Our children are attractive targets because they don’t ordinarily die

Today’s middle-class parents have a unique cohort of obsessively loved children. No wonder they’re attractive targets to young men intent on inflicting pain.

Children on dangerous playground equipment 1920-1940In America, we are experiencing something unique: For the first time in history, the clear majority of children die after their parents, not before. Before the modern era, half of all children died before they turned 5. That’s why Jane Austen’s parents, who could afford to do so, farmed all their children out to a wet-nurse until the children were three. Not only did this process get the parents past the midnight feedings and dirty diapers in an age before indoor plumbing, it also prevented the parents from bonding with children who were likely to die.

Even if children survived to five, life for everyone in the pre-modern era was so Hobbesian that there was still no guarantee that parents would predecease their children. A young woman’s mother might have survived childbirth, but there was no saying that the young woman would. People died young constantly, from viruses, infectious diseases, infections, food poisoning, internal maladies, and accidents. Death was always “Just around the corner.”

Nor is this what I’ve described long-dead history. I’m only middle-aged, but my parents still came from the generation in which you stayed home if you had a cold, because a cold was never just a cold. It was a doorway to pneumonia, pleurisy, and all sorts of other nasty diseases. My father had scarlet fever and measles, and my mother had diphtheria and tuberculosis. A family friend dragged his legs behind him from polio.

Daddy was born within just three decades of the “Golden Age of Germ Theory.” He and Mom were the first generation of children that routinely got pasteurized milk (although given the Weimar-era Berlin slum into which my Dad was born, while he may technically have been of that generation, he probably wasn’t one pasteurization’s beneficiaries). My parents were children when Fleming made his accidental breakthrough with penicillin. They were adults before antibiotics became a part of every doctor’s arsenal.

If antibiotics had existed during WWI, Rupert Brooke might have lived long enough to walk away from his youthful Victorian romance with chivalric war and have become a more jaded poet, a la Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon. As it was, he died early in the war, not from a bullet, but from an infected mosquito bite he got during the Gallipoli campaign. Something we would treat with a smear of Neosporin and a clean Band-Aid killed him.

One of my friends, a man in his early 60s, boasts of being one of the first people in America to survive a ruptured appendix. It’s true that operations had become common in the first half of the 20th century, before he was born, thanks both to the Golden Age of Germ Theory and the development of anesthetics. However, without antibiotics, once someone’s appendix ruptured, spreading infection throughout the abdominal area, no surgeon could stop death. Only antibiotic’s advent changed that, allowing my friend to live.

It wasn’t until 1955, just six years before I was born, that the First World wiped out polio. Before Jonas Salk’s vaccine, polio was a scourge that routinely savaged children. As I noted above, I still knew one of the survivors. Because my children have not been to Africa, they’ve never seen someone showing polio’s effects.

It’s therefore only since 1955 that the norm in America is for children to survive their parents. We bury them; they don’t bury us.

This new reality didn’t really sink in when the Baby Boomers were children. Their parents still believed, as uncounted generations had before them, that it’s a dangerous world and children die. That’s why children rode in the front seats of cars without reinforced sidings, airbags, and crumple zones; why children’s playgrounds always had rickety structures atop hard concrete; why parents let their children play outside all day and into the night during the summer; why boys got air rifles and pellet guns; and all the other dangerous things that we now send around to each other in “Can you believe?” emails or Facebook posts. These parents loved their children and tried to take reasonable precautions, but they knew that, no matter what, death was still just around the corner.

Indeed, thinking about it, the fact that our “children don’t die” mentality started with people started coming of age in the mid-1960s is probably one of the reasons anti-war protests didn’t begin until the mid-1960s. Before then, we trusted our governments more, so if the government declared war, Americans answered — after all, people die. More people die faster in war but still . . . people die.

This mindset changed with the Baby Boomers — and by Baby Boomers I mean specifically a cohort of young people, almost entirely white and middle- to upper-middle class. They were the first generation in the world history that didn’t die in droves when under five, and in significant numbers after they reached five. Even the casual parenting they received, which horrifies us now, didn’t offset the wonders of vaccination, surgery, germ theory — and battlefield medical advances. We can’t forget those.

Even in the bloody Vietnam war, which we fought for a decade, we lost fewer than 60,000 men. I don’t mean to minimize the individual tragedy that each death represented. I just think it’s worth comparing Vietnam to past American wars. In just two years in Korea, we lost almost 36,500 men. In the four years of WWII, we lost over 400,000 men. In the one year we fought WWI, over 116,500 men died. And of course, in the four years of the Civil War, around 750,000 men, more than half of whom fought to end slavery, died on American soil. Many died from bullets and shock from amputation. Most, though, died from bacteria. They died from infected wounds, they died from dysentery, and they died from the diseases malnourished men share in close quarters.

All this kind of death was alien to Baby Boomers. Between vaccinations, antibiotics, surgical advances, better battlefield and post-battlefield medicine, healthier diets, etc., Baby Boomers lived. No wonder the thought of battlefield death horrified them more than it did past generations. So, with a little push from communist disinformation, they were ready to take to the streets to protest war.

And when these Baby Boomers had children, they expected their children to live. It was Baby Boomers who brought us car safety seats, bicycle helmets, electrical outlet protectors, disinfecting hand-wipes, rubberized playground surfaces, the end of children playing on the streets on long summer evenings, and all the other things that protect most (not all, but most) American children today. Our children don’t die.

Every American middle-class child today is a wanted child. And we desperately try to keep those wanted children alive.

“Wanted child,” of course, is a loaded phrase, because it’s a pro-abortion phrase. “Make every child a wanted child.” Abortion may dehumanize the fetus but combine it with the fact those middle-class children who are not aborted are wanted, and you end up with a generation of children that occupy an emotionally-central pride of place. In the pre-modern era, the last child who was the beneficiary of as much obsessive love was probably Henry VIII’s only son, Edward VI. Poor Edward was a dynastic necessity and could not be allowed to die. (As it was, the poor thing survived Henry by only six years, dying horrifically from tuberculosis that led to sepsis in his lungs. Our children don’t die that way.)

Of course, this wanted child ethos doesn’t extend far beyond those middle-, and upper-class American children. Planned Parenthood, entirely in keeping with Margaret Sanger’s open mission to create a eugenically-pure America, plants itself disproportionately in minority ghettos. These are apparently the kids that Progressive middle-class Americans don’t think should be wanted. Journalist Becky Griffin explained it this way:

In other words, we’d better kill them before they kill us.

What Griffin missed, of course, is that kids who are aborted also don’t write symphonies; they don’t invent surgeries or vaccinations that save uncounted lives; they don’t become renowned brain surgeons; and they don’t become the first black president of the United States.

It’s this unique American combination — obsessively loved children side-by-side with a cavalier denigration for the “wrong” types of “unwanted” lives — that may contribute both to school shootings and to the unseemly, anti-Constitutional hysteria after school shootings.

School shooters know that those children who attend the middle-class schools where shootings happen are wanted children. Moreover, they also know, without in any way understanding how unique our modern era is, that these children are uniquely precious because, unlike all other children in all other places at all other times, they are not supposed to die. If you are angry and hate-filled, and you want to drag people into your own Hell, the best way to do that is to take away the thing they value most — those wanted children who aren’t supposed to die.

No wonder, then, that despicable school shootings happen, and no wonder, then, that a large section of the American population goes crazy afterwards. Those crazy, fatherless boys on psychotropic drugs, living in a culture that simultaneously advocates for the killing of “unwanted” babies and adulates “wanted” ones, know precisely the most effective way to spread their pain. No wonder that those who have invested everything in their children break down. Seeing their pain is horrible, feeling it unimaginable, and hoping to avoid it with one’s own children inevitable.

But the ugly side of this hysterical outpouring of grief from America’s wealthy Blue enclaves is the unspoken racism behind it all. As I mentioned above, these same fanatically loving parents fund (and demand that taxpayers fund) an organization that targets lower class and minority children. Their Progressive spokespeople, educated in their Progressive colleges, no longer bother even to pretend that all children are equal. Griffin makes it plain that the potentially bad ones should be killed asap.

Most tellingly, even though every single month in Democrat slums across America sees children killed in numbers routinely equal to a single middle-class school shooting, the same Progressives aren’t hysterical. Even if the parents in those communities want their children, they shouldn’t. The only solution the Left has to offer is gun control, which does nothing to decrease the weapons in criminals’ hands, and abortion.

I suspect that, without ever consciously thinking about it, middle class Proggies know that death is more common in these poor, Democrat-run communities. If death is more common, these poor parents should be inured to it, just as generations of people have always kept a little emotional distance between themselves and their fragile children.

After all, in places such as Obama’s Chicago, poverty and ignorance mean that the old ills still stalk children: diseases, infections, viruses, grotesque accidents, and, always, those swift-flying bullets in their tightly gun-controlled communities.

The old ills aren’t the only ills. Because Democrat culture demonizes men and Democrat policies uncut fatherhood, there are too many children in these poor communities with single mothers who bring into their homes feral boyfriends who, exactly like the new lion who takes over the old lion’s pride, kill the old lion’s offspring. The two most dangerous places for a minority child are in its mother’s womb or under her boyfriend’s care.

No wonder, despite the plethora of inner-city gang shootings that see children killed in the crossfire, that there are no mass shootings in non-middle-class schools. Everyone absorbs the dominant culture and that culture tells them that these are not the wanted children. What happens in the ghetto stays in the ghetto. National cameras won’t roll, tweets won’t fly, politicians won’t dart in front of microphones, and nothing will change.

As with so many things, today’s school shootings are a cultural problem. Attacking the Second Amendment — while it will diminish individual liberty and make us vulnerable to history’s greatest killer, government — will do nothing to save our children. Only valuing all children, not just the “wanted” ones will help change things — and even then, imperfectly at best. Life is sad and tragic and dangerous, and even as we tamp down death in one guise it appears in another.