Monday, May 16, 2011

Saving the Children, or Destroying Them?

Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.

In Denver, Colorado, USA, where I live, there’s a guy with a large van that is plastered on all sides with photos of the results of late-term abortions, which are illegal in the United States anyway. Some people tell me the pictures have been Photoshopped. Maybe they have and maybe they haven’t. It doesn’t matter. The pictures are not pleasant to look at.

It’s obvious that the person who drives this van is anti-abortion and that his goal is to send a message about abortion. Perhaps he hopes that he can stop it this way, or discourage some women from having one – unlikely, because the pictures are so far removed from any intelligent discourse on the matter that those who see the van end up disliking the person driving it, no matter how they feel about abortion.

The problem is that if you asked this man, and others like him who display these photos on oversized placards at anti-abortion rallies, what he is trying to do, he would no doubt say that he is trying to “save children” or “protect children” or “protect innocent lives.” Yet I’ve noticed that the people who most espouse the “protect children” argument – when it comes to abortion or any other social issue – are the ones whose philosophies and actions damage children the most.

This particular van was intentionally parked in front of my nephew’s elementary school a couple of years ago. The children in school could see it out the window. The school personnel could do nothing, because it was parked on public property. The children were very upset. They couldn’t concentrate in class. My sister discovered, after talking to some of the other mothers, that some of the children had nightmares that night. 

But none of them knew what it was. None of them knew what the photos meant. If the individual who parked the van in front of the school was hoping to influence young minds against abortion, he failed miserably, because the children didn't understand what was being depicted. What he succeeded at was traumatizing the children inside the school. He did not “protect” or “save” any children that day – he damaged them instead. I don’t believe he cares about children at all – quite the contrary. If he really cared about children, he would not want to see them hurt, upset, terrified, and traumatized.

This is only one of so many instances of those who give lip service to protecting children while acting aggressively to hurt them. Most of the political platforms in the United States that profess to “help,” “save,” or “protect” children also seek to:
  • Defund public education, particularly related to test scores, taking money from the poorest, most underfunded schools and giving it to the wealthy schools that need it the least. 
  • Defund family planning services that help to reduce unwanted pregnancy and, thus, the need for abortion. 
  • Defund social programs that feed, house, and clothe needy children, leaving them vulnerable to homelessness and hunger, resulting in less ability to concentrate in school and unequal learning outcomes. Homeless children often enter the foster care system, which is itself underfunded.
  • Deny same-sex couples and gay and lesbian singles the right to foster and adopt children, thereby preventing children in the foster care system from having a permanent home with a loving family. 
  • Prohibit sex education in schools, which can lead to unwanted pregnancy and, thus, the need for abortion or foster care in an underfunded system.
  • Deny LGBT children protections in school, such as anti-bullying initiatives, resulting in a higher dropout rate, higher suicide and attempted-suicide rates, and an inability to concentrate and achieve. 
  • Advocate for corporal punishment, both at home and in schools. A "spare the rod, spoil the child" mentality is physically, psychologically, and emotionally damaging, tends to focus on the most vulnerable and marginalized populations, and, in some cases, can lead to cycles of abuse and violence that continue throughout generations, damaging even more children.
I don’t believe for a minute that these people who claim to value children actually value children. I don’t believe that the culture I live in values children at all. If we truly valued children, we would do everything in our power not to traumatize, deprive, or neglect them.

We would make sure that educational, social, family planning, and health programs were funded to full capacity, so that all children and families could be more than adequately served. We would focus our vast resources on equalizing the playing field for all children, not picking and choosing which children are more or less deserving.

Until I see this, I won’t believe that “pro-lifers” care about life at all. I won’t believe that “family values” proponents care about families. And I won’t believe that those who seek to “protect” children care about children.

You can drive your van around town all you want to, but until I see you actually doing something that benefits kids, I have no use for what you think you’re trying to do, say, or prove. You only prove how little regard you have for those you claim you’re trying to “save.”