Our Children as Indicators of Society’s Health

 

In an article I wrote last week I made the point that cultures that are thriving tend to treat children well, while in unsettled societies children are more likely to be abused or even used as pawns in war and terror operations. Children are less likely to be seen as a protected group if a society is in crisis. Enlightened adults believe that to ensure the future of a thriving culture children need to be sheltered from the dysfunctional aspects of human societies until they have absorbed the best of what humans are capable of and are grown up enough to try to contribute these positive attitudes to continue nurturing a healthy society. It may be impossible to produce perfect humans but it seems better to err on the side of hope.

So when I find some in my own country hardening their hearts against children I begin to feel worried about the health of our nation. Is this about the economy, about money? Is there not enough money to keep America operating on a sound financial footing? Is our economy poorer than we know?

We know that some Americans are very, very rich. In an article by Joy Ann Reid in the Daily Beast, we are told that many Evangelicals are actually told in their churches that if you are rich it proves that God loves you and supports you. Are wealthy Americans hoarding money? Is this about the fact that most of us no longer work for these very wealthy people who now feel they are paying high taxes to support people who do not benefit them in any way. That would mean that they no longer believe in Democracy or that all men are created equal. That would mean they are not Patriots; they don’t mind undermining the Constitution and rebooting America as an oligarchy or worse.

They seem to believe that economics is the most important factor in defining our society. They will do anything they need to do, pass any laws, vote out any laws to create the booming economy they want. They don’t believe humans can change climate (because climate change regulations hurt their economics) but they do believe their own human meddling will make the economy hum along again.

However, it seems that the world is in an economic lull at the moment. Jobs pay less, people have less disposable cash. Perhaps the rush to consumerism has lost its steam. Perhaps materialism carried to extremes seems a bit soulless to some of us and we are entering a more minimalist age. These wealthy folks feel they can bring the “old” economy roaring back if they brutally slash costs. The rest of us think we are gradually building a “new” economy. Are the wealthy too impatient to let the economy organically show us what new directions it will take, or do they believe that we are in an economic cul de sac that goes nowhere but down.

I see articles on the internet from wealthy people who predict that money will be worthless, or the economy will fail. They tell us we should stash away $100,000 in cash or put our money in banks in Norway or some such thing (advice that is obviously inappropriate for those of us who live paycheck to paycheck). All of these panic “insights” from those who are supposedly experts in the area suggest that some of the wealthy believe the American economy will fail completely.

Is this why the current administration wants to pass laws that take away the special regard we have had for our children? Are money worries behind a health plan that takes health insurance away from 23 million Americans, including children living below the poverty line? Is America in decline, at the edge of failure? Are things so bad that we can no longer feed hungry children or their moms? Is this why the new budget in Congress proposes to cut SNAP (food stamps) by 193 million and Medicaid by 800+ million, eventually by 45%? Will we be bringing back child labor?

We are told that we need this new health care plan to insure that Americans are not under the control of the Federal government, so they can make their own choices. But why are the choices we get to make so bad? We get to choose high premiums or low levels of care. We get to go back to a situation in which parents cannot give their children or themselves the health care they need? Is this a good trade for the American people? Will it really set us free?

We have thousands of well-trained educators in this country with years of experience in our schools. Why do we find someone placed in charge of our children’s schools who has never been an educator and was never even in a public school until after she took control of the US Department of Education? Here is another sign of a new lack of regard for our children and a sign that many have lost faith that we are still an affluent and powerful nation.

We have Americans who oppose family planning, abortion, and even contraception – who believe that you must give birth to any fertilized eggs “God” gives you but who also want to abdicate any responsibility for all the children who will be born into less-than-optimal situations. What sense does it make to encourage producing more children when our society’s supportive attitudes towards children are obviously changing because of a slow economy?

This may not involve bombing places where children gather, or recruiting children as soldiers, or trafficking them to men (or women) who give into deviant sexual practices with innocents, or people who make money by catering to adults with no impulse control. But it could lead there. Once a society stops seeing children as a separate and protected class, the decline has begun and the society slips backwards and becomes less idealistic and hopeful. It seems clear that going down this road will foretell the end of our Democracy, our grand social experiment. What will we become? Nothing we will be proud of. Nothing other nations will admire.

 

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