Suffer the Children.

You know, it is unfortunate and horrible when a child is ill. It is unfortunate and horrible when anyone is ill. But why oh why are all sick children always ‘brave’? Brave: Having or displaying courage, resolution, or daring; not cowardly or timid. You act bravely or you act cowardly. Bravery is not bravery unless there is the option available to be cowardly – there’s an element of choice. A child who has had some awful illness resulting in numerous operations and perhaps the removal of a limb or two, doesn’t really have very much choice in the matter, and probably doesn’t have much of a clue about what is going on anyway. The doctor doesn’t go to the child and say, “Well, that leg is going to have to come off,” and the child doesn’t reply, “Go ahead doctor, I’ll hold the tourniquet and bite on this stick while you saw.” This perpetual pathetic misuse of the word ‘brave’ devalues it (just like the use of the word ‘hero’ to describe a football player). Now, perhaps the mother and father will be able to say that their child has displayed courage throughout the trauma, and maybe that will be true despite the usual parental bias. Perhaps the hospital staff will have some say in this. But am I cynical in assuming that in our ‘inclusive equality-driven society’ that the kid who goes screaming and whining to the hospital is going to get the same ‘bravery’ award as the one who showed resolution and courage?

7 thoughts on “Suffer the Children.

  1. Undoubtedly the poor-taste award is yours. Who will you thank in your speech? "I'd like to thank my probation officer, my psychiatrist and that nice man with the ECT electrodes and the pint syringe of thorazine." hur hur

  2. Hm… my guess is you're missing the point…

    Let me illuminate the matter:
    The point is to provide the child with some small measure of comfort in the face of these terribe circumstances that are, as you point out, completely outside the child's control. You do this by telling the child they are 'brave'.

    The point is not, on the other hand, to make you feel good about a consistent application of the word 'brave'.

    Hope that clears things up for you.

    Love your books by the way.

  3. "You"(CAN )"do this by telling the child they are 'brave'."

    certainly there are many other options to reassure the child in question, and i might add, depending on the age, constantly being told one is brave is just irritating.

    at the age of twelve, during a tree climbing accident i managed to impale myself on a metal fence post. yes, well done, i know. point being the last thing i was interested in at the time was to be condescended to by being called brave for bleeding internally, and loosing a measure of my lower intestine.

    then again, said situation doesn't really qualify for being 'completely outside the child's control.'

    perhaps i should have stopped at the ian and myra reference…

  4. In the U.S., calling terminally ill children and other dying people "brave" is what we do instead of admitting that the sight of them excites our own fear of death.

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