By Valerie Kazarian, Staff Writer
In April, the New York Times reported that hundreds of children had been taken from adults claiming to be their parents at the U. S./Mexico border. Less than three weeks ago, 12 young Thai boys and their coach were trapped in a cave while on a field trip. And on July 9, President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to a seat on the U. S. Supreme Court.
The issue that these stories all have in common is the value of the life of a child. In some cases we seem to be empathetic toward the child’s life and in others the child’s life is expendable. We seem to appreciate the children but only when convenient. Generally, I think it’s safe to say that we as Americans value the lives of children. Since the Victorian era we have been experiencing something referred to as “the cult of the child,” which is defined as a belief in the basic innocence and goodness of children. This notion, rooted in romantic and Victorian literature, led to the development of child labor laws and the development of social services for children such as food programs and insurance coverage. This underlying cultural sentiment leads us to feel for children when they are in distress and even to take special note of their circumstance. Notice next time there is a building fire or a terrible accident. The report will say something like, “x people were killed, including y children.”
It is this sense of the cult of the child that kicks in when we hear of disasters like the Thai boys being trapped and the children at the border being taken away from their parents, some of whom will never be returned. We feel for the kids as if they are our own and keep track of the status of the stories with rapt attention. They become international stories, not simply local ones.
Which is what makes our cultural reaction to the Kavanaugh nomination a bit of a puzzle. Kavanaugh is on record as being opposed to the right of a woman to choose. In other words, he is opposed to abortion – he is pro-life. He is every progressive woman’s nightmare. As a result, his nomination was immediately followed by calls for opposition to protect the right of a woman to have an abortion as set out in the 1963 landmark case, Roe v. Wade.
But how does this square with our progressive desire to protect the youngest, most vulnerable among us? What is a child called before it is born? We call it a baby which is a child, isn’t it? Why is that life less valuable than a child who has made that last trip to the prenatal unit?
Don’t get me wrong, I love kids and I think they should be protected and helped every step of the way. In general, I’m fond of most people regardless of age. But I include in that definition of “kids,” those who have not yet been born because it simply seems to me that it is inconsistent to value the lives of certain children but not of all.
I’m majoring in Communications. One of the concepts they introduce us to is a psychology term, “cognitive dissonance.” Cognitive dissonance is that uncomfortable feeling you get when you hold two contradictory positions at the same time. When there is cognitive dissonance, people tend to want to minimize this discomfort somehow. I think we would do well to consider our cultural cognitive dissonance when it comes to our inconsistent views on the value of children. We need to make a choice.