Children shouldn’t be in the news. Unless they’ve won a spelling bee or taken the state basketball championship, the only time kids are in the news is when we, as adults, have failed them. We’ve failed to screen out the potential child predators from our communities. We’ve failed to break family patterns of abuse and addiction. We’ve failed to distribute resources globally to prevent famine and disease. We’ve failed to provide adequate healthcare. We’ve failed to create or promote stable governments that value human life.

For these reasons, children absolutely must be in the news. There is no more unrelenting light on our shortcomings as when we see kids suffer from our mistakes. There’s a collective gasp, and pause, when we see the images, when we hear the voices of the grieving parents. Raising children binds us all. it is the thread of empathy that knits us together into one fabric as a species.

I’m torn as to how much of this news to let my kids see and hear. I want them to trust grown-ups. I want them to feel like adults make mature, informed, well thought-out decisions that are in their best interests. The news consists of a comprehensive argument that exactly the opposite is happening, a meticulous accounting of our failings.

One night I was in the kitchen, putting dishes in the dishwasher, listening to the radio. My seven-year old daughter was dancing around the kitchen — we’ve just shared a rib-eye, and red meat puts her in a feral mood. She has a piece of French bread and butter in her mouth that she is shaking around, growling like a wolf pup. The newscast arrives at a story about a Syrian girl, caught in the blast of a bombed-out building. The explosion left her beheaded. There’s a young woman shouting in Arabic, crying to the reporter. My daughter stops and asks “Why is that woman saying Daddy, Daddy, Daddy?”

I stop to look at her, the tail of bread hanging from her mouth, and turn off the radio.

With a Perspective, I’m Mike Newland.

Mike Newland is an archaeologist. He lives in Santa Rosa.

When Kids Are in the News 14 October,2016Mike Newland

  • Ken

    Turning off the radio is like sticking your head in the sand, hoping beyond hope, you won’t have to face something. Your child asked you a simple and direct answer. She deserved a simple and direct answer, verbal, not hiding in the sand. Leave the digging to your job.

    • Long

      Fully agreed.

      • Ken

        I’ve become very jaded about the quality of intellect in the USA. Parents not modeling healthy behavior, political supports showing their ignorance, people who have been born here not even knowing of the three branches of US gov’t, and on and on. We have become so dumb and too many hide their heads in the sand when they are confronted by a challenge to actually think through what they about do before they do it.

  • Hilary Spreiter

    The most telling sentence in this perspective is that “red meat puts her in a feral mood.” The appalling violence and torture that animals must endure so that meat-eating humans can enjoy a passing gustatory pleasure is part and parcel of the failures that Mike Newland speaks of: the failure of breaking patterns of systemic abuse of our fellow earthlings; the failure to move away from animal agriculture which is unsustainable and highly polluting to our already over-burdened planet; and the failure to acknowledge the detrimental affect of meat in our diet that is know to exacerbate cancer, heart disease and obesity. It is no wonder that when his daughter eats red meat she is put into a feral mood – she is assimilating the violence of animal agriculture and in turn, embodying it.

  • Lauri Newland

    Wow! I just heard this beautiful piece by my beloved husband Mike Newland. I am proud of him as usual since never in my lifetime have I ever met a man with greater integrity, kindness, compassion towards others, earth, animals, political savvy and a stellar father (and husband). I can go on and on since our children and I are super blessed to get to gobble him up more than anyone else. I then scroll down to see the responses by others which much to my shock is full of putting Michael down because our little sweetie pie loves red meat (no matter how hard I try to get her to prefer tofu, broccoli, beans, cheese, hemp seeds, kale etc to it – she doesn’t ). But anyway, our red meat which comes from a farm that practices humane treatment of animals – btw – has somehow become the key topic of conversation and the means to put down Mike Newland as a parent. Then others eagerly chime in since Mike made the decision to not tell our 7 year old about a little girl who just got her head blown off whereas I’m sure everyone else would not “stick their head in the sand” as Mike is accused of doing and instead let their little daughter know about this horrible piece of news. Really? Mike Newland is probably a stranger to all of these people who left those comments. All this aggression. It’s heart-breaking, really.

    • Hilary

      To Laurie, there was no aggressive intent in my comment at all. I’m surprised and sorry you interpreted it that way. My comment was simply my response to hearing Mike’s own observation that when his daughter eats read meat, her mood turns feral. The observation struck me because it suggested he is seemingly blind to the violence implicit in eating meat. His perspective commented on society’s failure to end violence and how he wanted to protect his daughter from it. Not eating meat is the simplest step in overcoming the problems he spoke of: sustainable use of resources, avoiding disease, ending systemic abuse and exploitation. However much one might like to pretend otherwise, there is no humane way to slaughter an animal born and raised for meat, an animal who has as much desire and right to live as a human. If you don’t know this, I suggest you go watch animals being slaughtered for a day and see if your outlook changes.

  • vmg

    how does raising children bind us all, when some of us do not have — or even want — children?

  • Long

    As an archaeologist studying Homo Sapiens, Mike has a strange notion that “raising children binds us all and it is the thread of empathy that knits us together into one fabric as a species”.

    Does he know the wars had existed a long as human had memory, each side of warring parties claiming the well-being of their own offspring? Does he live on a different planet? Or, he comes from the future where the famine and disease are completely prevented?

    The failures Mike speaks of are on-going triumphs of Homo Sapiens. There was no healthcare in nature, nor stable governments. Yet, the global child mortality rate dropped from 43% in 1800 to 3.4% today (<0.5% in developed countries). More progress can be made. But, this by no means is a failure.

    The news just reminds us that there remains work to do for the new generations.

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