There was an article in National Geographic a few months ago, about “the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas—and likely in world history.” According to the piece, that event occurred in Peru, almost six centuries ago, at the hands of the Chimú civilization.
The coverage had all the National Geographic hallmarks. The outsized, colorful photographs (in this case, of cinnabar-smeared skulls and sternums). The passive-aggressive distancing between observer and observed. “What could possibly have been the reason?” the author mused.
In the context of the last eighteen months, that voyeuristic outrage seems almost delusional. One could argue that child sacrifice is alive and well and happening in the United States—on a scale the Chimú could never have imagined. Sure, the mechanisms are different. And sure, the damage takes a variety of forms. But snatching babies from their parents is just a different way of getting the same result. As is letting kids shoot each other to death in schools. As is wrecking the planet they will have to inhabit longer than you.
There’s an exquisite gratuitousness to this conspiracy of old against young. Scanning the channels last night, I saw CNN do its knee-jerk Trumper-in-the-wild thing—elderly white folks, sitting in a diner so brightly retro it burned through the screen. They looked unhealthy and unhappy, as they complained that they shouldn’t be made to feel guilty because of crying toddlers in internment camps. I wondered if any of them read National Geographic.
It’s a form of terrorism, really—this ransoming of innocence. On the day Thandie was born, she came out with the umbilical cord around her neck, and the entirety of my being hung by a thread as the nurses whisked her away and coaxed her into breathing. Most of us are hanging together, now, for these other kids, desperately hoping they will breathe too, and unable to fathom this cult of adults that must have its tribute.
Please: fight back.