Sunday, August 19, 2012

Truths We Dare Not Discuss

The low light of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's gaff filled summer European trip was his praise of Israeli culture in its contribution to Israel's success when compared to the relative poor success of the Palestinians.

Instantly Romney was condemned by every Democrat politician for his insensitivity, prejudice and ignorance.  Romney backed down and apologized and clarified his comments so as not to offend anyone's sensibilities.

Romney should never have apologized. The very sad truth is that Romney was right.  The Jewish culture is powerful, strong and productive. It's tightly knit and based on incredibly strong family units and powerful traditions.  Because of this amazing culture Jewish minorities have flourished through some of the more horrific periods in our world's history.

It also has nothing to do with my essay today.

But I must talk about the role of culture in any society's success, especially economic minorities in our society.  We also need to talk, once again, about the fact the government doesn't work.  Almost all government programs are failures filled with huge waste, leaden bureaucracy and inadvertent social engineering that affect our culture, generally for the worse.

Our love of humanity, concern for the poor and desire to protect children have created welfare programs that have enslaved a significant portion of our society.  As our population sinks further and further into poverty our initial urge is to increase our welfare to the poor.  Yet we are not improving the situation precisely because we are not allowed to ever address any cultural issues.

Our entire American culture is based on freedom.  We cannot tell other people how to live.  The evolution of our society now has removed the stigma of divorce and the stigma our unwed parenthood.  At the same time it has encouraged women to seek out careers and fulfillment outside of marriage and motherhood.  All of these things are good for the individual and individual freedom.

Our welfare programs have supported, even encouraged, this evolution toward freedom and independence for women.  This would be a good thing, if it actually worked.  As part of the welfare process, we have partially removed the necessity of marriage and the involvement of men in the family unit.  For example we established the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, popularly known as WIC, SNAP, the old food stamp program, medicaid and other programs step in when the father or mother fails to provide support.

Of course none of these programs are sufficient and women struggle to balance jobs and child-rearing.  In addition drugs ravage families leaving children to be raised by grandparents or by themselves.

In spite of all these programs children are going hungry.  Even though 45,753,078 people receive food stamps, the highest in US history, all too many parents simply fail to care for their children.  Neglect and lack of personal responsibility are the biggest problem and it's the one problem we are never allowed to discuss.  No politician dares to cross that line.

Today's tragic story comes from Chester Township, Pennsylvania.  Here's the story.  Read it and weep:
Mom vows to keep feeding needy kids from her driveway despite city crackdown
A Pennsylvania woman has vowed to continue doling out free lunches to children in her hardscrabble neighborhood, even though officials there have threatened to fine her $600 a day. 
Angela Prattis, 41, was ordered by the Chester Township Council to wind down the makeshift dining room she runs in the driveway of her modest home during the summer for the hungry kids who come to her daily in search of a good meal. Under pressure from the community, the local leaders agreed to let Prattis finish her mission this summer, but told her she would need a zoning variance to resume the operation next summer. 
“I’m going to continue to feed the children,” Prattis told “I’m just doing this for the kids. I don’t want a big fight. “I just want to be in right standing with the town,” added Prattis, who feeds 20 or more kids on some days.
The mother of four says she serves up the lunches while the kids are out of school because many are too poor to get good lunches at home. 
Prattis gets the food from the Philadelphia Archdiocese, which makes daily deliveries of pre-packaged lunches, drinks and snacks to her doorstep. She pointed out that the archdiocese required her to take a preparatory class focusing on nutrition — and other essentials — before serving kids. “I’m not working with some fly-by-night operation,” she maintained. 
“This isn’t a working-class neighborhood,” she quipped. “It’s a hardworking-class neighborhood.” 
The neighborhood kids enjoy the lunches and benefit from the nutrition, she said. “We have tons of children, here,” Prattis said. “There’s a lady who baby-sits a bunch of kids and she brings them around because the parents can’t afford to have them in day care and feed them at the same time. 
“We had a nasty storm last Wednesday, and I only set up one table because I didn’t think the kids would come in the pouring rain,” she said, before adding, “They all came. I served 20 children in the pouring rain.” 
Poverty certainly exists in Jewish communities, Arab communities, Irish communities and every community. These problems can happen in any culture.  But in many cultures within our melting pot society, the outcomes described in the article above are extremely rare.  

The divorce rate and the rate of unwed mothers also vary wildly between cultures.  So do high school graduation rates, college attendance and average incomes.  

My current home state of Mississippi is the most obese state in the nation, Colorado, the state of my birth, is the most fit.   Mississippi's tradition of rich, fattening fried food and soul food greatly contributes to this outcome.  There is a mighty difference between cultures in Mississippi and Colorado.

Mississippi also ranks near the bottom in health care, birth to unwed mothers and education.  Our cultural background also prevents sex education in most public schools.

Culture makes a huge difference.  It must be a topic for open discussion and debate.  As Liberals we are quick to condemn Mississippi's religious leaders from their failure to provide sex education.  But we are never allowed to discuss or even mention the crisis of single parent households.  That would be judgmental.

We want our children educated about sex, homosexuality, alternative lifestyles.  But we cannot discuss parenting, parental responsibility, child rearing or any type of personal responsibility.

It would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

I do not have the answers to these problems. But we are not helping our children be failing to even allow discussion of the underlying issues.

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