466. The Rights of Children

Children, like adults, have certain inalienable rights. Some are legal rights, and some are just plain right. We call rights “inalienable,” but I don’t think the word fools anybody; history and the present are full of examples of ways rights have been and are ignored or denied. But we keep trying hard to get our rights to become more inalienable, and though progress is slow, things really are better than they were a thousand years ago.
Adults, having so much more size, skill, knowledge, and power than children, can easily ignore or forget about children’s rights. It’s also easy to deny
that children have any rights. Sure, they’ll get bigger, more skillful, more knowledgeable, and more powerful, but some short-sighted adults don’t think much about that; as long as they have power over children, they use that power however they want. If that will cause problems later, well, that’s later.
Adults do things to children that many of them would never do to adults. I’ve seen angry adults take out their anger on children. Frustrated by a world that won’t do what they tell it to do, they treat their children as they wish they could treat the whole frustrating world; they yell, hit, and punish. And their behavior is not as likely to get them in trouble as would behaviors that more directly express their frustration about everything.
Or they lie to children. Of course, lying happens all over the place, but children tend to be easier to lie to than the general public. Some catch on more quickly than others, but even if they do catch on, there may be little they can do about it, just as there’s often little we adults can do when we become aware that people more powerful than we are have lied. We can become activists, but we may be too busy or too scared.
Adults tend to get away with stepping on children’s rights. I suspect that if you’re reading this article, you’re an adult who doesn’t do that as much, but I don’t know; there are people who think hard about the rights of everyone except children, and maybe some of them are reading what I write. I hope so, and I hope my words have some effect.
Adults, of course, have rights, too, and there are many times when children’s rights face adults’ rights head-on. That’s when adults are most apt to use their superior size, skill, intelligence, and power. It’s also when adults are most likely to argue that the rights of children are not so important – that children can have rights when they’re older – when they’ve “earned” some rights.
I don’t think children should have to earn the right to be treated with respect. I don’t think anyone should have to. I hope some of the rights we like to call “inalienable” can actually become a little more inalienable, and be granted to everyone, regardless of origin, gender, life style, or age.

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