Saturday, July 26, 2014

American Myopia

I made the mistake of turning on the news today.  It was a big mistake.  Bombed out children in Gaza, tornado ravaged camp sites (young boy in critical condition) with more bad weather to come, planes lost, passengers killed, Middle East, Middle East, Middle East.  And finally, of course, the current immigration debate.  I was exhausted and depressed within minutes.  I vowed not to turn the news on again today. 

I am overwhelmed by our world and its seemingly infinite woes.  But what strikes me the most, always, is our capacity for short-sightedness.  In the past weeks there have been many news stories about children being left in cars and parks.  Children abandoned for moments or longer by adults for many reasons (most of them economic).  We are horrified (perhaps rightly so in many of these cases) by these instances of neglect and abuse.  We cry out for the children hurt by these adults, and beg for laws to help them.  We all want to parent these children, to be their extended family, so that they have hope and the chance to succeed and to grow.  And yet.

And yet, we have the border crisis, where there is a 99% upsurge in unaccompanied minors coming from Central America, and much of America seems to be more than willing to unceremoniously kick them out.  Many would be more than willing to send them back to countries where their lives are suffused with poverty, crime, and  a more than indeterminate future.  What has happened to us?  What has happened to our collective memory?  Have we never had to ask for help for our children?  Perhaps not.  Perhaps the people who want to send these children home have never been desperate.  Perhaps they have never looked for aid from the hands of a stranger.  Or perhaps they just don’t understand that while the American Dream may have changed drastically for those living here already, it remains in its shiniest golden package, fully intact, outside of our country.  It remains in the hearts of people in war torn countries who dream of something better for their children.  Things are hard for us here.  The economy refuses to fully rebound, the middle class shrinks, and many people are struggling, but even at the worst of times, I thought, that children would be allowed to be separated from all this.  I thought that we would never look into the eyes of a needy child and turn our backs, when we had the capacity to help.

But then, I suppose I should not be surprised.  How can I be when we, as a country, have the money and the wherewithal to feed our impoverished and hungry children, and yet they go hungry?  When poor children are denied access to preschools because there is no money to pay for it, and yet we, as taxpayers, find the money to put them in jail in record numbers later in their lives?  When we see that the method of educating our children may not be the best and most practical, and the only answer we can come up with is to make school harder and test more? 

When it comes down to it, Americans suffer from myopia.  We see what is in front of us right now, but refuse to look further.  We refuse to see that by saving these children, by helping all of our children, we are also ensuring our own futures.  Our world’s many ills will not be cured in a day or a week, but making each child’s world a bit safer, and a lot healthier, will mean a better world for us all down the road.  If only we could see that far.