Tear Gassing Children is a Crime Against Humanity

Tear Gassing Children is a Crime Against Humanity
These Americans .com

During the 1964 Rochester riots, tear gas was used against protesters. At the Armory, these National Guardsmen were issues masks to protect themselves against the tear gas. 7/26/64(TheseAmericans.com)

George Cassidy Payne

Soon after President Trump positioned, encouraged, and sanctioned border patrol agents to deploy tear gas against migrants on the border, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a forceful statement: “Children are uniquely vulnerable to physiological effects of chemical agents. A child’s smaller size, and more frequent number of breaths per minute and limited cardiovascular stress response compared to adults magnifies the harm of agents such as tear gas.”

The organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical sub-specialists and pediatric specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults, went on to add: “Immigrant children are still children, and they deserve our compassion and assistance. We will continue to speak out against their inhuman treatment and advocate for their safety.”

The president’s doublespeak aside, the use of tear gas against children is a crime against humanity. There is no way to safely gas someone. The gas chambers in Nazi Germany were not “showers.” No matter what acronym a regime employs, a canister of gas is still a canister of gas. If it wasn’t intended to cause pain and serve as a deterrent, it would not be used at all. Simply put, there is a reason that the use of chemical agents have been banned in warfare since 1925 (Geneva Protocol).

In Brighton is the Rochester VA Outpatient Clinic. As so many veterans can bear witness to, gas is one of the most sickening forms of violence ever devised. Tragically, thousands of soldiers in Vietnam, and millions of Vietnamese, were exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical herbicide, which acted as a defoliant during the war. The dreadful legacy of this chemical is still be grappled with.

Rochester VA Outpatient Clinic on Westfall Road. [Photo: David Kramer] From On Veteran's Day at Buckland and Highland Parks. And the Moral Equivalent of War

Rochester VA Outpatient Clinic on Westfall Road. [Photo: David Kramer] From On Veteran’s Day at Buckland and Highland Parks. And the Moral Equivalent of War

Among the diseases linked to the exposure of Agent Orange include, a malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, a nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness; a disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, that can lead to chest pain (angina); and a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement. The popular names of these diseases come in and out of the public’s consciousness, but the physical effects are a daily reminder that chemical weapons are inhumane.

So no, Mr. President, the use of chemical weapons is not safe. To authorize the use of tear gas against children is, for all intents and purposes, akin to a war crime. Period. Immigrant children are still children. In a civilized nation, that would be unnecessary to say. But after decades of using other words to label these children as something less than human, it has become necessary to say it. They are not aliens. They are not illegals. They are not migrants. They are not border jumpers, grabbers, thugs, or criminals. They are still children. For God’s sake, they are still children.

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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