“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
Today our country has spoken for those who cannot speak for themselves in Newtown, CT. Today we refuse to be comforted because of the 20 children who are here no more.
But what about the others? When will we speak and act for them? Our poignant national outpouring of grief stands in stark contrast to our apathetic disregard of the children whose death makes no noise.
On June 18th, 2004 the first known US drone strike killed 5-8 people in Waziristan, Pakistan. Two of them were children. Roughly 18 months later, on January 13, 2006, eighteen civilians were killed in a strike that missed its military target. The civilian dead included 5 women and 5 children. Intel and accuracy has improved since those early strikes, and yet on March 17, 2011 48 civilians were killed; at the time of their death they were attending a jirga; a local dispute-resolution council. The most recent civilian casualty of the drone strikes was likely as recent as December 9, 2012.
It is impossible to know the exact number of deaths caused by drones, or an exact percentage of militants/civilians killed. The CIA claims that no civilians have been killed since 2010, while other groups claim 10 civilians are killed for every 1 militant; the truth is likely somewhere in between. Regardless of the statistics, the practice of executing suspected militants without due process is at best less than American. Even so, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that there have been 339 drone attacks since 2004, killing from 2,586–3,378 people. Anywhere from 472–885 of them were civilians.
176 children have been reported killed.
176 children have been killed, yet we haven’t put candles in our churches or on our Facebook cover photos. 176 children have been dying since 2004, but no one has memorialized their lunch boxes, mourned their empty beds, or commiserated with the loss their parents must feel. No one has written essays reminding us that the deaths of children remind us to hate sin. 176 children have been killed by remote-controlled planes, and we haven’t asked about the impact of societal videogame violence. 176 children have been killed, and we haven’t held up our hands in prayer, asking Jesus to come quickly. 176 children have been killed, and we simply haven’t noticed.
I am well aware that there are ample differences between the senseless actions of school shooters and the strategic actions of the US government. But as I’ve listened to countless people express sadness, commiseration, and grief for the 20 sets of parents who lost a child today, I can’t help but wonder why we are so callous about the 176 sets of parents whose children inadvertently got in the way of our country’s war on terror. I’m aware of the ample differences, but I can’t imagine trying to explain them to the parents of 176 children.
I was proud of my president’s response to the Newtown school shooting; today’s evil called for the emotion he displayed. I was particularly touched at his struggle to say the words, “the majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own… our hearts are broken today.”
In 2009 Planned Parenthood (according to their own statistics) aborted 332,278 children; averages out to 1 every 95 seconds. Many groups estimate that over 50 million children have been aborted in the US since 1973, and most experts agree that’s probably a low number. That’s 50 million children with birthdays, graduations, weddings, and kids of their own ahead of them. I truly wish our president would devote “every single resource needed to investigate these heinous crimes, care for the victims, care for their families,” to the children who are being aborted as well as to the children being shot in our schools.
Our hearts are broken today, but why not every day?
To be Christian is to value life, mourn its loss, and fight like heaven against the curse of death. May God give us the strength of character and stamina of conviction to do so.