Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our nation's shocking Lady Macbeth moment

I am just cynical enough not to be easily shocked. This cynicism extends to our societal woes, and particularly our social and economic inequities driven by the worship of the free market theories. Yet, I truly was shocked by this article in Scientific American. And no, it was not the scientific confirmation of our intuition that poverty breeds stress, which in turn breeds difficult behaviors. What got me was this paragraph:
The United States currently leads the developed world with the highest maternal infanticide rate (an average of 8 deaths for every 100,000 live births, more than twice the rate of Canada). In a systematic analysis of maternal infanticide in the U.S., DeAnn Gauthier and colleagues at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette concluded that this dubious honor falls on us because “extreme poverty amid extreme wealth is conducive to stress-related violence.” Consequently, the highest levels of maternal infanticide were found, not in the poorest states, but in those with the greatest disparity between wealth and poverty (such as Colorado, Oklahoma, and New York with rates 3 to 5 times the national average). According to these researchers, inequality is literally killing our kids. [emphasis mine]
So, here we are, in the 21st century dystopia of escalating social inequities that are "literally killing our kids"! Yet, people who should know better, knowingly or unknowingly, continue to advocate the failed philosophy of objectivism, a system that advocates pursuit of rational self-interest, the supremacy of individual rights (selectively applied to the haves), and the cheer-leads for keeping government out of private market interactions (yeah, that worked really well with the banking industry).

But why let facts get in the way of our reality? Let me say it again: "inequality is killing our kids"! And it is doing it by relegating mothers to abuses of abject poverty, to be perpetuated by these holy "free" market forces (which incidentally are not free at all, but are sold to the highest bidder by the government, with each of us standing by eager to defend our own piece of the pie at all costs). This is not just deplorable, it is criminal. These maternal infanticide statistics, along with other less visible abuses concentrated in the socially expendable poor masses are on all our consciences. We may try to evade the crushing weight of this responsibility by robotically parroting free market mantra and personal responsibility lies. This will not change the fact of the blood on our hands.

The level of our healthcare debate is but a symptom of our willingness to walk away from this maternal holocaust. And no, this is not a socialist view, it is not a conspiratorialist view, and it is not anti-freedom view to acknowledge the moral bankruptcy of sweeping this problem, invisible to most of us privileged Americans, under the rug.

The realization is viscerally painful, yet the time has come. For those of us who need scientific evidence before we make any move to change our behaviors, there it is, for the taking. Science has spoken: "inequality is literally killing our kids". This is a call to social action. This is a call to save our future!


  1. Oh, I've not read the article yet, but I'm concerned you are right - concerned you are right & we are so very stuck in old, outdated and useless modes of thinking about infanticide, poverty and maternal stress that we won't do the new things we need to do to fix it.

  2. YES YES YES! Marya, you are a powerful advocate on ALL of our behalf and you are making a serious cry for action that we all must respond to. Everything you say here is true. There is no doubt that the ways that issues of poverty are played out in this country leave mothers as the leading demographic of adults living in poverty in the U.S. Poverty has heavy consequences in this country for our ability to care for ourselves and our families. Mothers take the brunt of this and our children suffer (and die) because of it.

    Marya, we've got to talk more and partner in every way possible. So glad we are doing this together.

  3. Karen, Liz, thanks for your feedback. There is so much work to be done. I feel like we are at a cross-roads, and we need to start from common points of agreement, such as "motherhood is valued" and have a logical flowing discussion from there. I listened to a podcast of Krista Tipett "On Being" over the weekend, where she was interviewing a scholar who studies torture. His most memorable line: "Evil does not walk into a room wearing horns and a tail". It is what Hannah Arendt observed in her "Eichmann in Jerusalem" -- evil is incremental and banal, not a radical turn made consciously by society. Well, the good must be equally incremental and banal -- we must get there!