[Unpublished; email to a friend, January 7, 2006]There are three things people mean when they talk of childhood innocence: vulnerability, ignorance, and moral purity. (I touched on this in my First Things piece on “Against Eternal Youth,” but didn’t have room to get into it fully.)
A child's (1) vulnerability ought to stir us; we want to protect them physically and emotionally. That's one of our most urgent drives. But (3) moral purity is a chimera; children are born completely selfish, and slowly and painfully learn to make room for others in their lives.