Thursday, May 08, 2003

Listen to the Children

Just last night, Jake Squid and I were talking about our loss of hope and faith in humanity. When self-proclaimed liberals and progressives begin spouting libertarian views, it can make someone feel that way.

But, just when I'm about to give up complete hope, something will catch my eye and make me think that maybe, just maybe, there is still some hope in this world. I wonder, though, if it's a good thing or a sad thing that this hope has to come from a 12-year old.

Back in February, Charlotte Aldebron, a 6th grader from Presque Isle, Maine wrote the following for an essay competition at her middle school:

The American flag stands for the fact that cloth can be very important. It is against the law to let the flag touch the ground or to leave the flag flying when the weather is bad. The flag has to be treated with respect. You can tell just how important this cloth is because when you compare it to people, it gets much better treatment. Nobody cares if a homeless person touches the ground. A homeless person can lie all over the ground all night long without anyone picking him up, folding him neatly and sheltering him from the rain.

School children have to pledge loyalty to this piece of cloth every morning. No one has to pledge loyalty to justice and equality and human decency. No one has to promise that people will get a fair wage, or enough food to eat, or affordable medicine, or clean water, or air free of harmful chemicals. But we all have to promise to love a rectangle of red, white, and blue cloth.

Betsy Ross would be quite surprised to see how successful her creation has become. But Thomas Jefferson would be disappointed to see how little of the flag's real meaning remains.

Since then, Charlotte Aldebron has been making the rounds -- speaking to Sentors and Representatives, speaking at peace rallies and even a Green Party Convention, and never pulling any punches when she does so:

On March 22, I told Senator Snowe’s staff in Presque Isle that you grown ups were hypocrites because you tell kids to solve problems with words, while you kill people in Afghanistan. On March 28, I said the same thing to Senator Collins in person. She told me that because we invaded Afghanistan, little girls can go to school and learn to read. Some choice: learn to read, or have a mom and a dad.

She has gone on to tell the stories of children around the world whose voices otherwise go ignored. The children of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Israel:

President Bush asked each American child to give a dollar to help Afghani children. Here is my dollar’s worth: it is the voice of 6-year-old Paliko who was carried to the hospital still wearing her party dress from the wedding that we bombed for two hours, killing her whole family—by mistake. And 2-year-old Alia, who was dug out of the rubble where her family was crushed when we blew up their village—again, by mistake. Afterward, our soldiers said they were sorry. Among themselves, they called the Afghans "rag heads." Like I said in my flag essay, we are better at caring about symbols than real people.

How many more children must suffer or die before you hear us? No offense, but I really don’t want to have to make another peace speech ever again!

To read the entirety of her latest speech, go to Common Dreams.

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