It is open season on American school children.
In the wake of nearly two years of a pandemic that has raged furiously through the planet, politically-poisoned, religion-addled people who have spent that time continually moving the goalposts of what they will protest against (distancing, restrictions, lockdowns, masks, and vaccines), have resorted to digging in their heels and making our schools the hill they’re willing to die on.
The anti-mask, anti-vax zealots are everywhere around our children, who are desperately trying to simply find normalcy and to learn in the middle of an unprecedented disaster. They are in school board meetings, carpool lines, PTA gatherings, high school parking lots, varsity football games. They have brazenly invaded these places and disrupted the extraordinarily difficult work of teachers and school administrators, to ignorantly demand the removal of sensible safeguards that they claim are traumatic and harmful to children.
The irony of the incendiary rhetoric and performative hysteria of these people — is that if not for them, our kids would be fine. If not for them, the worst of this would be over. The sad reality is that these people are the source of our children’s trauma:
It’s traumatic for children to be facing another school year of stops and starts, of positive tests and quarantines and interrupted routines and unknowns. It’s traumatic for children to get sick and to have to be separated once again from peers they’ve spent 18 months isolated from. It’s traumatic for children to watch beloved teachers and coaches and bus drivers and counselors get sick and die from a virus that we have the ability to keep in check.
It’s traumatic for children to bring home a deadly virus to their parents and grandparents and neighbors and best friends. It’s traumatic for children to be told by their mothers and fathers that they need to keep their positive test a secret and to know that is simply wrong. It’s traumatic for children to make sense of parents and mentors who are seemingly fine with them enduring active shooter drills but not mask mandates.
Our children are not the problem here, and neither is the virus.
Kids have adapted to the restrictions and they understand making small sacrifices on behalf of other people and most of them willingly wear masks — unless they are indoctrinated and weaponized by self-serving adults who insist on drafting their own and other people’s children into a nonsensical war on science, sense, and the common good.
Young people seeing masks as oppression or vaccines as a “conspiracy by Big Pharma,” is like them seeing people of color as inferior or a gay child as morally-deficient: these are not opinions children instinctively have. They are perspectives intentionally inculcated by the adults around them who want to replicate their prejudices and agendas in their offspring. It’s essentially child abuse.
The unvarnished truth is that anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are the single force preventing herd immunity, nurturing resistant variants, spreading sickness, and forcing children to exist in a prolonged state of chaos that is doing irreparable harm to them.
We need to defend our kids from this. We need to speak with clarity. We need to make these irresponsible parents accountable.
The rest of this nation needs to confront these adults with the reality that they are singlehandedly perpetuating this pandemic, and derailing the efforts of teachers, school boards, responsible parents, and conscientious children (not to mention maxed out healthcare workers) by clinging to a reckless and dangerous holy war on decency.
Yes, our children are exhausted, and yes they are at their breaking point, and yes they are experiencing profound emotional trauma.
I wish the adults – who refuse to mask and get vaccinated — would stop inflicting it on them.
Іlyа Pеrеludе and Jеllеkе Vаnооtеghеm
The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com