their own safety above mine in such a circumstance, I wouldn’t have believed it.

So, yes. let us grieve the victims of Uvalde. Let us debate how to prevent a repeat of the carnage. But we must not stop there. If we want to make our country a healthy place for children, we also need to reassess our priorities as adults and take a hard look at what our culture has become.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Award-winning author Wesley J. Smith is host of the Humanize Podcast (Humanize.today), chairman of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism and a consultant to the Patients Rights Council. His latest book is “Culture of Death: The Age of ‘Do Harm’ Medicine.”