“From my experience of hundreds, I was going to say thousands, of children I know that they have perhaps a finer sense of honor than you and I have.”
–Gandhi (Young India, November 19, 1931)
How often does our media turn to hear the voices of children when violence occurs? We see their photographs, but where are their voices? Unheard, they are used as tools to spark our anger, outrage, and grief that can be used to convince us to take up arms, increase “security”, or support violent retaliation. We do this in the name of protecting the children, but is that the reality? What happens when we hear from them directly in our media?
After the terrorist attacks in Paris, one French news channel did speak with people of all ages, including a nine year old and another child probably around four. The nine year old, when asked why she came out, spoke eloquently, saying that when she heard what happened, she was overwhelmed and she asked her mother if she would take her the next day to see it. As her tears started falling, she said firmly, “I don’t want there to be any war.” Her worry was real, and her nobility–her humanity– was palpable. Could there be any question that we should hear from children regularly?
When the interviewer turned to the four year old, he was processing what had taken place in a conversation with his father. “People are going to shoot us, Daddy; we need to move.” Is this not what we all feel, but rarely admit to feeling? But his father told him, “No we won’t leave. This is our home. And you see here? All of the people are putting down flowers. This is to combat guns.” Interestingly, the boy was first skeptical but then carefully observed the masses of people coming forward to place flowers at the scene of the attack. He added, “And the candles?” The father replied, “To remember those who left us yesterday.” You can see it go through the boy’s mind as he carefully considered whether it was true to him or not. Children are scrupulous in this way. And he turned to the interviewer and said, “The flowers and candles are here to protect us.”
Nonviolence is of course more than flowers and candles. It is more than calling for an end to war. It is creative action that takes these children seriously, not using them for political gain — or selling them war toys. Children do not want violence. Why do we justify it in their names? We need to learn to see them as full of dignity, and take action that upholds that dignity.
Experiment in Nonviolence:
Raise the voices of children everywhere.