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The Silent Cries of Hiding Children: Fifty Years After MLK's Riverside Church Speech

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Intrepid Report 4 April 2017

"In the cellar, darkness prevails day and night, and even when we are carrying a lighted candle, we see shadows dancing on the dark walls." Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

"I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: 'A time comes when silence is betrayal." Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam, 4/4/67

Come, let's play hide-and-seek, America's favorite game.

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As we all know, children love to play hide-and-seek, but they don't like to have to hide and be sought. It's the playing that they like; it allows them to control the terrifying IT, real and imagined, that seeks to find and destroy them, body and soul. In the game, even if whoever is IT catches you before you can reach the safety of home, there is always the next game and the opportunity to switch roles. In kids' games you can always go home again.

But in the world where adults make the rules and pretend the emperor's nakedness is a beautiful robe, children often have no second chances. And when they do, they must deal with the wounds that result from the adults' treachery that often cripples them for life.

Reading about all the terrified children who were hiding in the cellar of a building in Mosul, Iraq, and were killed by America's flying monsters, got me thinking about the day and night terrors of child victims everywhere. While doing so, a student of mine at the college where I teach, a woman of extraordinary sensitivity to the world's suffering, shared with me a poem she wrote:

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Fear Remembered

At the top of the stairs,

A little girl waits in her dark room.

Facing the wall, afraid to go to sleep.

Blankets pulled up tight,

She holds her breath.

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Breathless as she hears the stairs creak,

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Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely. He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is

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