Halifax Daily News

Thursday, December 23, 1999

Children? Fragile? No way

Politicians, watch out who you speak for

By John Robson, The (Halifax) Daily News

Over the years, radicals have been disappointed by their constituencies. First, Marxists went to all that trouble over the working class, only to have it vote for Nixon and Reagan. Then they spoke up for women, only to find that many women had the disagreeable habit of thinking for themselves and doing crazy things like voting for, or even being, Margaret Thatcher.

So they have wisely started claiming constituencies that can't really talk back: the environment and children. Even here I fear they may be in for some disappointment. They had Canadian children vote on their favourite right from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (leaving out the right not to be aborted) and the little brats went and voted for family ahead even of free money, let alone non-discrimination and free speech.

However, I've been wondering all along whether this push makes sense. Children are supposed to be super-fragile, spun-glass creatures.

But consider this item from The National Post this August: "A four-year-old Kentville boy fell off a cliff at Blomindon Provincial Park yesterday and plummeted 20 metres before slamming into a thin ledge high above the Bay of Fundy, the RCMP said. Andrew Herritt ... had head lacerations and suffered some bruising, but will be fine." Twenty metres is more than 60 feet. Don't try this at home.

Or this, from The Post in June: In Winnipeg, "A two-year-old boy fell from a fifth-floor window of a downtown apartment block yesterday, landing face first on a concrete parking lot, but suffered no major injuries." Five storeys onto your face on concrete. Five storeys onto anything on concrete. Five storeys into your grave. Not this kid.

Not that The National Post is "All plunging children, all the time," but how about its story from May about a woman on a train in China who got stomach pains? Her husband took her to the washroom, she gave birth to her first child, panicked, screamed and dropped him down the toilet. "He was spotted by three security guards outside Guangzhou, but before they could reach him, another train sped by right over him. The child had a few bruises."

A few bruises? I do not recommend that you fall down the toilet of a moving train, people, but if you do, my guess is you'll end up considerably worse for wear. And that's before the other train roars over you.

I also wonder whether there isn't a bit more whining about the elderly than is necessary. How about the guy who escaped from San Quentin back in 1979, having been in trouble since his first arrest in 1936 for bike theft and was nabbed this spring for robbing a bank at 78? Or the guy busted in New York for dealing crack and trading it to prostitutes for sex at 89? If I can remember what sex is at age 89, I'll be happy.

Lest these senior delinquents inspire you to pity and the urge to establish government counselling programs so they don't go really bad when they hit 100, how about Rosia Lee Ellis, home alone at the tender age of 112 back in 1994 when someone broke into her Detroit home and threw her to the ground? She grabbed him where he did not want to be grabbed, shouted for help, and held him until it arrived. We (temporarily) able-bodied adults should be so vigorous.

And as for all this "fragility of the environment" stuff, a family in Britain was sitting around their roaring fire this month when a goldfish came whizzing down the chimney, bounced off the blazing coals, and began wiggling its tail to say "Stunt over, water please." (The British Society for the Prevention of Completely Bizarre Cruelty to Animals guessed it had been scooped up by a clumsy heron that settled on the chimney to enjoy some pond-food and dropped it.) But just try plunging down a chimney into a roaring fire and see how you fare.

I think I need more protection than these supposedly helpless and inarticulate constituencies. And I warn all the politicians who speak for them: you better watch out if you offend these guys; you won't be safe on a mountaintop, on a ledge half-way down a cliff, or even in a locked room. At least not if it has a chimney.

COPYRIGHT (1999) The Halifax Daily News