Pol Pot’s boys

The second half of a story on NPR got me thinking today as I drove in the dark to McDonalds for an oatmeal and coffee. It was about the recent slaughter of forest elephants in the Central African Republic. It was produced by the same NPR reporter who visited the forest twelve years ago to record the sounds of these elephants for a report I well remember.

The killings were for the ivory trade which is rapidly reducing elephants to those hidden behind bars in the world’s zoos. Its a surprising story and in some ways a heartening one but it illustrates the disquieting fact that there is nowhere in the world now that nature is safe from mankind.

I was thinking about the unknown elephant killers. Apparently they were from the Sudan no the Central African Republic. That would be a little like folks from New York traveling to Nebraska to poach. Photos of African child soldiers are all over. These soldiers were likely kids who were kidnapped or who were orphaned and drummed into local insurgencies. Such soldiers probably account for the 300 Nigerian school girls whose only fault was choosing to go to school and being rapeable. There is a ridiculously thin veneer of religion used to justify this crime. The kind of justification a child might use for pushing his littler brother over a cliff.

Africa is full of abandoned children. All throughout sub Saharan Africa there is a sentiment that explains kids that can’t be taken care of by their families as being possessed by demons. You can find shades of this wherever children are neglected. Why are one third of America’s black boys fated to be sent to prison or jail sometime in their lives?

One thing I was confident of as a child learning about the Holocaust was that a civilized world would never let such a thing happen again. Imagine my shock when as a climax to the Vietnam War a shadowy group claiming ties to communism as tenuous as Boko Haram’s are with Islam rounded up the entire population of Cambodia and marched everyone under armed guard to the jungles and made them “farm.” Rather than let everyone starve Pol Pot’s soldiers, many of whom were war orphans who had grown up with guns in the forest, gave their Kalashnikovs to city raised children with orders for them to shoot their parents. A gun was trained on the murderers-to-be’s heads so they had little choice.

William Golding’s remarkable little novel “Lord of the Flies” portrays civilized children left to their own devices on a desert island becoming dangerously feral. I’d suggest that abandoning children to adults in war is a surer path for them to become disciples of Hell. I’m sure this was true in China in the time of the war lords and at every other Era in the world History where mayhem ruled.

Civilization is a fragile tissue easily torn. Abandoned children are a tear (rip) ready to happen. They will join gangs rather than starve, shoot elephants, kidnap school girls, you name it. But its not just abandoned children that we have to watch out for. Recent analysis of rapes on college campuses, hardly the province of abandoned children, suggest that most of the thousands of reported rapes are the work of about 6 out of every 100 college men. These fellows must be the kind of people, who during war, know how to put abandoned children to good use or run concentration camps or maybe, in peacetime, who become prison guards, corporate CEO’s or sometimes ministers.

How does one wade through such a world of Pol Pots boys or their mentors? The carpenter’s son from Nazareth reportedly advised: “Be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”

When we put one-third of all black American men in jail I don’t think that advice is being heeded. It would probably require a “Christian” nation to put that advice into practice.

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