Archive for Thursday, September 10, 2009

Polarized nation a poor legacy for children

September 10, 2009

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Well, that was close.

Surely, we are all relieved that at least some children were protected this week from the diabolical Barack Obama. It was touch and go there for a while after the White House announced its plan for the president to give a back-to-school address to America’s kids. They might have gotten away with it, too, but for conservative pundits and politicians who spent last week raising a ruckus about this scheme to indoctrinate our youth into the president’s socialist cult. They were able to persuade an untold number of schools to prohibit Tuesday’s speech from being shown on campus and an untold number of parents to keep their children home.

By this decisive action, untold millions (thousands?) of our kids were saved from exposure to subversive sentiments like “pay attention,” “listen to your parents,” and “every single one of you has something to offer.”

That mission accomplished, one wonders if conservatives will be equally energetic in rescuing kids from other things that threaten them.

Our children need all the help they can get, after all. They are coming of age in an America where, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four girls between ages 14 and 19 is infected with at least one of four dangerous sexually transmitted diseases (human papillomavirus, chlamydia, genital herpes, trichomoniasis). An era where, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University, more than 13 million kids live below the poverty line. An era where, according to the Education Department, despite noteworthy progress in recent years, one in four public school eighth-graders lacks basic grade level reading skills, and one in five fourth-graders can’t do the math.

What’s arguably more frightening in the long view is that they’re coming of age in an America so hyper-partisan, shrill, silly and incoherent that a pep talk to school kids — surely the most plain vanilla presidential duty this side of pardoning the turkey at Thanksgiving — gets treated like it was Osama bin Laden giving an al-Qaida recruitment speech in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11.

It is an absurd controversy, but in a nation of birthers and truthers, death panels and tea parties, absurdity has become our default setting — as has political violence, whether rhetorical or real.

Last week, for goodness’ sake, we heard about a health care reform proponent “biting off the finger” of someone who disagreed with him. Meanwhile in Arizona, an alleged Christian minister made headlines preaching and praying for the president’s death.

If America were a person, you’d sedate it. You might even have it committed.

This is not politics, it’s a temper tantrum, a national hissy-fit that calls into question — and not for the first time — whether a nation so vast and varied still can, or still wants to be, a nation.

A few days ago, a woman running for office in Pennsylvania e-mailed me about her encounter with a voter who objected to the idea of, as he put it, paying for his neighbor’s health insurance. She reminded him that to live in a society is to be interdependent. We all pay for libraries, we all pay for national defense, we all pay to school our kids. Except, he said he doesn’t want to pay to educate someone else’s kids, either. We are “not” interdependent, the man insisted. We are alone, each man in it by and for himself.

You might call that view an aberration. My fear is that it is a harbinger. My fear is that we are a people stampeded by and toward political extremes, and that in our shrillness, our ignorance, our paranoia, hatefulness and fear, we dig a trench through common ground and make this nation ungovernable.

If we want to save our children from anything, maybe we ought to save them from that.

Comments

grammaddy 5 years, 9 months ago

I agree. It's so sad that fear has become a lifestyle in this country. We need to save our children from that, for sure.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 9 months ago

"We are “not” interdependent, the man insisted. We are alone, each man in it by and for himself.

You might call that view an aberration."

Not around here. For a good number of posters, it's an article of religious faith (and a self-fulfilling prophesy.)

Scott Drummond 5 years, 9 months ago

"Not around here. For a good number of posters, it's an article of religious faith (and a self-fulfilling prophesy.)"

The hilarity of those posters using an internet that is based on interconnectivity to achieve its result, not to mention a high degree of governmental investment in its creation, is not lost on all of us, of course.

SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 9 months ago

Scott,

I think I understand the Hard Left's main positions - and their reasons for supporting those points of view. However, you seem to either not care about or not understand the positions of limited government advocates.

supertrampofkansas 5 years, 9 months ago

“Come, let us put our minds together to see what kind of life we can create for our children.” - Chief Sitting Bull

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 9 months ago

I am quite aware of how interdependent we are. Surely each of us could make a fairly long list of people we come into contact with every day who help us and our families. This president is rational, focused, and kind and compassionate. Does showing compassion weaken us or take something away from us?

Ernest Barteldes 5 years, 9 months ago

Funny... we are supposed to be the "United" States, but we only come together in times of tragedy. On the eve of the anniversary of 9/11, this is something we should truly be thinking about.

igby 5 years, 9 months ago

This is nothing new!

They been teaching kids that being gay or lesbian is normal and if your not gay or lesbian they your a conservative, religious terrorist.

Satirical 5 years, 9 months ago

A polarizing writer addressing polarization? Oh, he must be blaming the other side for this problem...nothing new here.

And if we want to teach our children the Pittfalls (pun intended) of polarizing, should the job really go to a politician (Obama) and a polarizing writer (Pitts)?

I could housing for an entire civilization with all the straw Pitts uses in his articles (for his straw-man arguments). (However, the civilization would of course be susceptible to big bad wolves). But be that as it may....

puddleglum 5 years, 9 months ago

well, government leaders are supposed to be our elected leaders, right? I think is appropriate for all presidents to address our children and urge them to do well.

I don't agree with all of L. Pitt's writings-but he is spot-on here.

remember_username 5 years, 9 months ago

Fear is a deep and fundamental emotion and it has been used by politicians to control the masses throughout history. When reason won't suffice use emotion - fear is easy to trigger and on of the best emotions for blocking out rational thought. To risk quoting a famous Muppet, "Fear turns to anger, anger turns to hate", and viola you've got a PAC.

Actually, I think it's remarkable that there has been so little violence so far. If those that post on these pages are a true cross section of society then there ought to be open warfare in the streets. But although the partisanship we hear today is loud, and the inability to listen to another or compromise our positions is becoming rare, any actions that threaten the future of our children are unlikely. This is because America is a nation of the wealthy. Compared to how the majority live in the rest of the world even the poor in America are well off - ugly truth. For the most part Americans have too much to lose to risk the kind of violence one might expect from the emotional positions they espouse. That may change someday but I doubt it. As a foreign student I met once said to me "In my country freedom of speech means we can speak of important matters openly and without fear, in America freedom of speech means you can say anything".

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