Articles from the August 1997 Unification News
For The Children, Part One
In this two-part article we'll be looking at the situation of children. Also, we'll look at those whose duty it is to care for them.
All people, with the possible exception of W. C. Fields, find children infinitely precious. Anyone will tell you they are deeply concerned about our youth. Even those few who aren't concerned will probably say they are. There are also people who feel concerned, but are so twisted inside that their actions, in the end, actually harm the objects of their attention. Unfortunately, in this modern, secular society of ours, a handful of those very people have become powerful "children's right's advocates."
Throughout human history, childhood was usually a brief and destitute period. Teenaged (or younger) children had to work the fields, or become apprentices. Even in nations as presently wealthy as Japan, many adults grew up in extreme poverty. In the past, most children received only a couple of years of schooling-if any. Many were, in effect, sold off to support the rest of their family. In several regions, that practice continues. (The girls usually have it much worse ...)
Historically, childhood was not a time of innocence. Only the rise of capitalism allowed societies to become prosperous-and not just for the upper classes. Families became comfortable enough to allow their offspring an extended period of adolescence. Today there are signs of a reverse. Infidelity and unwed motherhood are dragging millions of children back towards those past brutalities.
Multiculturalists will say that "different societies have their own standards, and we cannot judge them by our own." Perhaps. The appearance of African immigrant girls in North American hospitals, seeking "female circumcision," is causing quite a controversy. A team of American news reporters purchasing themselves two Sudanese slave boys touched off a more universal revulsion.
The world's societies raise their children with an astonishing variety of attitudes. Some of them have much to teach Americans. And some are suffering, as with the spread of AIDS in Africa. There, once carefree sex has become deadly. (Read Mission to Kala by Mongo Beti, a novel set in then-French Cameroon.) Older attitudes and traditions may -or may not- work any more, and don't always transfer well to other cultures.
Rights and Rappers
Children's rights have evolved slowly over the millennia. Ancient law treated children as the property of their parents, to be dispatched wherever -or disposed of whenever- they saw fit. The government's direct role in children's lives has increased only slowly, and its advocacy on their behalf has grown more slowly still.
Today, children's rights are stronger than ever. In some nations they exceed the rights of the parents. In the United States they're undergoing constant upheaval, and making headlines. Occasionally, sick children die because their fundamentalist parents insisted on using prayer alone. In the near future, the authorities may take children away from their parents, because they are "abusing" them-by smoking cigarettes inside their own homes.
America's proposed adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is shaping up to be a tremendous battle. Using its same basic precepts, a handful of children have already "divorced" their own parents. Liberal apologists are trying in advance to defuse any criticism of this, by analyzing similar, historical situations. (As in The Way We Never Were, a rather misleading book by Stephanie Coontz.) For example, a hundred thirty years ago America had at least as many single-parent families as it has today, and they did alright; society did not collapse.
But plain statistics don't tell the whole story. Most of those single-parent households were headed by Civil War widows. As much as they suffered, there is a vast difference, especially to the children, between the death of a father and abandonment by him.
This gives us a hint about the current popularity of "gansta rap" music, with its obscene lyrics and misogynistic themes. Most of the young rappers -and many of their fans- were raised without fathers; their mothers never married the guy. Too often, any one of several possible guys. Small wonder, then, that their sons grew up to refer to women in general as "ho's." [Whores.]
An old friend of this author once worked for a famous rapper. Despite that artist's de rigueur themes of violence and death, his career eventually sputtered. Turns out the guy actually grew up in the suburbs, with two professional, married parents. Seems he lacked the proper 'edge.'
Ms. Gay Courter, a well-known author, wrote an autobiographical book titled I Speak for This Child. It recounts her work as a Guardian ad Litem, appointed by the court to assist a specific, troubled child. The book's true stories are often tragic, and sometimes heartening. Nowhere are there easy solutions. In every instance, Ms. Courter had to battle "The System" as hard as she did the abusive parents, boyfriends, etc.
Sometimes her solutions involved choosing the "lesser of two evils." One boy was being kept from his father, a known -but not legally convicted- murderer and pedophile. However, the youth ranches and foster homes where the boy was placed were even worse! He kept getting into abusive, sexual relationships with the older male residents. Finally the child was returned to his father, in an all too literal case of "better the devil you know."
As with the Unemployment and Welfare departments, America's many Child Protective Services are -supposedly- trying to work themselves out of a job. However, their "case load" is their bread and butter-and they know it. Foster homes and other institutions are paid large amounts to house their assigned children, more if the kid is classified as disabled.
Of course, the vast majority of foster parents are good people, sincerely concerned for their young charges. Some will nurse HIV-positive babies all through their short, painful lives. Tragically, such caring can itself be a source of pain, since the "cases" (as the children are invariably referred to) can be, and frequently are, shifted out of those homes. Sometimes, at the whim of a distant bureaucrat.
Your author has had personal experience in these matters, both as a foster care and women's shelter assistant, and through knowing folks who were "in the system." An early observation: sometimes the foster kids were screwy and the social worker really cared-and nearly as often, the reverse was true.
Most of those kids just needed a stable environment, and neither their parents nor The System could provide one. Some kids, as young as eight, were profoundly disturbed, and the help they needed was difficult to come by.
Courter has some good proposals, especially a substantial expansion of the Guardian ad Litem program. But some of her other ideas, to be imposed by the United Nations, etc. upon every society and household, would be a universal "cure" much worse than the "disease" of family problems. Particularly considering the corrupt situation from which most UN bureaucrats emerged.
Courter rightly questions the entrance of private, for-profit child care institutions into arrangements with The System. There are already plenty of compassionate, experienced charities out there; children are not "units" to be handled like livestock or widgets.
American society is gradually decaying, with thousands more troubled children appearing every day. Our leadership's major response has been to tighten up on law enforcement. They've made prison construction a booming industry. Beyond that, their version of "crime prevention" has often meant goofy programs like Midnight Basketball.
To borrow Irene Webster-Smith's memorable simile, they're placing an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, rather then a fence at the top. More than that, until recently, the fashion industry's ubiquitous "heroin look" was openly glamorizing the trip down!
Next month we'll look further at the response of politicians, and also of scientists. Finally, at some concerned parent's solutions.
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