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The war on childhood
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Early last Spring I saw a photograph in the paper of some children playing in the snow in a city in Ukraine. You could tell how cold it was by how bundled up they were but it was a bright, sunny day. Some of the older boys were throwing snowballs, others, some younger were working on a snowman. They were having a grand time, doing all the things we want kids to do — get outside, play with others, exercise. All around them were the rubble of apartment houses, flattened now, felled light poles, things sticking up out of the snow, the pulverised ruins of a once vibrant world of normal people doing normal things. I don’t know why that particular image brought the brutality of war home to me but it did, I’m still writing about it and picturing it in my mind almost a year later.
Someone once said that all wars are wars against children. They are wars against childhood.
The horrible shots of this latest war, the one in Israel and Gaza, are no different although they don’t show shots of children playing, it is no longer safe for children to play there, to be there.
I try to minimize my exposure to coverage of this terrible, awful war. Lots of people will suffer and die, are dying and it isn’t only sad because of the lives of the children affected, grown-ups don’t deserve to die either.
But I always feel like we, ‘grown-ups’ have had our childhood, our happy days in the snow or in the sand, we had that time of not worrying of not struggling, if we were lucky.
The children though, their time for that won’t come again. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.
When I was still almost a child, a teenager, I protested against the war in Vietnam and later against other wars. I thought that wars could be stopped entirely, I guess that was the child in me.
It’s almost like when you watch a stupid bar fight among two people who are too drunk to even be still standing up. Of course, you worry about them, you hope someone will pull them apart before they do too much damage to one another but you also think that they’re behaving like idiots, they probably deserve that punch in the kisser.
The kids though, they don’t deserve it; they t end up getting it anyway, or far, far worse, and no matter how you justify it, that just ain’t right.



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