Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Opinion | Can seeing child labor help us end it?

Opinion | Can seeing child labor help us end it?

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We need to look at child labor

Hearing about child labor is heartbreaking. Seeing it is another thing altogether.

Documentary photographer Ken Light saw plenty of it when he captured kids working in U.S. agricultural fields in the late 1970s and early ’80s. As he writes of a 7-year-old tomato picker he encountered, “I could see his tiredness, and his childhood being stolen by this hard labor.”

Light argues in his photo essay that the rest of the country needs to see that exhaustion, too — both of that boy and kids forced to work today — because that’s the only way things will get better.

One of Light’s inspirations, then and today, is the photography that originally exposed child labor conditions in the 1910s. Light includes in his essay several shots by Lewis Hine, whose work for the National Child Labor Committee helped get the first federal protections for children passed.

We need a similar wake-up call now, because, as the Editorial Board recently reported, our legislation is headed in the wrong direction: “In the past year, lawmakers in at least 10 states have sought to undo child-labor protections,” including allowing kids to work in construction or in freezers. It’s hard to read about the 13-year-old The Post uncovered this year working at a Nebraska meatpacking plant — who remained unphotographed, to protect her identity — without wanting to take action.

Chaser: While we’re rethinking labor to benefit children, let’s revisit so-called education reform, too, columnist Perry Bacon writes; school should be about “learning, not job credentialing.”

Since when did “politics as normal” become something other than normal politics?

“Normal,” columnist E.J. Dionne writes, “means accepting the outcome of a legitimate election.” Yet almost 7 in 10 Republicans reject the 2020 results. Add in surgical gerrymandering, book banning and debt-ceiling hostage-taking — generally thanks to Republicans, too — and you get a political culture that’s anything but standard-issue.

It’s important to keep in mind how relatively strange these times are, writes E.J., who identifies these abnormalities as “the heart of our uneasiness” of the past decade or so. Otherwise, true normal will stay permanently out of reach.

Columnist Jason Willick worries about another political deterioration: We’re getting too accustomed to “persistent congressional gridlock, followed by presidential power-grabs.” Congress, he writes, is “grandstanding” its way into obsolescence.

There’s data for this — literally a Grandstanding Score! — that shows that grandstanders do better in elections even though their showboating makes them worse members of Congress.

It’s a symptom of perhaps the ultimate abnormality: As contributing columnist Ted Johnson writes, “Victory, not democracy, is the goal.” To claw back our norms, both sides will need to ditch cynicism for consensus that the rules of the game are more important than coming out on top.

Chaser: Steven Pearlstein lays out a bipartisan compromise on the debt ceiling that’s at least next to normal. Baby steps!

From Leana Wen’s column telling the story of Logan Rachwal, above — one of those 6,000 young people. He was a college freshman in Wisconsin when he got hold of a counterfeit Percocet that contained enough fentanyl to kill him.

As Leana reports, the Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that 6 out of 10 fentanyl-laced pills have a fatal dose. So how do we save kids from this glut?

Naloxone plays a part, Leana says; it’s the overdose-antidote medication she says people should always have on hand. Better pill education is important, too.

But the Rachwal family in particular blames social media. Logan’s mother explains to Leana why she believes “with at least 90 percent certainty that Logan would still be here if there wasn’t social media.”

Chaser: Leana talked with assistant editor Rob Gebelhoff about how to get naloxone into every medicine cabinet in America.

You might have watched the Kentucky Derby on Saturday; did you know that multiple horses died at Churchill Downs in the two weeks leading up to the contest?

That’s because horse racing is trying to survive, and it’s killing its horses to do it.

David Von Drehle’s column explains the pastime’s perverse incentive structure: Today’s gamblers have options from casinos to crypto and are paying less attention to horse racing, so trainers focus on the few marquee events that still draw a crowd.

That means breeding horses for incredibly short careers. David calls them “porcelain, with no future to grow into.” Shattered bones are priced in.

A recently passed law might improve things a bit, David writes. But perhaps it’s better just to end the misery of an industry already halfway to pasture.

Chaser: In 2019, two readers wrote in to push back against an op-ed making similar points. Getting rid of all racing, they wrote, isn’t the way to ensure horses are treated better.

  • Natan Sharansky endured repression under the Soviets. He writes that Vladimir Putin’s rule is even worse.
  • Columnist Catherine Rampell speaks for all of us when she asks: What the heck is going on in the economy?
  • Splashing paint, soup or spuds on priceless art isn’t making the point about climate that protesters think it is, the Editorial Board writes.

It’s a goodbye. It’s a haiku. It’s… The Bye-Ku.

If there’s no more game to play

Grandstanding high score!

Have your own newsy haiku? Email it to me, along with any questions/comments/ambiguities. See you tomorrow!

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