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Expectations – raising the bar

Today is Thanksgiving – another deadline for the New Falcon Herald. I’ve just popped a frozen pizza in the oven and poured a glass of Merlot, gearing up to write an innovative, mind-blowing, knock-your-socks-off Monkey Chronicles. But my brain is as frozen as the pizza.Maybe the holidays are perpetuating my brain freeze, or perhaps I’m overwhelmed with too many issues to write about or maybe my mind is still numb from the pre-and-post-election jibber jabber.It doesn’t seem farfetched or assuming to me to say that Americans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief when the elections were over. No matter how we voted or where – red or blue state – we all had one thing in common: We were sick and tired of those cheesy dog-eat-dog political ads.I am equally tired of the drawn-out media diatribes on the election results. The Democrats-take-control-of-the-House-and-Senate news theme is as wearisome as the long-running saga of Britney “when-is-the-last-time-she-had-a-hit-song” Spears and her wannabe-rapper husband Kevin Feder-whatever.Of course, when public pressure is the main catalyst for Fox Television reversing its decision to run an interview with O.J., promoting his egomaniacal book, “If I Did It,” what do we expect?That begs the question: What do we expect?The 2006 elections exemplified our expectations of government officials. We didn’t expect our candidates to talk about alternative energy. We didn’t expect to hear about not only keeping our schools safe but also how to prevent school shootings. We didn’t expect to hear about resolutions to rising health care costs.Nope. We expected mud slinging between parties and interference from special interest groups with agendas that usually don’t represent the majority of Americans.We expect the worst every day: nightly newscasts filled with tales of woe relating to crime, the economy, Iraq, terrorism, corrupt corporate executives, corrupt congressmen, corruption period.That’s what we expect. But what if our expectations raised the bar in this country?I’ve heard many well-traveled Americans say this country is by far, compared to other countries, the best place to live in the world.I don’t dispute that. But it doesn’t mean that we have to settle for the same ole, same ole. It doesn’t mean that we can’t expect more from our leaders, more from ourselves.I’d like to see the politicos address real issues, without fear of reprisal from those special interest groups. We can rah, rah our way to China, but if we really want to be the best we can be, we need to look at preventing the wounds instead of dressing them with Band-Aids.Let’s just look at how the wounds of child abuse and neglect impact this country.According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 2.5 million cases of child abuse and neglect are reported each year. Thirty-five percent involve physical abuse, 15 percent involve sexual abuse and 50 percent involve neglect.Despite those staggering figures, The Child Welfare Information Gateway, a division of the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that most abused and neglected children never come to the attention of government authorities.The CWIG reported the following, based on a 2002 study.Children age 3 or younger are the most frequent victims of child-abuse-related fatalities. Children under 1 year account for 41 percent of all abuse-related fatalities. In 2002, an estimated 1,400 children died in the United States from causes related to abuse and neglect. One or both parents were involved in 79 percent of the fatalities. Sixteen percent of the abusers were other caretakers.We’re talking America – not Darfur or some other Third World country.We can spew the graces of family values all we want and we can advocate for the unborn until the cows come home. But we are criminally derelict in addressing the causes of severe threats to the children who are in plain view in this country. And we are remiss in a less-than-proactive approach to stopping the cycle of abuse.My first job post-college was in social services. Nothing has changed in 32 years. We knew then and we know now that childhood emotional, physical and sexual abuse can lead to mental illness, criminal behavior and social deviancy – or all of the above – in adults.We have to ask some tough questions. We have to expect aggressive measures to exorcise our demons.Here are some points I’d like to pose regarding the child abuse issue.

  • Is it a privilege or a right to reproduce?
  • Should people be required to obtain a license to become a parent?
  • Perhaps all women should be required to register a pregnancy, once they have decided to bring a baby to term, with a doctor or an agency.
  • Maybe there should be tax breaks for mothers and fathers who agree to complete a pre-pregnancy screen and pre-natal and child care classes.
  • Maybe suspected or convicted perpetrators of child abuse or others in the criminal system should be offered free sterilization. It’s not a bad idea across the board. Liberals and fundamental Christians alike were outraged a few years ago when a judge in the Northeast presented a woman convicted of child neglect with the option of jail or sterilization. The woman chose sterilization. I think the judge was right on.
  • And perhaps our tax structures for the number of children in a household should be reconfigured. Perhaps it’s not wise to reward multiple births.
Just a few ideas, open for discussion. Most important is the discussion.We must dig deep to find the root of our problems. We have to change our expectations to include prevention. This will take sacrifice. I am certain there is no freedom without responsibility.OK, it’s a wrap. Another Monkey Chronicles. Another Thanksgiving. And one burnt pizza.As I turn off the lights and prepare to shut down my computer, I am drawn to the picture of Ernest Hemingway donning the bright, yellow walls in my office. He’s standing amidst the palm trees and the lush green foliage outside his home in Key West, reading a book, looking as handsome as ever in his trademark khakis and cowboy hat. Scrawled on the picture-poster are his words from one of his best sellers, “A Movable Feast,” All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.We must expect more.-

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