You see, I must repeat again, it is a peculiar characteristic of many people, this love of torturing children, and children only.
Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov
Two events occurred this week that involved the death of children. The first was the murder of seventeen high school students in a school in Parkland, Florida, by a nineteen-year old former student armed with an AR-15 assault weapon. The second did not garner as much national attention and involved the mysterious death of a newborn child in Queens. The child, a boy, was found wrapped in a plastic bag in a garbage can in the Dutch Kills playground in Astoria, Queens. As of this writing, the mother of the child or the circumstances of the child’s death remains unknown. So while the details of the two events continues to develop and will probably diverge, what remains to be understood is that the death of a child in America represents a colossal failure of a series of societal systems that have been allowed to wither.
The Florida shooting is another in a long list of mass shootings that claim the life of Americans for no other reason than our society worships the “right” to inflict mass harm at will. As usual the right will bray about “mental health” and the center will cry about “sensible” gun control. As I’ve written before, only a unilateral disarmament of U.S. society, both civilian and martial, will truly reduce the violence of guns. Gun violence, in the form of mass shootings, suicides, domestic abuse or gang violence, is a plague on our society that is only remedied by removing guns altogether.
The death of the boy is murkier but also points to clear policy changes that would more than likely have saved the life of this child. Our society does not afford its citizens a universal healthcare program but instead a hodgepodge of services both private and public. While decent enough to serve most people, enough people, especially people with mental health issues, can fall through in receiving quality care. In learning about this story the first questions are, why was this child born dead? Why wasn’t he born in a hospital? Was this woman receiving quality pre-natal care? Was she receiving any mental health counseling during her pregnancy? Was addiction a health concern for this woman? If and when details emerge it will be easy to say what this woman did “wrong” instead of asking more difficult questions about the type of maternal care millions of women don’t receive that allows for this terrible event to occur. This woman did not act alone but was failed in ways large and small, mainly by a for-profit healthcare industry. Her child died in the wealthiest city in the wealthiest country the world has ever known. The same country that murders its children in its schools, alone, is the same system that allows a newborn child to lie dead in a garbage can, alone. For profit industries like the gun manufacturers and the healthcare industry would seem to have different agendas, but too often end in the same result, in this case dead children. The question we must ask is, do we stand for people or profit? and, do we want to protect our children?
A garbage can in Dutch Kills playground, Queens, New York City, photo by the author