How valuable is human life? Are lives of all humans equal? Many have read about sad accomplishments of Boku Haram in Nigeria, beheadings by ISIS, yet there is barely a reaction reaction by the Western World to the travesties. In a similar vein, columnists noted an unreasonable prevalence of Israel on the of the United Nations Human Rights Commission agenda. While human rights violations occur in country after country, only Israel is singled out for a constant stream of criticism and censure, even when violations are rare.
Inequalities exist, at least globally. What of the value of life in the United States? A recent, upsetting event grabbed attention while I recently vacationed in New Jersey. When it comes to news, this was a very small event. It likely received no national press, even though it was plastered all over Philadelphia news for several days. A woman was hit by a car while carrying her two year old son across the street. The son was thrown from her arms and suffered terrible injuries that resulted in his death two days later. The hit and run driver was never apprehended. There are hit and run accidents in our country all the time, but they do not often involve toddlers. Because of the young age of this victim, city hall arranged for a five thousand dollar reward leading to the apprehension of the driver. The reward was then doubled and redoubled within two days; and each time the reward increased, the age of the victim was highlighted.
Jews can not denigrate the value of children. Jews put extreme value in the lives of little ones. Was not the first command given in the Torah to humankind to be fruitful and multiply? Can we forget that Moses demanded the right to leave Egypt with our youth and our aged, when he faced Pharaoh and asked permission from him for the Israelites to worship in the wilderness? Have we forgotten the famous lesson that our ancestors offered their children as their guarantee of commitment, when offered the Torah at Sinai? Jews love kids, and put great store in them, but Jewish tradition is also replete with statements that show value for the aged. Wisdom, tradition claims, comes with the arrival of gray hair. Maimonides Code, the Mishnah Torah, explains that a zaken, an older person, is one who has acquired wisdom. The Mishna commands that people stand when meeting someone who is older (literally gray haired.) And again, remember Moses comment cited above.
Many have read of hit and run accidents in numerous communities, but rarely are there rewards offered that are as great as those offered when children are hurt. If effort is multiplied because of sensitivity that children are hardly in a position to defend themselves or look out for their own well being, perhaps it is understandable. However, if it is simply a gut reaction because a child may be hurt, it may reflect how badly this country has been jaded by a constant barrage of horror, death and mayhem. We have become callous in the face of numerous deaths of adults: soldiers in the Middle East, Palestinians and Israelis, Kurds, Iraqis, Syrians and Nigerians. This emotional disconnect belittles the value of all life.
It is of little consequence if a reward is offered to apprehend a suspect involved in a traffic accident or a crime. Each situations must be processed expediently What is important, though, is that people are reawakened to how precious life is.
When steps are taken to protect all regardless of their age, when old and young have accessible health coverage that they need, when old and young can cross streets safely, then things will have shown a marked improvement. When different rewards and reactions occur depending on the age of the harmed, old double standards apply, and equality is sadly absent.