The scandalous, selfish demands we make on our children
The smallest and most powerless have been the biggest victims of COVID-19 in America
In 1985, Sting released a song in which he hoped “the Russians love their children too.” At the time, we were at the height of the Cold War. Glasnost had yet to take hold, and with the aggressive posturing on both sides of the Atlantic, we legitimately feared for the survival of the human species. Sting, however, didn’t buy the demonization of the Soviets. How could they want to destroy the world, he reasoned, because they must love their children as we do.
Nowadays though, it is not the Russians whose love for their children I wonder about. Instead, it is our American children, imprisoned in their homes to protect older folks from a pandemic, being left a world that we have used and abused.
My wife brought this fact home to me today when she told me that she believed that our grandson Lukas was depressed. My response was not surprise. Instead I responded “of course he is.”
Our beautiful, kind, loving 5-year old grandson who has been living with us has spent the last few months imprisoned in his home with a couple of old people. He is very athletic and social, but rather than playing with his friends in the schoolyard, he has to listen to classes over Zoom and jump on an indoor trampoline. It is no life for a 5-year old.
In his school, the children had been required to wear masks, and indeed they complied fully with that requirement. But yet his school shut down anyway, not because COVID had become a problem there, but because our county had a big spike in infections following the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
Teachers’ unions have argued that they should not be required to return to the classroom until they have been vaccinated. It is hard to argue with their logic. Teachers are essential workers who are underpaid and ill-treated in our society. Should they be putting their lives at risk? And yet, the people who pay the price for their caution are the children, many like my grandson who are too young to get any real benefit from online teaching. It’s not fair.
But yet this behavior by our society should not be surprising. We mouth platitudes about our “family values” while underpaying teachers and making good childcare out of reach. And before we argue that mothers should stay home to take care of their children, let’s remember that the wages for most Americans are insufficient to support a family with just one parent working.
My son is 25, and too many of his friends are buried under student debt. At an age when prior generations used to be starting families, too many of that age group are moving in with their parents because they can’t afford to get their own home.
And don’t get me started about the environment. The leaders who cynically dispute the reality of human-caused climate change have taken the position that they got theirs, who cares about anyone else. After all, the climate change chickens are only coming home to roost after David Koch and Sheldon Adelson have passed. They enjoyed the party; now our children are left to clean up afterward.
And while it is true that concerns over the national debt are overstated, the last administration’s cavalier attitude toward running up big deficits to cut the taxes for the rich is a bill that will need to be paid someday. Eventually, our economy will have to pay off the debt, and it will be our children for whom the bill will come due. The sad reality is how little we got in exchange for the huge debt we took on.
So when the Rudy Giulianis of the world and his ilk walk around refusing to wear masks, taking vacations and spreading their germs far and wide, I must admit to a growing fury. Their argument is not that no masks represent a commitment to freedom. In reality, they are demonstrating their lack of caring for anyone but themselves. And the irony is that those bearing the greatest sacrifice for their selfishness are their children as well as ours.