Where Do The Children Play?
It was such a fixture of pre-millenial politics to position children within any policy discussion that it bordered on satire to invoke their existence. To that extent The Simpsons created the “OK Boomer” of child politics when Reverend Lovejoy’s wife Helen, shrieked hysterically “Won’t somebody please think of the children!” in a classic episode.
Since then, to invoke how matters may be impacting children in any policy debate is typically met with eye rolls and somebody making some sarcastic remark along those lines. But sadly, we live in an age in which children are rarely represented in any debate, and have vanished as part of the national discussion. This is most apparent during the pandemic, in which their education, playtime, and social networks have been eliminated as the cost of the lockdown but missing from any plans of phased reopening.
“The science,” this nebulous term that lawmakers and thought leaders have thrown around as the north star of COVID escape, has largely pointed to children being both safe from COVID and also potentially incapable of transmitting it. While there is still grey area surrounding the child “science” of COVID, there’s been grey surrounding every statement from “the science” as the public has been whiplashed between multiple conflicting messages.
The consistent lack of children overwhelming ICU beds and emergency rooms should be considered the silver lining that policy makers could use to alleviate the burden that COVID has placed upon everyone. “We know everything else sucks, but at least your children don’t need to suffer in lockdown with you!”
Instead, we have a political system that has treated the children as less than an afterthought, with such lack of either compassion or urgency that they seem to have become second class citizens. While diners, bowling alleys, and salons are given the green light to reopen, schools, camps, playgrounds, and indoor gyms are still closed.
This is the burden of having a culture war between a demographic that doesn’t have children vs. a demographic that hasn’t had children in decades. The modern Left doesn’t care because child policy is a benign topic that doesn’t evoke the edginess it constantly craves, the modern Right doesn’t care because they don’t care about anything.
Parents are stuck in a predicament of being told that demanding a return to the schools we pay taxes for is akin to wanting a haircut while any sympathy that could be garnered from the Right is flattened into a general “open everything” sentiment that lacks any nuance necessary to usher the changes and support parents need.
This would be less bothersome if policy makers at least tipped their hat to how they plan to fix what will likely be massive issues with psychological damage, gaps in education, childhood obesity, etc. but in the absence of any dialogue that includes the welfare of children we should assume that once life resumes post-COVID the mob will have moved on and what’s broken won’t be fixed.
Given how quickly people’s focus changes that feels like a safe assumption.