The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘children’ Category

WHILE OBAMA DAWDLES

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING IMAGES ARE GRAPHIC

No reasonable person wants war. The ISIS extremists in Iraq, Syria and who knows wherever else are not reasonable. Their credo is to make war and exterminate anyone who does not subscribe to their beliefs.

When Obama came into office, the situation in Iraq was, at least, stable. His policy of trying to end the war, while admirable, has resulted in the holocausts that are happening today in that ancient land. This is a Commander in Chief who could screw up a one horse parade.

Several days ago was the fortieth anniversary of President Nixon’s resignation. While he had not committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” he had certainly overstepped the bounds of legality. He did the right thing. He resigned. The events that brought about RMN’s decision to step down from the highest office in the country were related not to public policy but to creating a mystique and ensuring that his “legacy” would be remembered. It has been.

The pictures below are real examples of brutality and sub-human behavior. If, with the limited air strikes and marginal amounts of “humanitarian aid” that have been forthcoming at the CIC’s direction, I hear one person talk about “income inequality,” a “war on women” or anything equally trivial during the next few months of the campaign, I’m fairly certain that I will retch. Those issues may be minor inconveniences. What is happening to minorities in Iraq is a tragedy.

Nixon did the right thing and resigned. Frankly, his offenses were minimal compared to the affronts to which Obama has subjected the Constitution, the nation and all Americans. Not only has he bankrupted the country financially, he has even more importantly eviscerated the moral ethos on which the country is based and abandoned our allies to fill an un-fillable vacuum which has resulted in the ISIS perversion to gain a strong foothold.

 

ISISsyrianman

A Syrian man beheaded in a brutal execution by ISIS

 

ISISgroupbeheading

A group execution by ISIS in Iraq

 

younggirlISIS

A young girl executed by ISIS in Iraq

 

Mr. President.  I hope you enjoy your vacation.  I hear Martha’s Vineyard is very lovely this time of year.

THE FARMER AND THE THIEF

In the Midwest about twenty-five years ago, just about the time that common sense began its long sabbatical from which it has yet to return, a case came to court which involved a chicken farmer and a chicken thief.  The case was brought against the farmer by the crook.

The farmer had noticed that his chickens were diminishing in number, several at a time.  As he examined the coop he saw no evidence that a fox might be getting in among them as there were no feathers or mutilated chicken parts lying around.  So he concluded correctly that the thief was a human.

In order to preserve his flock and his livelihood, he set up a deterrent – a loaded shotgun inside the barn that would be activated if a person opened the door without disabling this trap.  He also posted a large sign warning whoever the thief was that they were in danger of being shot if the door was opened.

Several nights went by and suddenly the farmer was awakened to the sound of the shotgun being discharged within the coop.  In addition to the blast, he heard the chickens shrieking and went down to find the thief had been disabled by a blast from the gun.  The farmer called the local sheriff’s office and the thief was taken away.  The chicken farmer thought that he had successfully resolved the issue.  He was incorrect.

Several weeks went by and the farmer found that the thief had hired an attorney who had, on his behalf, filed a law suit against the farmer for “reckless endangerment.”  When the case came to trial, both sides made their arguments.  The farmer explained that he was simply trying to protect his family and his living.  He further pointed out that he had posted a sign, warning of the consequences of attempting to steal his chickens.  But, as it turned out, the thief was illiterate and had no idea what the sign said.  The court ruled in the thief’s favor – awarding him a judgment that was so large that the farmer had no way to pay it other than by signing the deed to his farm over to the crook.  Justice was done.

The way in which world opinion is developing regarding the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza reminds me of this sad miscarriage of justice.

Before the thief showed up at his farm, the chicken farmer had not deployed his shotgun.  Before Israel began bombing Hamas weapons arsenals, Hamas was regularly lobbing rockets into Israel.

Before Israel began destroying the tunnels that were intended to provide a means to carry out terrorism within Israel, Hamas had to build those tunnels – with concrete and other supplies that had been supplied by humanitarian and government agencies.  That concrete was supposed to be used to build schools.

Before a thousand or so Palestinian civilians were killed in the conflict, Israel implemented a defense system, “The Iron Dome” to defend itself against the three thousand or so rockets that were launched against it by Hamas.  Who knows if that system had proven to be ineffective, how many innocent Israeli citizens would have perished.

The “outrage” that much of Europe and now the United States has expressed towards the way in which Israel has conducted its self-defense, revolves around the children who have died.  The Israeli argument is that Hamas intentionally hides its assault weapons in places where there are children, specifically for the purpose of being able to wage a public relations campaign to supplement its inefficient military campaign.  The counter argument is that Israel is “indiscriminately” bombing schools and hospitals without regard to civilian casualties.

What is Hamas (and Islam’s) view of the sacredness of the life of children (or anyone else)?  The following Wikipedia, incomplete as it is, will give you an introduction to how children in Palestine are regularly recruited and exploited to become suicide bombers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_suicide_bombers_in_the_Israeli%E2%80%93Palestinian_conflict

The problem with relying on information from Wikipedia is that it is a compilation of anonymous sources.  It is difficult to know whether any of the authors (or editors) have a personal agenda they want to advance.  But there are countless articles about suicide child bombers available to the reader who wants to do an internet search.  This practice is not restricted to Hamas or Hezbollah in Palestine but is a tactic that the Taliban in Afghanistan also used.

But even if we were to dismiss this as fabrication, what is Islam’s view of the value of children generally?  An interesting article appeared in “The Huffington Post” recently regarding the abuse of children and forcing them to labor:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/29/child-labor-map_n_5631384.html

If you examine the map and the countries which are listed as “extreme” examples of utilizing child labor, seven out of the ten are countries in which Islam is the state religion.  Between the way in which Islam treats its children, not to mention its women, it is clear that human life holds a very low level of importance within that creed.

The current conflict, like those which preceded it, have all been instigated by militancy on the part of the Palestinians.  It is hard for me to understand the criticism of Israel by the Europeans, other than to say that they have now allowed such a large minority of Islamic residents within their countries that they are deferring the inevitable conflict which will come to pass as these people make more and greater demands to have their way of life “accommodated” by the majority within those countries.  France, Germany and the UK, among others, will have to face that conflict when it erupts – and now would be better than later.  But all of them have adopted a Clement Atlee state of mind.  At the moment, they believe they have that luxury.  Israel correctly has no such opinion – realizing that they are the lone small expression of democracy in a very ruthless neighborhood.

Through a miscarriage of justice, the chicken farmer lost his property and his livelihood.  Irrespective of world opinion, Israel must continue undeterred in its fight for survival.  And it would to the benefit of the rest of the western world to realize that the jihadi who are today threatening Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have no plan to stop there.  As one American convert to jihadist Islam recently proclaimed in a You Tube video, “I’ll see you in New York.”

THE BUTTON BOX

It held a quiet place of honor in our apartment, subtly nestled on one of the lower bookshelves in the living room, quietly waiting its time to be called to service.

The button box was a cube, approximately twenty inches on each side, crafted out of a smooth, dark green cloth material.  It had three drawers filled with all sorts of threads, wrapped tightly on their wooden spools, threads in a myriad of colors.  There were orange and fuchsia and blue spools, each of the same size though some had less thread on them than others as they had previously been used to repair various garments.  The largest spools held white and black thread – those colors being used most frequently.

In addition in the drawers filled with thread, a special place was reserved where there were sewing scissors and needles of all sorts of thicknesses and several simple thimbles, one made of brass, the other of silver.  But the top of the button box was where the true treasure existed.  It was a large hoard of buttons that had been painstakingly removed from garments that had been retired from service after long years of use.

Before old clothes were turned into rags with the pinking shears inside the button box, each button was carefully severed and added to the collection.  Of course, many of the buttons which came from my father’s shirts were simple white ones, but they had their own personality and individuality.  Some were pure white and as simple as they were, the ones which had formerly been used to button the shirt front were larger than the ones that fastened the collar.  Even among the white buttons there was variation.  Some had two holes for sewing and others had four.  And while some were resplendently devoid of color white, others were more of a bone shade.  The truth of this dispels the notion that, “All white buttons look alike.”  They don’t.

One night after dinner, our little family sat in the living room to watch that week’s episode of “The Milton Berle Show.”  Dad swung the doors open on the cabinet which housed our Dumont television and turned the dial to on, waiting for the set to warm up and readying himself to fiddle with the rabbit ears antenna on the top should the picture need adjustment.  But after several minutes, the familiar sound of the tubes warming up, getting ready to do their job and bring us an evening of entertainment was singularly absent.

Dad clicked the set off, waited a few seconds and then turned it back on again.  Sadly, no line appeared on the television, letting us know that the set was sufficiently warmed up so that we could soon expect to see Mr. Berle in all his zany madness.  The set was dead.  My father made the pronouncement, much to all of our regret.  So we played a game of Monopoly instead and I got to be the banker.

The following morning my mother called Gerhardt Schrader, the TV repairman.  I had only seen Mr. Schrader twice before when he had previously come by to fix our set.  He was a very pleasant man who seemed to know his craft quite well.  I liked him but I was particularly fascinated by the large mole which he had on his lower left jaw.  Mother told me, “Don’t stare at Mr. Schrader’s mole,” which only made my eyes gravitate towards it more anxiously.  In any event, he was booked up much of that day and asked if he could stop by between seven o’clock and seven-thirty or if that would interrupt our dinner.  (We normally ate at six so mom said that would be very convenient).

True to his word, our downstairs buzzer rang just at seven and we buzzed Mr. Schrader and his tool boxes in.  He promptly arrived at our apartment and headed directly for the set.

Like a skilled surgeon, he gently swiveled the cabinet away from the wall, pulled out a screwdriver and removed the pressed wood backing which protected all the tubes from exposure, set it aside and began examining the tubes in the rear of this most wonderful piece of entertainment.  He quickly identified the tube that was at fault, pulled it from the set, went into his tube box and found a replacement and swapped this new tube for the one that had burned out.  Before reattaching the rear panel to the back he switched on the set and much to our delight, the picture came on and everything was right as rain once again.

While Mr. Schrader was engaged in his surgical procedure, Grandma had gone into the kitchen, cut a large slice of the apple pie she had made earlier that day and returned with it and a cup of coffee to give Mr. Schrader as a special extra, “Thank you.”  Mr. Schrader apparently liked apple and other pies as well since he had quite a little extra belly on him.  And as she offered him and he gratefully accepted this treat, Grandma noticed that one of the buttons on his blue shirt, just above the navel, had been lost.  Through his pale blue shirt, Mr. Schrader’s undershirt was quite visible.

Grandma asked him, “Mr. Schrader, are you still a bachelor?”  He said that he was.  “Well, no wonder you have a button missing on your shirt.  No woman at home to take care of you.  You can’t go around like that.”  With that admonition, Grandma went into her clothes basket which contained the day’s load of clean wash, awaiting ironing, and pulled out a white terry cloth bathrobe.  She handed it to Mr. Schrader with the admonition that he was to go into our bathroom, change into the robe and hand her his blue shirt for repair.  Mr. Schrader didn’t have a moment to object before Grandma commanded him, “Now go.  Go.”    Mr. Schrader, sensing that this old woman meant business, dutifully took the bathrobe and I showed him the door to our bathroom.  He exited a few moments later, decently attired in the robe with his shirt in his hand.  Only then was he permitted to enjoy his pie and coffee.

While Mr. Schrader was changing, Grandma had whisked the button box from its resting place.  She had opened the lid and had assembled an army of white buttons so that she could commence her repair job as soon as the patient was presented to her.  Mr. Schrader handed her his shirt and she immediately began sorting through the buttons she had assembled, diligently looking to find an exact match.

After discarding a few she found one that was perfect and she began threading her needle.  On went the brass thimble and in no time at all she had fixed Mr. Schrader’s shirt, faster than he had been able to eat his pie or drink his coffee.  As I looked at Grandma I saw a sigh of contentment come over her.  It was as though she was relieved that she had been able to right an irreparable wrong and that gave her a great sense of peace.  Mr. Schrader finished his desert and complimented Grandma on her pie.  He waived his normal charge for making a “house call” and only charged my father for the tube he had replaced and went on his way after changing back into his work shirt and returning the bathrobe to Grandma who promptly put it in the hamper with clothes that needed washing.

Several months later, one of my friends named Betty, the girl in the building next door, saw my mother on the street and asked if I would be allowed to join her family for an event that was being held at the Bierhaus about a half mile from our apartments.  There was a wonderful band that was coming all the way from Leipzig and her parents asked if I could join them for dinner and an evening of traditional German songs.  My mother agreed – knowing that these were very nice people – and wanting me to experience music in its many expressions.

The night of the event came and I was all dressed up for the occasion.  Mom delivered me to the Knecht’s and Mr. and Mrs. Knecht, Betty and I began our fifteen minute walk to the Bierhaus.  It was a beautiful late September evening.

The Bierhaus was full of people – all speaking German.  I was glad that I had the Knechts as my guardians because I couldn’t understand a thing that people were saying, other than them.  And then, over in the corner, I spotted Mr. Schrader.  Like everyone there he seemed to be enjoying himself, actively engaged in a conversation with another man while he swung around his half full frosted beer stein, managing to keep all its contents inside.

I remembered my mother’s admonition, “Don’t stare at his mole.”  That turned out not to be difficult, because my eye was fixed elsewhere – on the missing button from his dress shirt under which I could plainly see his white undershirt.  It was in the same place as the missing button which Grandma had repaired.  I began to think, perhaps there’s something about Mr. Schrader’s shirt and his belly which just don’t get along.  I still hold that opinion.

Mr. Schrader came over to our little group.  Apparently he knew Mr. Knecht quite well.  As I later found out, the Knechts used Mr. Schrader when their television needed repair.  He was apparently the television repairman to the neighborhood.

The two men began speaking in German and having a very good laugh together.  Fortunately, Betty translated for me.  She told me that Mr. Schrader told the story about how Grandma had repaired his button when he had made his house call to us.  When he had finished telling Mr. Knecht the story, he turned to me, noticing that my eyes kept gravitating to the space where there had once been a button and said, “Please don’t tell your Grandmother about my missing button.  Let’s just keep this our little secret, okay?”  And I never did because I knew it would have broken her heart.

INVITATION TO THE DANCE

 

There was a time when people dressed for dinner, dressed for church and most certainly dressed for balls and for proms.  We still consider a prom something special and so we attire ourselves specially.  Sadly, Maren Sanchez will not be dressing for anything anymore as she will be dead three months on July 16th, murdered by one of her “friends,” Chris Pakson who hacked her to death in their school’s stairwell with a kitchen knife.  The two were sixteen years old.

Pakson apparently had a history of mental illness being described as a “hacker” – a person who inflicted knife wounds on himself.  He also had been diagnosed with ADHD.  The prosecution in Connecticut is planning on charging him as an adult after he undergoes a thorough mental evaluation.  The reason for Maren’s death was that she rejected his invitation to attend their school’s prom.

It seems that even with apparent medical diagnosis and attention, Pakson was given free reign to walk, attend school and murder his long time friend.  Here was a young man whom the medical community recognized as having “issues” yet certainly no one thought that those “issues” would result in such a tragic ending.

On our open southern border we have been seeing a growing influx of “children” who are escaping the horrible conditions in Central America.  Honduras is the murder capital of the world.  Under the guise of humanitarian concerns, the Obama administration effectively is inviting these youngsters.

Now we have a proposal to spend $3.7 Billion, ninety-seven percent of which is designated to the care, housing, feeding and schooling of these children – and three percent to adding more border patrol agents to try to stem the flood of these immigrants.  Estimates are that comes to an approximate expenditure of about $75,000 per new immigrant – a number that dwarfs the amount that we spend on our own children who are recipients of various social benefit programs.

Despite the picture which is generally conveyed that these kids are “toddlers” who have on their own made a fifteen hundred mile trek to emancipation, it appears that many of these children are in fact young juveniles in their mid to late teens.  Perhaps that is the reason that the administration is essentially barring not only the press but members of Congress from taking a first eye view of the holding centers where they are temporarily being housed – before being shipped off throughout the country to places unknown.

Recent estimates are that the “coyotes” who specialize in assisting those who are seeking a new home in the United States are collecting $5,000 per person for those in this latest wave crossing the Rio Grande.  That is a phenomenal amount when you consider that the average person in Honduras earns less than $2,000 per year.  Where are these indigent people obtaining such a relatively large amount of money to make the journey?  Could it be that some of our foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador is being used by those countries’ governments to encourage the export of their own citizens?

In one respect, until the Congress changes a 2008 law which granted special protection to illegal immigrants who come from anywhere but Mexico and Canada, our border crisis will continue.  It is surprising that the president has not taken out his pen and written an executive order to alter that law.  He has shown no hesitancy doing so with respect to other laws.  Nor has he picked up the phone and called the presidents of the three Central American countries who are losing their citizens and threatened them with a reduction in the aid that we supply unless they co-operate in helping to stem the flow.  For that matter, a call to President Nieto of Mexico would be in order as well – encouraging him to apprehend these migrants before they reach our border.

There is no one who does not have empathy for these kids and their plight.  But at the same time, we ought to have empathy for our own children and our adult population as well.  Allowing youngsters whose backgrounds are uncertain, who may or may not be gang members and who almost certainly have the potential to bring infectious diseases into the country where they can spread these among the general population does not seem like a well-reasoned policy, humanitarianism or not.

At the least, we should treat those who are in their mid-teens as adults, as the Connecticut prosecutors are treating Chris Pakson for murdering his schoolmate.  That would at least moderately ease the backlog of illegal Central American youngsters who are awaiting deportation hearings – a process that will take many years to accomplish.  The ultimate answer is to have an administration in power that recognizes the absolute sovereignty of our nation’s borders and comes to the table with a sincere proposal both to secure those borders and negotiate a workable, reasonable and compassionate path to citizenship for those who want to resettle in America.

We may have to wait several years if not longer before that happens.  In the meanwhile, there will be no Central American wallflowers at our “Open Border Dance.”  You can’t blame them for wanting to escape the deplorable conditions in their native countries.  Nor can you blame them for wanting to come here.  After all, Obama and his administration have sent them an engraved invitation for them to attend.

BLISSFUL IGNORANCE

Although the truck trip hadn’t been that long, Eloise was glad it was over.  The back of the truck was crowded, and she had to stand next to Bessie who was one of her least favorite companions.   Bessie always bragged about how she was so much better than the rest.

It was hot as they started to move in to the building.  They came to the fence and Bessie naturally pushed to the head of the line since she was more important than the rest.  She sneeringly turned to look at her companions as she walked ahead of them, a slight  swagger in her step.  She was the first to feel the weight of the sledge hammer which ended her consciousness before the knife took her life.

When the wind came from the west as it usually did, the smell of fear and blood and death filled the air in my neighborhood, then travelled to the waters of Lake Michigan where they were dissipated before reaching the borders of Michigan or Indiana.  The Chicago Stockyards were open for business and would remain so for seven years after I moved to the city, finally closing in 1971.

There had been a movement toward relocating slaughterhouses in urban areas and putting them closer to the source of the livestock which were their clientele.  Chicago relinquished it’s title, “The Hog slaughter capital of the world,” with some equanimity.  Improved and reliable transportation made it less important to have the finished product close to the source of consumption.  But this change had its impact on the neighborhood where the slaughterhouses had operated.

 

Drovers Bank which had been chartered in 1883 to serve the cowboys who moved the cattle to their final destination closed seven years after the stockyards in 1978.  The saloons and houses where women of questionable virtue held court near the yards were long gone.  While we still wanted to consume that steak or slab of ribs, we no longer wanted to be close to the process that produced them for us.  We wanted to pretend blissful ignorance – and we still do.

“Out of sight – out of mind.”  I don’t know if this was originally a German proverb but as with the Union Stockyards in Chicago, Hitler employed the same strategy in his location of the death camps.  If photos of the inner workings or the slaughterhouses or the showers in Auschwitz were released to the public, more of us might be vegans and the Second World War might have ended sooner.

 

Today we have what is described by some as “a humanitarian challenge and responsibility” to take care of the children from Central America who are crossing our southern border.  Others describe this as a well-orchestrated, planned invasion.  Perhaps it is some mixture of both.  But if it is the former, then wouldn’t it make sense to sell the idea by photographing the waifs who have made the hazardous journey thus dispelling the arguments of the doubters?  After all, unlike “global warming/climate change” it is not difficult to take a snapshot of the subject matter.

Surprisingly, not only are reporters and even Congressmen not being allowed into the facilities where these newcomers to America are being housed, those who are expected to tend to them are not receiving advanced notice that they are on their way.  Why?  If we are trying to fulfill a presumed responsibility to take care of them, wouldn’t it make sense to allow those who will receive them to make appropriate preparations?

While this administration might not be the most transparent in history, it may prove to be the most prescient.  Perhaps it has looked across the country and found that apathy is one of our citizenry’s greatest attainments.  And within that context it realizes that most of us would prefer to remain in a constant stupor of blissful ignorance.

THE POWER OF FAMILY

It would be both naïve and dishonest to suggest that when I was a child we were all nice to one another.  The preferred term at the time was polite.  History has always had its share of people who were mean and cruel going back at least as far as the time of Cain and Abel.  But it does seem to me that more people than not respected the unwritten protocols of how we were supposed to interact with each other.

When I say “unwritten” protocols – those were what most of us in the hoi polloi observed.  The upper crust had Amy Vanderbilt and her guide to proper etiquette which they were expected to observe.  Perhaps my parents were lacking in social skills and that’s why I never learned the correct placement for a fish fork at a formal dinner.  My family didn’t host formal dinners.  Despite this deficiency in my social training, I did learn that it isn’t proper to burp in public, not to chew with my mouth open  and to cover it if I yawned.

The basic lessons of polite behavior were taught to me in the simplest of all ways.  My parents conducted themselves in that way through their dealings with friends, neighbors and strangers and I learned that behavior through imitation.  It might have been as simple as greeting someone with “Sir” or “Ma’am” or giving up a seat on the bus because an elderly person or a woman holding a baby had gotten on at the current stop.  Behaving in a courteous manner became as natural to me as brushing my teeth or washing my face.

My family’s training was further enforced by school.  Mom and dad taught me to have respect for my elders and, of course, my teachers were all older than I was and were, therefore, to be respected – and we students did hold them in esteem.  We might have liked some of them more than others but we obeyed all of them.  There was no threat of physical punishment if we didn’t.  But we knew that if we misbehaved our parents would receive a phone call from the principal.  School and home worked together both to teach and to enforce proper behavior.

But long before I went to kindergarten, my family had already trained me in the basics of human interaction and conduct.  And if we wonder and are shocked by the lack of civility or courtesy in our world, we have no further to look than at the breakdown of the traditional family unit.  The explosion in single parent homes is nothing short of phenomenal – and tragic.  Without parental guidance, why should we be surprised that more and more dysfunctional children are turning into more and more dysfunctional adults?

Naturally government is concerned with this problem.  Unfortunately, passing laws making it illegal to carry guns near schools doesn’t deter the sociopathic adult who was raised in a home where the basics of civilized living have nether been taught nor learned.  As is often the case, we look at the symptoms of dysfunctional behavior and craft punishments for aberrations from what we define as the norm.  What we should be doing is addressing the root problem of which the symptoms are merely manifestations of more latent, deeper issues.

In some regard, while government officials wring their hands over the violence and general bad behavior which we now have come to accept as normal, in no small measure, those same government officials have either crafted laws or are charged with enforcing ones which contribute to those problems.

As we know, the rate at which Americans have been getting married and then raising children has declined over the last several decades.  While I can hardly lay all the blame on one single factor, built into our Internal Revenue Code is a “Marriage Tax” in which two married individuals, both of whom are wage earners, are penalized for their industry by paying a higher amount of tax than they would if they were single.  In light of this discussion, does applying this penalty make any sense if we want to build strong families?

Similarly, our welfare system encourages single family homes, paying more to an unmarried recipient than her married counterpart and by offering her additional monthly stipends and increased benefits based on the number of children she bears.  It would be difficult to have the expectation that a welfare mother is going to have either the skills or the time to school her children in the finer points of being polite and courteous while she’s trying to make ends meet on a limited taxpayer-funded stipend..  There is some truth to the old saw that, “Only a rich man can afford to be a philosopher.”

And what of the child who is born into this environment of hopeless poverty?  We know that children who come from single parent family homes have a far higher likelihood of dropping out of school, being unemployed and turning to crime.  Many of these children have either no contact with their fathers or no knowledge of who they are.  So it is natural that they have children, taking as little concern either for their actions or their progeny as their sires had for them.  They actively, although unthinkingly, perpetuate the cycle – knowing that the taxpayer will be there to bail them out.

Is there any way out of this morass – one which we created ourselves by the policies we have implemented over the last half century?  The short answer is that a problem as systemic as this is not going to be remedied through any single piece of legislation nor is it going to be corrected in a short period of time.  This problem is generational in nature and it will take at least a generation, if not longer, to begin to fix it.

The longer we delay discussing the situation honestly and admit that what we have done in the past, however well-intentioned, simply has not worked, the faster we can start down a better path.  I doubt that most of  those in Washington recognize or refuse to acknowledge that the breakdown of the traditional family is at the core of our problems as a nation.

Fortunately, we have the opportunity to replace those who want to take us further down the road of intellectual ignorance,  generational poverty and taxpayer subsidy.  The political process and the ballot box are our weapons.  But if we don’t actively use the tools at our disposal, then we have abrogated our own responsibility and are as much at fault as those who have brought us to our present place.

BENEFITS

In the course of twenty-six years in the executive search business I don’t know how many times a candidate for a position asked me the question, “What are the benefits that come with this job?”

I realize that “benefits” are part of a total compensation package.  Generally, they were worth between ten to fifteen percent of the base salary the prospective employee would receive in dollar pay.  So it always astounded me if the prospective employer were likely to give an applicant a new starting salary that was twenty to thirty cent above his present compensation why there should be such a concern about the extra benefits that came with the job.  To me, the greatest “benefit” of a position was having enough money in the bank to be able to pay the bills, put money aside for savings and take the rest and have some fun.

We have become a country that has lost focus on the potential of a job, a business or a career and have become absorbed with “benefits.”  We have also become a country where more of our citizens have decided that having a job is either demeaning or not worth their trouble because the “benefits” that government is showering on them makes it easier to sit home, eat some chips and watch the tube.

If a person followed a particular path for fifty years and found that path led nowhere, it has to be hard to admit that he went down the wrong road.  Or maybe he simply lies to himself and says, I know my destination is only a few more years further along.  That is exactly what our welfare programs have done since LBJ got the ball rolling with the Great Society.

If you are a regular reader you know that I am not a fan of the president.  But Obama came out with what may be the first acknowledgement that has occurred from the Democrats in fifty years that there is a deeper, more fundamental problem – a real human problem – that throwing benefits at our poor population will not fix.  It is a problem of family and a problem of education – or more correctly – a lack of them.  For that I applaud him.

The president pointed out that in many black homes there are few if any educational emphases placed by the family which often consists of a single mother parent.  This retards a child’s learning ability from an early age and that disability carries with him throughout his educational career.  Thus, many black children are left at the starting gate which is already behind the place from which other children begin the race.

Providing an environment through pre-school may improve a child’s chance to gain a desire to learn and to acquire good study habits.  That would certainly be a plus.  But if we consider the amount of time that children spend at school versus the time they are at home it is important to realize that they spend more time with their parent or parents than with their teacher.  If the home environment does not support or see a value for education that will in some measure mitigate negatively the positive influence of schooling.

The president touched on the fact (though he cited statistics that underestimated the real numbers) that a large percentage of black children are born out of wedlock and are raised in homes where only a mother is present.  He further cited the fact that coming from a single parent home, a child had a far lower chance of either competing or excelling in school and that consequently there were only poorer paying jobs for which he would qualify later in life.  This is at the heart of the problem – educational under-achievement being a derivative of the actual problem.

The entire basis of our welfare and for that matter our tax system encourages people to have additional children either through increased welfare payments or additional tax deductions.  While people may realize that having additional children brings with it additional responsibilities and additional costs, there have been many cases of people who view having additional children as a way to increase their income.  So if the president wants to address this problem fully he should offer some welfare reform plan which would minimize that thinking and the current reality.

As a role model for the black community, the president may make a difference in dealing with what is a national problem.  But while religious faith may be waning in other sectors of the populace, the influence of pastors in black churches remains very strong.  They, more than any politician, are likely to carry the most influence on the members of their congregations.  And if there is to be a sea change in what has become a generational problem it will be up to them to set an example and preach the message.

There may be some who look at the record we have amassed in trying to deal with poverty, discrimination and ignorance and will say, “Great, another government program that won’t work.”  Perhaps some will secretly find anger in the fact that the president specifically addressed this as a program for young black children.

But the fact is that uneducated, unskilled people turn to crime just to survive and all of us are potential victims of their ignorance and need.  Anything that we do to improve their future has a direct impact on all of us.  And if this program does make a difference, that would be a benefit to all of us.

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