my wife and I accompanied our three year old daughter
to school. It was her first day back after the lengthy
but wet summer break. Her exuberance added buoyancy
to her excitable demeanour which, as the day moved
on, proved infectious. She had talked about it for
weeks. As soon as she set foot in the living room
this morning, and even before she howled for her 'favourite'
to be put on the TV, she handed me the phone with
the instruction, 'ring the taxi.' Last night before
going to sleep she laid her green uniform out on her
bedroom floor, with her pink and white socks tucked
neatly into the trouser bottoms. It was cute. Initially
her mother thought I had done it. On learning it was
the child she took a photo of the 'arrangement' to
send to her own mother in Los Angeles.
few days earlier the same scene was surely played
out in many Russian homes. The big difference being
that at the end of our daughter's school day she was
there for us to collect, to be put in a taxi and taken
home with us. For many Russian parents that was not
possible. For some children it was their first and
final day in school.
we send our young off to school, the quietude occasioned
by their departure is an opportunity to catch up.
There is always something that can be done much easier
and quicker without the persistent questions and demands
that come from a three-year-old. Even if it is no
more than a response to an impatient request repeated
ad nauseum to have the TV channel switched to Scooby
Doo, it draws us away from our own preoccupations
of the moment, irritating us as a matter of course.
Mumbling under the breath has little impact on them,
drawing only the admonishment, 'you said a bad word.'
They hold no brief for adult conversation or concentration.
Theirs is a world of instant gratification. To be
temporarily freed from that is not without its rewards.
the end of the school day we always expect that they
will be there for us. We allow them to go to their
class rooms where our eyes are not on them because
we are convinced they are safe. The teachers are solid
and trustworthy, the bus driver is cautious, astute
and reliable. After the first week at school the children's
absence from home is not missed but welcomed. If someone
were to phone us and tell us that the UDA were up
at the school our biggest fear would be that it was
up trying to sell drugs. Despite the hate machine
that was cranked up at Holy Cross three years ago
and the willingness of some to wage war on the four
year olds, few of us really think that loyalists are
going to walk in and slaughter all the children they
come across. It was something they could have done
at any stage since 1969. If any within their ranks
showed an inclination towards it there were always
wiser heads to counsel against.
news broke last week that Chechen rebels had occupied
a school and were holding the children hostage, a
sense of trepidation took grip. The children's captors
had already established a reputation for themselves
as ruthless and brutally indifferent to the fate of
the innocent in their midst. They had earlier been
blamed for bringing down two Russian civilian airliners
through the use of self-destruct bombers. Last year
they had siezed a Moscow cinema which resulted in
the deaths of over 100 hostages largely because of
the gas fired into the building by Russian commandos.
Once they had opted to take over a school in Beslan
and imprison children, an ominous outcome beckoned.
people who occupied the school ostensibly demand independence
for Chechnya. In their way is a Kremlin administration
headed by the thug Vladimar Putin, sometimes referred
to as a president. In style and application he is
little different from the communist czars who preceded
him, or the nobility who the communists themselves
displaced. His administration's treatment of the Chechen
situation has been nothing less than abominable and
barbaric. He has up to 300 000 troops in the independence
seeking region. One source estimates that 35, 000
Chechen childen have been butchered by Russian troops.
Over the course of a decade Chechnya's population
has been more than halved. Putin's ability to tighten
the screw of repression has been facilitated by a
US regime which, in the words of Tariq Ali, rewards
the crimes of its friends and punishes the crimes
of its enemies. Because the Moscow administration
settles its own disputes under the rubric of the international
'war on terror', the US agrees that human rights are
something for Iraqis but not for Chechens.
to the Beslan school massacre stated that the Chechen
killers claimed they were murdering children in response
to the slaughter of Chechen kids by Russian forces.
Whatever justification or rationale they seek to offer,
those who purposely set out to kill children are today's
equivalent of Nazis. The notion that Nazis are peculiar
to their own time and place, the product of specific
historical and political conditions, is one whose
intellectual value is fast depleting. Whatever else
it may purport to be Nazism is an attitude which incorporates
the notion that there is justification for selecting
children for extermination because they were born
in one place rather than another. Apologists aiming
to provide political cover for the cult of infanticide
by manufacturing the alibi of political context, ensure
their own banishment to a wilderness populated for
the most part by the Hindley-Brady Appreciation Society.
Their reluctance to square up to the child killers
and brook them no tolerance whatsoever, their pretence
that somehow the cult of infanticide, for all its
inherent abhorrences, hails from the same venerable
tradition as other oppositional currents, serves to
Nazify and demean the range of resistance cultures
that strive daily to restrain, oppose and eradicate
brutal regimes such as Putin's.
Wilson recently wrote that sometimes circumstances
leave no option but to use the weapons of the powerful
against them. He was certainly right to protect the
integrity and legitimacy of such a position. It is
one the radical tradition must vigilantly firewall
against those who prey on children. While radicals
must always be on the the side of justice, child murderers
can never be.
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