On the Custom of Child Sacrifice in America
School shootings seem like a 21st century phenomenon, but they are a continuation of the American custom of child sacrifice.
If we Americans think of child sacrifice as the fiery and bloody practice of other, more primitive civilizations, that must be because we don’t know our own history. America has been in the business of sacrificing children’s lives on the altar of capitalism for hundreds of years, blood and fire included. And like people in those more “primitive” cultures, we rationalize those deaths.
Let’s start with poor white children. In the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, 146 people, most of them teenage girls, died on March 25, 1911. That factory was known to also illegally employ children under 14, and although several young children were among the counted dead, speculation continues that other children perished in that fire, too.
In the textile mills of the late 19th and twentieth centuries, death and dismemberment were commonplace. And yet, some rationalized that life in the mills was an improvement for poor white children. One would-be reformer commented that “that to most of these unfortunate people, factory life is a distinct improvement over the log cabin, salt pork, and peach brandy, white-trash and Georgia-cracker type of life from which many of them were sifted out when the mills came.”
White children died working in the coal industry, too; studies found that children under age 16 who worked in the mines were three times more likely to die than adult workers and that about 75 percent of slate pickers who were killed were children under 16.
The sacrifice of children to capitalist greed was not, of course, limited to white children. Half of all infants of African descent who were born into American slavery died before their first birthdays. The mortality rate for enslaved African-American children was more than twice that of white children in the same time and place. These deaths were often rationalized according to the same faulty logic as the deaths of poor white children — that enslaved children were “better off” in slavery. Similar rationalizations excused the deaths and tortures of Native American children forced into boarding schools, which were often poorly-disguised forced labor camps.
Public outrage at the suffering of poor white children prompted laws to protect children from exploitation and dangerous working conditions, just as public outrage at the suffering of enslaved Africans prompted laws to end slavery. But in spite of these efforts, child sacrifice continues to flourish in America.
By some estimates, there are still 100 work-related deaths of children under 18 each year in America. This number does not include children who die in the sex trade, which is a complex topic for another article. But work-related deaths of children are now eclipsed by gun deaths. In recent years, the average number of children and teens who die by gunshot each year is 2,647.
School shootings and other mass killings with guns are carried out by the capitalists’ minions: white men who worship military-grade weapons that are manufactured to kill people. The god’s name changes, but it’s the same old god: Moloch, the Canaanite god mentioned in the Old Testament, demanded child sacrifice. So has King Cotton. And Free Trade. And Porn. In the twenty-first century, when politicians and others make obeisance to their current god of death, they call their god the N.R.A., and the N.R.A god promises what all gods have promised: prosperity and freedom from harm. Like all gods, the N.R.A. demands a price for that prosperity and freedom: the lives of children and other innocent victims whose flesh is ripped by gun fire, who bleed out in our schools, our streets, our homes.
We are a country that eats its young, and we rationalize that away, as we always have, by appealing to humanities’ basest instincts: greed, fear, and racism.
Action is the antidote to despair. To effect change, we must vote out every elected official who has taken donations from the N.R.A.
A three-page list of federal elected officials who’ve taken that blood money is here.