On Friday, U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson said some nice words about how girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria ought to be released from captivity.
Frederica Wilson could get up and give a speech before the U.S. House of Representatives, but there’s little else she can do. In her speech, she called upon the American people to engage in activism, of a sort, but that activism really just amounted to more talk.
Wilson urged Americans to write messages on Twitter expressing their opinions that the kidnapped girls should be released. “I urge you to join our Twitter war to keep the world’s attention on the kidnapping of
these children. Tweet #bringbackourgirls and #joinrepwilson every day, 9 a.m. to noon.
We will not be silenced. We will not be stopped. We will get our girls back. Tweet, tweet, tweet.”
Of course, Twitter has already been a stage for weeks of tweets with the #bringbackourgirls hashtag. During that time, no girls have been released. 90 more have been kidnapped.
Certainly, the kidnapped girls in Nigeria should be free.
All children should be free.
Children should not just be free to move around as they wish, but should be free from violence, and the threat of violence as well.
Frederica Wilson did sponsor a congressional resolution a couple of weeks ago, expressing opposition to the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria. 411 members of Congress voted for H.Res. 617. Then, as with the Twitter campaign, nothing happened. The U.S. Congress doesn’t have any power to change what Boko Haram does or doesn’t do, short of launching a military invasion of Nigeria.
Congress does have the power to protect children in the United States from violence, though.
Something else having to do with violence against children took place in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday. U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy introduced H.R. 5005. Unlike H.Res. 617, H.R. 5005 is not just empty talk. It would establish concrete action to protect children from violence. It would prohibit the use of corporal punishment in public schools.
Corporal punishment is a clinical term for something very nasty: The purposeful infliction of violence against children, with the explicit purpose of causing children pain. Torture is what it is. Torture against adults is against the law in the USA, but torture against children is another matter.
Many states in the USA already prohibit corporal punishment in public schools. Supporters of corporal punishment have warned that these states would see a rise of problems in education as a result of these prohibitions, but there is no evidence at all of any negative consequences. At the same time, scientific studies have shown that children who receive corporal punishment have worse behavioral problems later in life than children who do not receive corporal punishment.
Corporal punishment only hurts. It does not help. There is no good reason for children to receive the pain of corporal punishment. Yet, in the following states, children in public schools live in fear that they will be beaten when they are accused, rightly or wrongly, of breaking the rules:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming.
Corporal punishment is outlawed even in Afghanistan, but like Nigeria, the United States of America has no national ban against corporal punishment in public schools. So, H.R. 5005 is a much-needed remedy.
Here’s the odd thing: Only 25 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed their names as sponsors H.R. 5005. Frederica Wilson, who spoke so urgently about the need to protect children in Nigeria against violence, has not joined the coalition of U.S. Representatives seeking to protect children from violence in schools right here in the USA. Sheila Jackson Lee, who got up right after Frederica Wilson to deliver a speech on Friday in support of the #bringbackourgirls campaign, has not signed her name as a supporter of H.R. 5005.
Both Frederica Wilson and Sheila Jackson Lee represent districts in states that allow the corporal punishment of children in public schools. Chances are good that children in their home districts are being beaten throughout the school year because legislators like them have refused to take action to stop the violence.
Of the 411 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted to express outrage about violence against children in Nigeria, 389 have not signed their names to legislation to stop violence against children by public schools in the United States. They’re willing to speak up for children when it’s someone else, somewhere else, who will have to take action against the problem. For the problem in their own country, their resolve suddenly dissolves.