Women and Children First?

[You know, sometimes it seriously seems that, if it were not for hypocrisy, we might have no character whatever as a nation. Grown politicians foam at the mouth and faint at even a suspicion that someone somewhere might be having an abortion. Yet these same righteous individuals will blithely cut foreign aid and domestic funding that would prevent the deaths of up to 70,000 children each year. If we didn’t know what honorable folks they all are – just ask them – we might even suspect that they don’t give a shit about anything but their own corporate-backed agendas. We must be too cynical, that’s all. But here’s the text of an email from a fellow cynic. – LLF]

Dear Linda,

In Washington, DC, the leaders of both parties are celebrating. “Woo-hoo, we made a deal! Isn’t that great?!”

Well, it depends on the deal.

There is one particular part of the federal budget that I’ve been following closely for the past couple of weeks. Since March 30th. When Rajiv Shah, the head of the US Agency for International Development, testified that Republican budget cuts would kill 70,000 children.

“We estimate, and I believe these are very conservative estimates, that H.R. 1 [the original Republican budget proposal] would lead to 70,000 kids dying,” he said.

“Of that 70,000, 30,000 would come from malaria control programs that would have to be scaled back specifically. The other 40,000 is broken out as [follows:] 24,000 would die because of a lack of support for immunizations and other investments, and 16,000 would [die] because of a lack of skilled attendants at birth.”

Now, admittedly, all these children deliberately chose to be born outside the United States. To make things worse, they selected parents living in poverty. And, of course, most of them have brown skin.

Notwithstanding all that, I would very much prefer to see these children alive. Maybe it’s just me, but it disturbs me to think that 70,000 innocent children will die in pain from malaria or some other horrible disease, or die at birth because no one in the neighborhood happens to know how to perform an episiotomy.

Not to mention the mothers. Among women, at the time when my mother was born, the second leading cause of death was birth. Childbirth, specifically. That’s still true in some other parts of the world.

After I heard about Shah’s testimony, I looked up the bill he was referring to, H.R. 1. It’s true. In Title XI of the bill, the section on the State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations, there are big cuts.

Then yesterday, when the Republicans posted their new budget bill H.R. 1473 online, I looked that up, too. And, starting on Page 364, I saw big cuts in the State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations. Not quite as big as H.R. 1. But still big.

Personally, I’d like to know how many children H.R. 1473 is going to kill. But no one in Washington, DC is likely to provide that figure, because the leaders of both parties are so busy celebrating the “compromise.”

But there is no compromise, there is no middle ground, between life and death.

The record for human sacrifice was established in 1487, by the Aztecs. Aztec priests slaughtered 80,000 prisoners of war, to celebrate their new temple. (The event was loosely portrayed in Mel Gibson’s 2006 movie Apocalypto.)

So no matter how many children H.R. 1473 may kill, it won’t set a record. At most, it will earn the silver medal for cruelty.

I just wish that someone, in either party, would make the case that the federal budget is not simply 500 pages of large numbers. It also represents our collective effort to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and heal the sick. To help people accomplish whatever it is that they can accomplish in life, unburdened and undefeated by poverty, bigotry, hunger, unemployment, disease, racism, sexism and ignorance. Our collective effort to fulfill the last four words of the Pledge of Allegiance: “and justice for all.”

Ain’t that America?


Alan Grayson


About l. l. frederick

I'm pretty ordinary, so I find any number of things in the world interesting, among them: books, music, flowers, food, social justice, politics and (sometimes!) people. As for my writing, I've decided that I can be subtle and tasteful when our only problems are esthetic ones. Or when I'm dead, whichever comes first. In the meantime, read at your own risk.
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