Shooting Safeguards. A Society Armed

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copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Once again, Americans are up in arms or perchance, better armed and dangerous.  Only little more than a week into 2011, citizens have had to confront their fears, feelings, all at gunpoint.  It began on a calm, clear Saturday.  In a Safeway Store Tucson parking lot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords held one of her customary Congress on the Corner events.  It was January 8, 2011.  Friends and admirers from each political Party turned out.  Suddenly, cordial chatter turned icy cold. gunshots shattered the calm.  People were slaughtered.  Some survived.   However, as a nation, we were all wounded.

Retorts followed.  Seemingly, a culture was changed, or was it?  Just as has occurred, many times in the recent past, people quickly took sides.  Blame was ballied about.  Solutions were also presented.  Some argued for stricter gun control laws.  Others used the occasion to validate a need for less restrictive restraints on gun ownership.  Persons who held a position similar to the most prominent victim proposed a need to protect themselves.

On January 14, 2011, Grand Old Party Representative, Louie Gohmer of Texas, Proposed a Bill that would allow members of Congress to carry guns on Capitol Hill.  Days earlier, after the infamous Tucson, Arizona  shooting, several congressmen vowed to keep the weaponry they already own closer to their chests.  In light of the recent event in Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords home District, one that cast a permanent dark shadow over the lives of many,  Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz expressed his firm belief, it would be best to bring his Glock 23 with him when he meets with constituents.  This long time gun-owner is not alone in his position.  Other members of Congress chimed in.  

Indeed, this distinctive stance is not solely a Republican posture.  Heath Shuler, a Democrat from North Carolina, Vice-Chairman of the House Sportsmen’s Caucus stated that he too would pack heat when on the city streets, even when he strolled the streets of a the highly secured Capitol.   Steve Cohen, another Congressman who sits on the Democratic side of the aisle offered his reflection.  “It’s not that I’m going to be like Wyatt Earp,” declared the Tennessee Representative.  However, he noted, he would reapply for his permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Questioned about lawmakers’ decision to take matters into their own hands, to carry concealed weapons, Terrance Gainer, the Senate’s Sergeant-At-Arms and former Washington, District of Colombia Police Chief, offered his concern.   Gainer told ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “I don’t think it’s a good idea,” The “peace officer” avowed, ”I don’t think introducing more guns into the situation is going to be helpful.”  Nonetheless, just as Educators did only a few years ago, Congresspersons stand strong against gun restraint.

Original © copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

School Shooting Safeguard; Arm Educators

In the last few weeks, [Fall of 2006], school shootings have dominated the news.   The frequency of these seems to be increasing.   People throughout the nation are panicking; what are we to do?   President George W. Bush spoke of this situation in his Saturday, October 7, 2006, radio address.   He proclaimed, “We will bring together teachers, parents, students, administrators, law enforcement officials, and other experts to discuss the best ways to keep violence out of our schools.”   Conferences have been called.   The problem has been discussed for years.  

President Bill Clinton convened such a forum in 1999.   Educators, policy-makers, law enforcement officials, and adolescent-development specialists came to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study on May 21, 2002.   Each group was equally intent on investigating the causes and effects of Lethal School Violence.   In the symposiums, experts sought solutions.   Everyone wanted [and wants] to protect our progeny.  

At the time, programs were initiated; yet, the violence continued.   In the last month or more, we as a nation are wondering; is there no end?   Will our children, our Educators, we, as a society, ever be safe?

Citizens again ask how can we secure our schools and shield our offspring from societal harm.   Finally, an answer comes from a Wisconsin lawmaker.   Representative Frank Lasee proposed that Teachers and Administrators carry guns daily and use these when necessary.  “In the wake of school shootings in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Pennsylvania” he would “introduce legislation that would allow teachers, principals, administrators, and other school personnel to carry concealed weapons.”  At the time, the Republican Representative believed our communities will be safer if everyone were armed.

Unrelated To Gangs

We know that communities have long been concerned with gang violence.   However, what has occurred in recent years differs.   On January 29, 1979, individual outbursts came into our collective consciousness.   According to the Indianapolis Star, “Brenda Spencer, 16, opened fire with a .22-caliber rifle at an elementary school across the street from her San Diego, California home.   She killed two people and wounded seven because she `didn’t like Mondays.'”

Upon hearing this story, our country held its breath as it does now.   Jointly we release a communal sigh.   Still the violence increases as is evident in these last five weeks.   There is talk.   What measures can we take to guard against weaponry?

Cable New Network reported, metal detectors were introduced in educational institutions after a 1992 shooting.  

In 1994, the federal government began requiring school safety programs in an attempt to crack down on violence on school grounds.   Many schools introduced metal detectors to check for guns, knifes and other weapons . . . although the Supreme Court eventually overturned the federal requirements, most school safety measures remained in place.   In Los Angeles, California for instance, [as of 1997] all high schools still use some sort of metal detectors.

However, it is clear, these actions do not secure the premises.   Zero tolerance campaigns were invoked.   Violations are and were numerous.  

Parents, administrators, teachers, and staff were told to observe student behaviors; they were asked to attend to warning signs.   Discipline problems were considered predictors; yet, this was not always the case.   Offenders did not only come from within the school system, they enter and exist throughout society.   Witness the killings within the last month or more [before and during September 2006.]

Machines and Mandates

Whatever we choose to reflect upon, when looking at violence in our schools, our homes, or in our airports I ask us to bear in mind that traditional methods for preventing violence are not working.   I think we must look at why people do what they do.

Violent crime continues to be a major problem and I suspect this will continue as long as we look for simple solutions.   I observe, when we as a country, focus on machines and mandates as a means for deterring violence in schools and within society at-large, we ignore the violator.   I believe the life of the perpetrator is most telling. This is the key component in a crime that can be influenced and altered.   If we address it early enough and treat root causes sincerely and seriously we can make a difference.

More Are Killed

However, instead, we look at guns, knifes, box cutters, gels, powders, matches, lighters, and bombs as though these are the killers.   We work tirelessly to prevent these from entering the systems, schools, airports, office building, and prisons.   Rarely do we address the authentic reason for killings.   People and what goes on in their heads, hearts, and souls cause death.

I propose we look at life, at our daily existence and the stress our culture promotes, rather than hypothesize; how might we use technology and authority to control the minds and misdeeds of men and women.   I theorize if we assess the way in which we live and the life standards we choose to accept, then, we might be able to prevent these carnages.  

I request that you, dear reader, consider what passes for the “common wisdom.”   Is it sensible?   Please ponder accepted theories and simple solutions with me.   Then ask yourself, what might we do to truly change what comes?

On Monday, October 2, 2006, a deeply distressed man entered a one room Amish schoolhouse.   He excused all the male pupils and personnel.   He was interested in only the young female students.   It is not known whether the church-going milkman intended to molest the girls; though there is evidence to suggest that he did.   However, what is certain is that the perpetrator shot these little lovelies before taking his own life.   Pennsylvania schoolhouse killer Charles Carl Roberts IV revealed in a telephone call to his wife, at the age of twelve he molested two young relatives.   Events of 20 years past haunted the man throughout his life.   Guilt took Roberts’ life and the lives of several young innocent Amish girls.

Five days earlier, in Bailey, Colorado an armed drifter walked into Platte Canyon High School.   He then entered a classroom.   The transient demanded that all the men leave the area.   He wanted to be alone with the girls he corralled into a classroom.   According to a student and her mother, Duane R. Morrison seemed to prefer smaller, blonde girls.   This disturbed wanderer with his quarry of petite flaxen hair maidens proceeded to sexually assault some of the six young girls he held hostage.   Ultimately, he shot one before killing himself.   Some social scientists theorized `girls are the targets in school violence.

MSNBC News reports revealed, after the crime, “at their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Morrison’s stepmother said she and her husband, Bob Morrison, have no record of him being, having any trouble before.”   “We just know the way he was raised,” Billie Morrison said, declining to elaborate.  “How was he raised?   Some experts think the relationships established in the lives of the killers might offer answers.   In the series of recent rampages there is a seemingly notable consistency.  An article in the Christian Science Monitor observed . . .

“The predominant pattern in school shootings of the past three decades is that girls are the victims,” says Katherine Newman, a Princeton University sociologist whose recent book examines the roots of “rampage” shootings in rural schools.

Dr. Newman has researched 21 school shootings since the 1970s.   Though it’s impossible to know whether girls were randomly victimized in those cases, she says, “in every case in the US since the early 1970s we do note this pattern” of girls being the majority of victims.

A Complex Problem

Prior to these two incidents, the focus and fantasy was on troubled adolescents.   These were thought to be the persons responsible for such horrendous school crimes.   Some behavior experts hypothesized; violent young persons had been bullied in school.   They were browbeaten at home.   These youthful aggressors were tormented by their own inner struggles.   They act out after years of deep-seated frustration.  Might we consider the cause and effects of troubles early in life.

Forensic psychiatrist Keith Aldo says mental health problems, especially among young people, too often go ignored and untreated.   “Everybody in the class often knows who the troubled kids are.   Parents know.   Teachers know,” he says.   “And if anything we should know that there is a preventative bit of medicine, psychological medicine to be dispensed in our classrooms earlier than we have been doing.”…

He says unresolved issues can continue to haunt a child throughout life.   “The more that you can express your feelings of fear, the more that you can talk about your reactions to terrible events, the less that those events are going to be toxic to you later on.”

Aldo says airing such concerns helps build a stronger and safer community.   Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, agrees.   He says the community must work at making schools safe places.   “It happens by making sure that the first and best line of defense is a well-trained, highly alert school staff and student body who are aware of changes in behavior of other students as well as strangers who are walking around in parking lots and the hallways of our schools.”

I believe the more recent incidents confirm the quandary has many causes.   The dilemma is not limited to youth acting out against their harassing, haranguing, or hounding classmates.   These incidents are not only a reaction to discrimination from peers.   Parents are not the central problem.   This transgression is as all others, complex.  

The complexities that cause violent crime in our nations schools are similar to those that create terrorism. Rex A. Hudson reflects in a report prepared under an Interagency Agreement for the Federal Research Division..

Terrorism usually results from multiple causal factors – not only psychological but also economic, political, religious, and sociological factors, among others.   There is even a hypothesis that it is caused by physiological factors, as discussed below.   Because terrorism is a multi-causal phenomenon, it would be simplistic and erroneous to explain an act of terrorism by a single cause, such as the psychological need of the terrorist to perpetrate an act of violence.

For Paul Wilkinson (1977), the causes of revolution and political violence in general are also the causes of terrorism.   These include ethnic conflicts, religious and ideological conflicts, poverty, modernization stresses, political inequities, lack of peaceful communications channels, traditions of violence, the existence of a revolutionary group, governmental weakness and ineptness, erosions of confidence in a regime, and deep divisions within governing elites and leadership groups.

International terrorists, sadistic student rebels, and lone executors have a common bond; society and stressors impact their lives severely.

Student’s killers are often exposed to frequent slights from peers or parents, just as some terrorists feel slighted by our treatment of their culture and religious practices.   These snubs are evident if society as a whole and those functioning within the system choose to recognize them.   The stress in young lives can be reduced or eliminated if we attend to these grievances quickly.

Frustration and Persecution

We might realize that lone shooters, those that walk into our schools also are victims of a fragile upbringing.   There are reasons that these solitary shooters might aim at young girls, blondes, or the most innocent among us.   Again, if we as a community choose to be aware of what we are creating for our children, we can save them before they become adult or adolescent killers.

Religious or political zealots, the defiant, defensive, and the righteous also are products of their environment.   They may act out against nations or peoples; still, the source of their rage is apparent if we choose to look for it.   Each of these executors feels persecuted and why not.

In a world where frustrations are ignored or attributed to authority figures, women, or circumstances beyond our control, there is much to feel frustrated about.   Students feel stuck in school, at home, or in lives that demand much of them and give little in return.   Adults, loners and cult followers alike, feel lost in the unresolved circumstances of their past and present.   They want to affect the future.   However, in the future, as in the present, and the past, people are not the focus.   Folly and failed systems are.

We evaluate preventive mechanized and legal measures.   We disregard the fact that these are not effective.

I propose we look at life, at our daily existence and the stresses our cultures promote.   I theorize if we assess the way in which we live, the life standards we accept, then, we might be able to prevent these mass and individual tragedies.

Can we as a nation protect ourselves from aggressors?   I contend, guns cannot prevent a crime.  Only if we face the genuine pain that prompts their reactive behaviors will our children, our Educators, and our communities be safe.

References For Reflections . .  .



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White Defenders



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copyright © 2010 Forgiven.  The Disputed Truth

Originally Published on Sunday, January 10, 2010

In a private conversation reported in a new book, Reid described Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign as a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

I have to be honest that I am always a bit skeptical when white folks feel compelled to step up and defend black folks from other white folks. I am even more cynical when it is white Republicans doing the defending. This would be the same Republican party who has since the 60’s run on the southern strategy, whose conventions look more like all-white country clubs, and who have from his election sought to de-legitimize this President. Now we are to believe that they are so concerned with the delicate psyche of African-Americans that Senator Reid’s remarks rises to the level of Trent Lott?

For those who don’t remember Trent Lott was the Republican majority leader who stated that the country would have been better off if unrepentant segregationist Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948.

For the sake of argument, let’s look at Senator Reid’s reported statement concerning then Senator Obama. He stated that he was a light-skinned black man which as far as I can tell would be a true statement. My guess is that Senator Reid was alluding to the fact that historically lighter skinned blacks have fared better in American society than darker skinned blacks so that would be a positive in his bid to become president. On the surface this would appear to be a callous statement however if we look at not only the history of blacks within the majority society but also within the black community the statement tends to stand on its own merits. Now does this excuse the fact that darker-skinned blacks tend to be discriminated more than light-skinned blacks? Of course not, but the truth is still the truth.

Let’s face it folks whites tend to be more comfortable with light-skinned blacks. If you were to poll blacks and say does the fact that President Obama is light-skinned does that diminish his status as an African-American I think the answer would be a resounding no based on the fact that he received almost 100% of the black vote.

The second part of Senator Reid’s remarks could be more problematic in the sense that he stated that Obama had no Negro dialect which could be offensive to some blacks. The question then becomes do blacks, as a group, speak differently from whites and can those differences be readily apparent to the listener? I think Senator Reid was stating that Barack Obama could choose to speak black or white depending on his audience. The problem here is that we are talking about politicians who often craft their message depending on their audience and for a politician to be able to speak to multiple groups is an asset. I think I remember during the campaign how Hillary and Bill changed dialects when they were speaking in black churches or to primarily black audiences. Does that make them racists? I think not, it makes them politicians.

As every successful black man knows who is not in the entertainment business or a professional athlete knows, we live in two different worlds we have to adept in the white world as well as the black world. I have to be able to speak to white businessmen as well as black community folks and they are not the same.

The biggest problem I have with this faux Republican outrage is that in order to determine Reid’s remarks one has to look at his intent. Was his intent to racially disparage Barack Obama? No, in fact in his mind he was giving a list of the positives for then candidate Obama. We must remember this was the beginning of a historical campaign and who amongst us did not consider these if not other positives and negatives of the candidates. The problem for Senator Reid is that his remarks were recorded. To me this just demonstrates the problem with the current Republican strategy and that is it shows their total lack of principles. When you attack everything you find yourself defending some former positions that you once opposed, by doing this you appear hypocritical at best and insane at worse. Republicans defending Medicare?

So what we have is Senator Reid stating that Barack Obama was a light-skinned black man who could speak to both black and white audiences. Yeah, that’s grounds for his immediate dismissal. Speaking as a black man I’m still missing the outrage no matter who had made the statement.

For Michael Steele to go on television and equate what Senator Reid reportedly said to what Trent Lott said is beyond me. Are we to believe that saying the country would be better off today if in 1948 an avowed racist had won the Presidential election is comparable to saying that Barack Obama was more electable because he was light-skinned and he spoke to both blacks and whites? I don’t think so. Have we become so racially sensitive that stating the obvious is now considered racist? The reason Mr. Steele will never be able to accomplish what he was elected to do which I think was to reach out to African-American voters is because in order to defend his task masters he losses any credibility with the very voters he is charged with attracting. Mr. Steele’s remarks may appeal to whites but if that is his core audience then the Republicans would have better served if they had elected another white man who would not have brought the baggage Mr. Steele has obviously brought. Do Republicans believe that blacks are that gullible? I hope not for their sakes.

“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”

~ Elbert Hubbard  

Common Sense Taxation



CNN Crunches Obama and McCain Tax Plans

The only question is as to sustaining the change [to higher taxes] before the people.  

I believe it can be sustained, because it does not increase the tax upon the “many poor” but upon the “wealthy few” . . .


~ Letter to William S. Wait, March 2, 1839, reprinted in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, volume 1, p. 148.  Rutgers University Press. (1953, 1990).

I go for all sharing the privileges of government who assist in bearing its burdens.

~ Letter to the Editor of the Sangamon Journal, June 13, 1836, reprinted in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, volume 1, p. 48.  Rutgers University Press. (1953, 1990).

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

The chap was well-dressed as was his wife.  She expressed her distain with her husband’s choice.  He would cast his ballot for John McCain in this election year.  Taxes were his only concern.  This lovely lady declared herself an active Democrat.  She had been a Clinton supporter, Hillary that is.  Now, she was decisively behind Barack Obama, and proud of it.  I might not have known this or much else about the couple of strangers; however, in the year 2008, everyone seems anxious to share political concerns.  

Times, as the adage states, are “tough.”  Yet, life goes on.  Families still celebrate birth dates, nuptials, and anniversaries.  People continue to purchase gifts, although most do not feel they can afford to shop.  Persons do not purchase until they drop.  Instead, individuals in stores stop and chat of the financial crisis.  They speak of fears and folly.  Countless recount tales of pink slips received.  Others anxiously await what they cannot predict.  Will they soon be among the  6.1 percent unemployed Americans?  

Those in malls understand the woes and are apprehensive they might be next.  With more citizens out of work, millions find they cannot pay the mortgage.  Ruthless subprime rates raked many United States residents over the proverbial coals.  Home loan representatives, who indulged in illicit although not illegal, practices, have helped cause an abundance of  foreclosures. Many Americans are out on the streets.

Rage, resentments, and calls for a revolution, are rampant.  However, on the issue of tax policies those who benefited under the Bush plan want no change.  Dollars held tightly in the palm of an individuals’ hand make sense to those such as this stylish gentleman I met more than a month ago.  

For me, the discussion of government assessments began long before America became acquainted with “Joe the Plumber.” It commenced when, I met a couple, whose names I do not know.  Perchance, as I tell this tale, I will call them John and Jane Doe.  The man, woman, and I did not exchange names, although we had an extensive conversation.  The three of us were in a second-hand store.  Still, we all wondered whether we could afford to buy even one item.  

Today prices are high.  The cost of living soars.  Incomes are depressed; dollars are too.  Small businesses suffer.  Workers employed in large and little companies fear they will not be able to survive.  In September 2008, 159,000 jobs were lost. This monthly calculation is the worst seen in five years.  Americans are not surprised.  This computation confirms what most have felt.  The economic downturn is severe.  Hence, the trepidation for higher taxes.

Talk of tariffs adds to the daily stress people experience in hard economic times.  John Doe expressed, for him, the only issue of import is levees.  His spouse Jane sighed.  Restless, she pleaded to her husband, “There is more to consider.”  However, her husband remained resolute.  This genteel gent was concerned with his own fortune, not with societal failures.  The proposal presented before the public by Barack Obama, says persons such as “Joe the Plumber” and the fine fellow who stood before me, are reminiscent of Socialism.  Republicans and Independents who see themselves as rugged individualist react strongly to the idea of wealth redistribution.  Democrats attempt to remind all Americans of history.

A prominent Republican, Abraham Lincoln, first introduced the strategy that would rearrange the division of riches.  During the Civil War, as costs to run a nation and sustain a war effort could no longer cover expenses, President Lincoln imposed an income tax, a progressive rate of return applied to revenue.  Responsibly in 1862, the then President of the United States, choose to seek and preserve fiscal common sense.  Unlike the current Commander-In-Chief, the former Chief Executive believed budgets must be balanced.  Thus, citizens were charged a fee on income in order to pay for the conflict between the States.  

The Civil War Commander also grasped an awful truth; if war is profitable, people will prefer the fight,  President Lincoln hoped to ensure economic gain would not be an incentive for bloody battles. While his plan worked, the prosperous protested, just as they did during the Persian Gulf conflict.

Commander-In-Chief Lincoln struggled in his efforts to find a way to pay for the Civil War.  Initially, President Lincoln turned to bankers to pay for the battles.  After all, the citizens called barons of capitalism, in a derogatory fashion, had the money and the means.  Yet, then, just as now, financiers would not fund what they thought an uncertain future.  

In the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, lenders groused; loans are liens. Repayment is required.  The individuals of yesteryear who wished to secure and retain personal profits were more than reluctant to part with cash.  Indeed, they refused.  The stranger who stood before me and “Joe he Plumber’ might relate.  They too do not want to contribute a penny more of their cash to assist the country.  Miserly might best describe the early proprietors of principal.  The term may also apply to the gracious gentleman in my presence, the person I refer to as John, or to “Joe,” the man who fits pipes for his wages.

President Lincoln, may too have been as these fellows are, early in his career.  However, wartime realities transformed him.  As Chief Executive of a country divided, Abraham Lincoln realized the toll discordance takes.  Lincoln learned to consider Thomas Paine a prophet.  He acknowledged, as the astute author penned in Common Sense, as the population increases, individuals and small clusters of people can no longer care for themselves, friends, and family.  Nor can a modest collective control the chaos that comes when people are overwhelmed by a desire to be the one and only.

John may wish to ponder the wisdom his wife expressed.  Plumber Joe may want to join him.  What the two thoughtful men might define as Socialism is, what Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln would classify as a society where government is of, by, and for the people.

Perchance, the truth of what became self-evident after the Republican experiment of 1862 had a profound effect on what occurred decades later.  The excise became permanent with the adoption of the Constitution’s 16th amendment in 1913. Earlier the Supreme Court had rejected the duty; however, Congress, members of the Grand Old Party and Democrats together, overturned the decision.

Income tax has allowed America to civically function and build communities that flourish for near a century and one half.  For the last one hundred years, citizens of this country have endured, enabled by a tax system that secures education for all.  The current tax structure redistributes wealth so that we all might travel on paved roads, feel safe on secure bridges, and enjoy the creature comforts of cheap electricity, and access to ample water.  John McCain, Sarah Palin, “Joe the Plumber,” persons of their ilk, and perhaps John Doe may prefer to be without the luxuries Americans take for granted.  Fear of what they characterize as Communism or Socialism, could cause our society to crumble further.

That is exactly what the person I refer to as Jane, John’s  life-long partner had endeavored to communicate as the three of us exchanged philosophies on the floor of A Consignment Shoppe.  Jane attempted to assert the Bush Administration engaged in redistribution.  George W. Bush gave to the super-rich and took from the poor and Middle Class.  The trickle-down theory was in truth a splash up.  The abundantly affluent were doused in dollars.  Common citizens crumbled under the weight of the wealthiest gains.

Jane hoped she could explain, as did I.  Our efforts proved futile.  Neither of us had, close at hand, the evaluation of experts.  Perhaps, had John been able to see the charts and graphs, had he read the terms of an agreement with Barack Obama or with John McCain, he would have recognized as Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, and we did.


Barack Obama John McCain
New Tax Cuts Refundable “Making Work Pay Credit” of 6.2 percent of earnings up to a maximum earnings of $8,100 per worker

Refundable “Universal Mortgage Credit” of 10 percent of mortgage interest for nonitemizers up to $800

Eliminate income tax for seniors making less than $50,000 per year

Make Research and Development and renewable energy production tax credit (wind, solar) permanent

Extend childless Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) phase-in range and increase phase-out threshold; increase EITC phase-in rate to 45 percent for families with three or more children; increase add-on to EITC phase-out threshold for married filers to $5,000

Make Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit refundable and equal to 50 percent of child care expenses less than $6,000

Make saver’s credit refundable and change to a 50 percent match of the first $1,000 of contributions

Rename the Hope Credit the “American Opportunity Tax Credit” and expand it to a refundable credit of 100% of the first $4,000 of college expenses

Mandate automatic 401(k)s and automatic IRAs

Allow first-year deduction of 3 and 5-year equipment, deny interest deduction (expires after 2013)

Reduce maximum corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent (phased in by 2015)

Increase the dependent exemption by two-thirds (phased in by 2016)

Convert Research and Development credit to 10 percent of wages incurred for Research and Development, make permanent

Capital Gains Increase maximum capital gains rate to 20 percent for those earning more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples)

Require information reporting of basis for gains

Make permanent current rates on capital gains and dividends, (0 and 15 percent)
2001/2003 Tax Cuts Permanently extend child credit expansions, 10, 15, 25, and 28 percent rates, and changes to tax implications of marriage

Restore 36 and 39.6 percent statutory income tax rates in 2009

Restore phase-out of personal exemptions and itemized deductions (PEP and Pease) for households making more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples), increase the PEP and Pease threshold

Make permanent all provisions other than the estate tax repeal
Alternative Minimum Tax Extend and index 2007 AMT patch Extend and index 2007 AMT patch, further increase exemption by additional 5 percent per year after 2013 (temporarily)
Estate Tax Make permanent estate tax with $3.5 million exemption and 45 percent rate Make permanent estate tax with $5 million exemption and 15 percent rate
Simplification Provide taxpayers with simple returns the option of pre -filled tax forms to verify, sign, return to IRS Create optional alternative tax with two rates and larger standard deduction and personal exemption
Revenue Raisers and Tax Havens Eliminate oil and gas loopholes

Close loopholes in the corporate tax deductibility of CEO pay

Tax carried interest as ordinary income

Reallocate multinational tax deductions

Impose a windfall profits tax on oil and gas companies

Require publicly traded financial partnerships to pay corporate income tax

Codify economic substance doctrine (requires transactions that qualify for tax benefits have economic justification beyond those benefits)

Create an international tax haven watch list of countries who do not share information with the U.S. and require greater financial disclosure to decrease tax shelters

Repeal domestic production activities deduction

Eliminate oil and gas loopholes

Unspecified corporate base broadeners

Health Income-related federal tax subsidies for health insurance purchased through new health insurance exchange

Require employers to provide insurance or pay a percentage of payroll to support the national plan

Small business healthcare tax credit of 50 percent of employer paid premiums

Replace exclusion from income for employer sponsored health insurance with refundable credit of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families who purchase qualifying health insurance



As economic experts evaluate the numbers, calculate the computations, and consider how the Presidential challengers will pay for public works and raise revenues, the conclusion the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center professionals reach is a resolute reminder from the past.  If John McCain is elected, American wealth will be redistributed as it was under George W. Bush.  The smallest percentage of the population, the select few who qualify as super-rich will prosper.  Should voters place Barack Obama in the Oval Office, we the poorer Middle Class will survive, perchance, even thrive.

The two candidates’ tax plans would have sharply different distributional effects.  Senator McCain’s tax cuts would primarily benefit those with very high incomes, almost all of whom would receive large tax cuts that would, on average, raise their after-tax incomes by more than twice the average for all households. Many fewer households at the bottom of the income distribution would get tax cuts and those tax cuts would be small as a share of after-tax income.  In marked contrast, Senator Obama offers much larger tax breaks to low- and middle-income taxpayers and would increase taxes on high-income taxpayers.  The largest tax cuts, as a share of income, would go to those at the bottom of the income distribution . . .

The infrastructure [the supply of power and water, public transportation, telecommunications, roads and schools,] the luxuries that make life in America lovely will not exist without taxes.  The discreet dude, John Doe, who spoke of his stocks, bonds, and levees imposed on income could have come to the conclusion that if we hold on tightly to what we, as individuals have, our hands are not open and free to build a greater communal wealth.  The Oracle who resides in Nebraska understands this.

The “Sage of Omaha” thinks the strategy Barack Obama wishes to exercise is wise. The multi-billionaire investor states Barack Obama “is going to bring outstanding ideas” to the White House.  Warren Buffett worries that America, under John McCain might stay the course that has not served us well.  As the nation’s economy free falls into a downward spiral, Warren Buffett reasons.

“I think that the US has followed and is following policies which will cause the US dollar to weaken over a long period,” he said.

After voicing support for Obama, Buffett nonetheless noted the US economy had managed to do “awfully well” despite a depression, two world wars, and many financial crises.

“They say in the stock market … buy stock in a business that’s so good that an idiot can run it because sooner or later one will,” he added.

“Well, the United States is a little like that.  We can take a little mis-management from time to time,” Buffett said.

The Presidential candidate, McCain understands that Mister Buffett may muse of more than his personal pocketbook.  However, John McCain grieves not for one vote lost.  Senator McCain and his handlers trust in human nature.  Common people disregard the good sense of one who is unaffected by the financial crisis.

The Arizona Senator has faith; if he devotes his attention to everyday Americans, he can still win the presidency.  The people’s choice is a reflection of how the public feels about the economy. If John McCain can convince John Doe, the man who might be an Investor, and Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, the self-described soon-to-be owner of a profitable small plumbing business, that Barack Obama, like Abraham Lincoln before him, is a Socialist, Senator McCain will be successful in his bid for the White House.  

Granted, if McCain become President, John Doe may not be provided for.  Jane, his spouse, and I are sure Senator McCain will not care for our needs, but then Commander-In-Chief aspirant and Arizona affluent, McCain does not want the vote of those who recognize the rich reaped greater treasures from the Bush redistribution of wealth plan.  Senator John McCain does not desire the vote of Obama supporters, such as billionaire Warren Buffett, who he cannot sway with slams of Socialism.  

John McCain’s only wish is to seize a commitment  from constituents who have not learned from history.  The abundantly affluent Arizona Senator desires to hold on to those voters who are apprehensive.   He seeks support from citizens who declare, as the Republican candidate does, the proposed tax plan of Presidential hopeful, Barack Obama, is as Abraham Lincoln’s redistribution of wealth strategy was, “Socialism”

References to the past and hopeful future . . .

Issue Number One; Economic Insecurity Breeds Bigotry, Bias and Bitterness



Fear Itself

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

He was a beautiful bouncing baby boy.  He was born to two parents that love him dearly.  Even before his birth, indeed, prior to conception, this little fellow was the apple of his parent’s eyes.  His biological beginning was carefully calculated.  As the seeds of life developed into a bright-eyed baby, the people he now knows as Mom and Dad thought of little else but Maxwell.  The soon to be proud Papa and Momma anxiously anticipated the day they could hold this bundle of joy.  Each of his parents was eager to meet and greet the small, sweet face of the guy that they would call Max.  Maximum value, supreme significance, marvelously magnificent, all this was and would be their son.  After Max was delivered and during any political season, such as this, Mom and Dad feel certain Max is issue number one.

The guardians look over their angel.  They plan for his future, and they are apprehensive, just as their parents and grandparents were before them.  For generations the realities of daily life have shaped parental priorities.  First and foremost, families want to survive, to feel safe and secure.  Yet, much that accounts for stability is beyond the control of a parent or any single person.  Moms and Dads agonize, as do all individuals.  Economic, educational, environmental concerns have an effect on caregivers and all citizens.  Military engagements also affect households, even if only one lives within the domicile.  Mothers, fathers, and babies, boys or girls learn to fear.

Ultimately, in the course of a life, each individual will ask, how does any matter affect me, my family, and friends of mine?  Countless citizens sense we have loss the sense that within a society, each individual works for the commonweal.  The words of Thomas Paine On the Origin and Design of Government in General are principles from the past.  In America today, the common folk feel they can no longer trust the government.  In recent years, people profess too many promises were broken; lies were told.  Intelligence was not wise.  Still, Americans sense there is an enemy.

In the minds of most Americans, the foe exists outside self.  Few have fully internalized the truth of the words uttered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  As people do, citizens in this country trust themselves.  People know their faith will guide them.  The Almighty will not disappoint them.  Proud of their personal strength and all they survived throughout the course of their lives, the American public, no matter their economic station believes their family will be fine.  All Americans trust in their ability to fight the opposition.  Residents in the United States are not afraid to take up arms if they need to protect themselves from evil forces.

Nevertheless, Americans are “bitter.”  People in the cities, the suburbs, and in the countryside, resent the precarious position their leaders have placed them in.  In the “Land of the free and home of the brave” the public is “looking for strong leadership from Washington.”  Individuals and communities recognize they cannot go it alone.  Sadly, those previously entrusted with Executive privileges have not served the common folk within the United States well.  Citizens have expressed their ample concern for quite a while and no one seems to hear the cries.  While some of the Presidential aspirants wish to believe Americans are not indignant . . .

Poll: 80% of Americans Dissatisfied

By Associate Press.

Time Magazine

April 4, 2008

(New York) – More than 80 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, the highest such number since the early 1990s, according to a new survey.

The CBS News-New York Times poll released Thursday showed 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.”  That was up from 69 percent a year ago, and 35 percent in early 2002.

The survey comes as housing turmoil has rocked Wall Street amid an economic downturn.  The economy has surpassed the war in Iraq as the dominating issue of the U.S. presidential race, and there is now nearly a national consensus that the United States faces significant problems, the poll found.

A majority of Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, according to the survey, which was published on The New York Times’ Web site.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was doing better . . .

The poll also found that Americans blame government officials for the housing crisis more than banks or homebuyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers.

Americans favored help for people but not for financial institutions in assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis.  A clear majority said they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the depth of a recession.

Intellectually astute, each individual understands to his or her core, a country must work well as a whole.  If we act independently of others, with little regard for those who reside in our nation, we all will realize a reason to feel insecure.  No family can survive alone. Maxwell’s parents can plan and work to provide, but if the country suffers from a crisis, be it fiscal, a protracted feud, the cost of food, or fuel, the family will also find themselves in situation critical.

In a society, we are our neighbors’ keeper, for what affects those in adjacent abodes will influence us.  If one person is poor, so too is his brother.

The tenet is true in the abstract; it is also viable concretely.  We need only consider what occurs when one domicile on the block is in disrepair or foreclosure flourishes in an enclave.  Property values for all homes in the area plummet.  A family functions best as a unit.  A nation fares well when we are one.

Our most conservative estimates indicate that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile (essentially a city block) of a single-family home results in a 0.9 percent decline in value.  Cumulatively, this means that, for the entire city of Chicago, the 3,750 foreclosures in 1997 and 1998 are estimated to reduce nearby property values by more than $598 million, for an average cumulative single-family property value effect of $159,000 per foreclosure. This does not include effects on the values of condominiums, larger multifamily rental properties, and commercial buildings.

Less conservative estimates suggest that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile of a property results in a 1.136 percent decline in that property’s value and that each foreclosure from one-eighth to one-quarter mile away results in a 0.325 percent decline in value.  This less conservative finding corresponds to a city-wide loss in single-family property values of just over $1.39 billion. This corresponds to an average cumulative property value effect of more than $371,000 per foreclosure

In 2008, this consideration consumes millions of persons who thought they were safe and secure.  As the subprime debacle ripples through every community, people realize their very survival is at risk.  Everyone, even some of the elite now experience a profound sense of insecurity.  Again, people ask who or what might they trust.  The average American has faith only in what is familiar.  Max, Mom, and Dad, families turn to what is tried and true.  Whatever has protected them in the past, they hope, will save them from what is an uncertain future.

Certainly, people have no confidence in government.  Many are frustrated.  They resent those who placed them in such a precarious situation.  Mothers, fathers, sons such as Max, and daughters are reminded, without regulations only the few profit.  Dreams die.  Witness the subprime debacle.

Mortgage companies and banks, such as Wells Fargo, have twisted the average prime mortgage loan into something much more incapable of paying by the recipient, but profitable to the company. Subprime loans, as “adjustable rate mortgages,” are packed with deceiving modifications that have low “teaser” rates that expand in interest exponentially after an initial low pay period.  Families that have received Subprime loans have bit into a bitter center of the sugar-coated American dream.

Citizens in this once prosperous country wonder whether they will ever again be able to trust that they can aspire to greater heights.  Homes are no longer worth what they were at the time of purchase.  Payments on adjusted rate mortgages [ARM] are exorbitant and balloon expenditures are now due.  Americans feel pinched.  Businesses are also affected by a slowed economy and bad investments.  Bankruptcy is an option, although brutal.  As the cost of fuel and food rises, financial fears become more real.  Existence takes a toll.  As Americans assess the circumstances within their home region, they realize there is reason to hold on tightly to what they know and love.  

Perchance G-d and country are all citizens can believe in, and maybe there is no longer reason to believe either of these will save them.  Certainly, Administrations in the recent past and present have not protected us well.  After all, our Presidents, Congress, and the Federal Reserve were responsible for the Demise of Glass-Steagall Act.  This law once regulated banks and limited the conflicts of interest created when commercial depositories were permitted to underwrite stocks or bonds.  Without such oversight, Americans lost their security.  Survival no longer seems possible.  The American Dream is a nightmare.

The Next Slum?

By Christopher B. Leinberger

Atlantic Monthly

March 2008

Strange days are upon the residents of many a suburban cul-de-sac. Once-tidy yards have become overgrown, as the houses, they front have gone vacant. Signs of physical and social disorder are spreading.

At Windy Ridge, a recently built starter-home development seven miles northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, 81 of the community’s 132 small, vinyl-sided houses were in foreclosure as of late last year. Vandals have kicked in doors and stripped the copper wire from vacant houses; drug users and homeless people have furtively moved in.  In December, after a stray bullet blasted through her son’s bedroom and into her own, Laurie Talbot, who’d moved to Windy Ridge from New York in 2005, told The Charlotte Observer, “I thought I’d bought a home in Pleasantville.  I never imagined in my wildest dreams that stuff like this would happen.”

In the Franklin Reserve neighborhood of Elk Grove, California, south of Sacramento, the houses are nicer than those at Windy Ridge-many once sold for well over $500,000-but the phenomenon is the same.  At the height of the boom, 10,000 new homes were built there in just four years. Now many are empty; renters of dubious character occupy others.  Graffiti, broken windows, and other markers of decay have multiplied.  Susan McDonald, president of the local residents’ association and an executive at a local bank, told the Associated Press, “There’s been gang activity.  Things have really been changing, the last few years.”

In the first half of last year, residential burglaries rose by 35 percent and robberies by 58 percent in suburban Lee County, Florida, where one in four houses stands empty. Charlotte’s crime rates have stayed flat overall in recent years-but from 2003 to 2006, in the 10 suburbs of the city that have experienced the highest foreclosure rates, crime rose 33 percent. Civic organizations in some suburbs have begun to mow the lawns around empty houses to keep up the appearance of stability. Police departments are mapping foreclosures in an effort to identify emerging criminal hot spots.

The decline of places like Windy Ridge and Franklin Reserve is usually attributed to the subprime-mortgage crisis, with its wave of foreclosures.  And the crisis has indeed catalyzed or intensified social problems in many communities. But the story of vacant suburban homes and declining suburban neighborhoods did not begin with the crisis, and will not end with it. A structural change is under way in the housing market-a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work.  It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes.  And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound.

Perchance, more weighty than the influence of a social degradation on a community is the impression such dire circumstances leave on a little lad such as Maxwell. Young Max will learn, just as his parents had.  Likely, he too will come to believe that he can only depend on himself.  An older and wiser Max will not fully grasp how extraordinary he is, or perhaps he will know all to well that no matter how glorious he is, someone might jeopardize his stability.  No matter how well he lives his life, another force, power, person, or authority might cause his dreams to go awry.  

Maxwell sees how hard life is for his parents.  He comes to understand that he too will always and forever, need to prove his worth.  How else might he hold onto his job, his home, his money, or his sense of self?  For Maxwell, as for us, anyone, innocent as they may be, might seem a threat.  His Mom and Dad, fearful that they might lose their livelihood, health care benefits, the family home, and their ability to provide, let alone survive, teach their young son trepidation.

Mom and Dad look around the neighborhood and they see society is shifting.  People of other races, colors, and creeds are destined to overtake the white majority.  This can be nothing but trouble, or so they think.  Maxwell trusts this sentiment to be true.  The parents wonder; might immigration and  Free Trade deprive them of their life style?  In the United States, Anglo Americans react more to what they muse might be so.  However, ample evidence affirms the contrary.  A 2006 study, by the Pew Hispanic Center avows, the sudden rise in the foreign-born population does not negatively effect the employment of native-born workers.

Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born

By Rakesh Kochhar, Associate Director for Research

Pew Hispanic Center

August 10, 2006

Rapid increases in the foreign-born population at the state level are not associated with negative effects on the employment of native-born workers, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center that examines data during the boom years of the 1990s and the downturn and recovery since 2000.

An analysis of the relationship between growth in the foreign-born population and the employment outcomes of native-born workers revealed wide variations across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. No consistent pattern emerges to show that native-born workers suffered or benefited from increased numbers of foreign-born workers . . .

The size of the foreign-born workforce is also unrelated to the employment prospects for native-born workers.  The relative youth and low levels of education among foreign workers also appear to have no bearing on the employment outcomes of native-born workers of similar schooling and age.

Nevertheless, people continue to fear what is less than familiar.  Maxwell’s mother and father often speak of the immigrants.  The words voiced are unkind.  Assessments often are unrealistic.  In this country, on this globe, our apprehensions, our insecurity, the fear that we might not survive divides us.  Self-surety is issue number one.  

When individuals do not feel as though all is fine, when distressed, emotional reactions may be exaggerated. Many persons prefer to deny that they feel distraught.  The press, the powerful, and persons who wish to be more prominent understand this.  Each is expert in the art of persuasion.  Tell us that we are doing well, that we are strong, that they will help bring certainty, security, and safety to our lives, and to our country, and we will croon along with them.

Anxious Americans, at home and abroad, such as the parents of young Maxwell attack.  Anyone can be considered the enemy.  Bankers, big business, bureaucrats, billionaire oil magnates, migrants, and of course, mutineers of Middle Eastern descent.  Our fellow citizens are easily terrorized, if not by the persons who they think might destroy the neighborhood, or take their job, the people who crashed a plane into the Twin Towers must be a target.  Since September 11, 2001, Maxwell parents have thought it wise to protect United States shores.

Some Americans say we must stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These persons may fear terrorists from the Persian Gulf.  There is great consternation when people do not think they are physically safe.  

Citizens feel a greater concern when they discover the reasons we went to war are invalid.  Again, the people in this country recognize the adversary is the American Administration.  Lie by lie, the Iraq War Timeline reveals greater reason for antipathy.

Those who cite security and survival as the primary concern proclaim, “It is the economy.”  They say, this is the number one issue Americans must address.  Too many persons, today, cannot even live paycheck to paycheck.  Disposable income, discretionary spending, savings to fall back on are luxuries of the past.  People dream of the cushion they hope to create.  Yet, in the back of their minds, they fear.  Again,  foreclosures are in the forefront in people’s minds.  Many are mired in debt.  In February 2008, another sixty percent (60%) of Americans concluded they could no longer pay the mortgage.  Mortgage Woes Boost Credit Card Debt. Balances on charge cards cannot be reconciled.

Plastic Card Tricks

The New York Times

March 29, 2008

Americans are struggling with a very rocky economy while they are also holding almost $1 trillion in credit card debt. In most cases, those cards provide a little flexibility with the monthly bills. But an increasing number of people are defaulting because of the “tricks and traps” – soaring interest rates and hidden fees – in the credit card business.

Before more Americans get in so deep that they cannot dig out, Washington needs to change the way these companies do business to ensure that consumers are treated fairly.

The stories about deceptive practices are harrowing. At a recent news briefing in Washington, a Chicago man told about what happened when he charged a $12,000 home repair bill in 2000 on a card with an introductory interest rate of 4.25 percent. Despite his steady, on-time payments, the rate is now nearly 25 percent. And despite paying at least $15,360, he said that he had only paid off about $800 of his original debt.

Once more Americans are confronted with what causes great bitterness.  No one, not Congress, the companies that lend citizens cash, the corporate tycoons, or candidates can imagine why Americans might be bitter. None of these entities care enough to help the average Joe, Jane, Maxwell, or his parents.

Why might inhabitants in this Northern continent be cynical, or feel a need to cling to religion, weapons, or hostility.  Perhaps, these sanctuaries feel  more tangible.  Faith, as an arsenal, and anger too, are at least more affordable than other options.

Petroleum prices are also an issue of import.  Citizens cry, I now work for fuel.  Only four short month ago, oil hit $100 a barrel for the first time ever.  The rate charged for petroleum continues to climb.  Now the expense exceeds what was once unimaginable. The cost of crude is the cause.  The effect is, Mommy and Daddy do not drive much anymore.  Each trip is evaluated.  Carpools are common considerations.  Vacations are not thought vital.  Parents who had hoped to show Max the seashore this summer cannot keep the promise they made to themselves and their progeny.  Plans did not prove to be predictions.

In 2008, the inconceivable is classified as inevitable.  Scientists share a stingy assessment.  The environment is no longer stable.  Nor are our lives on the planet Earth.  We, worldwide, have passed the point of no return.  Globally, groups and individuals pooh-pooh this determination.  For them, immediate concerns take precedence over the future.  

The question we all inevitably ask, even if not expressed aloud, is, “Will I continue to exist?”  If so, “Will my family and I be comfortable?”  The answers shade our sense of what is right or wrong.  Maxwell hears his Mom and Dad speak of free trade.  This is another hazard that haunts them.

The link between economic integration and worker insecurity is also an essential element of explanations for patterns of public opposition to policies aimed at further liberalization of international trade, immigration, and foreign direct investment (FDI) in advanced economies. Economic insecurity may contribute to the backlash against globalization in at least two ways.  First is a direct effect in which individuals that perceive globalization to be contributing to their own economic insecurity are much more likely to develop policy attitudes against economic integration.

Second, if globalization limits the capacities of governments to provide social insurance, or is perceived to do so, then individuals may worry further about globalization and this effect is likely to be magnified if labor-market risks are heightened by global integration.

It seems every issue intimidates us.  Each challenges the security we crave.  All beckon us and cause us to question whether we, Maxwell, or his parents will survive.  Our serious fears force us to believe we must separate ourselves from others, from our brothers and sisters.  In an earlier speech, echoing the words of Franklin Roosevelt, the eloquent Barack Obama spoke of this situation and how our own anxiety harms us.[ The Presidential hopeful offered solutions.

[W]e need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all . . .

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.”  We do not need to recite here the history of racial [or economic] injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the [any] community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered  . . .

Legalized discrimination . . . That history helps explain the wealth and income gap  . . . and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity  . . . and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of [all] families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban [and now with “no new taxes” suburban] neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

Potential President Obama understands and hopes to help all American realize that we are one.  While this vocalization was meant to focus on the more obvious rift between the races, the Senator from Illinois, the community organizer, attempted to advance awareness for what troubles Americans as a whole.

In fact, a similar anger exists within [all] segments of the  . . . community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch.  They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.  They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense . . ..

Americans, no matter the color or circumstances might contemplate that anger is “often proved counterproductive” as are resentments.  These attitudes distract attention and widen any divide.  If Americans are to find a path to understanding, we must accept that our insecurity, our fears need not distract us.  We will survive if we work as one.

This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of [any child] black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem.  The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy . . ..

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics [poor and those the government classifies as affluent] who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.  This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.  We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

Today, we must be honest with ourselves.  We can admit that we are incensed, irritated, infuriated, and irate.  These feelings do not immobilize us.  Nor do we necessarily need to fight, and be combative.  It is time we teach Maxwell and also Maxine, distress can inspire us to dream the of impossible and make it our truth.  We, Americans can rise above our bitterness and build bridges to a fine future if we unite.

It is not elitist to speak truth.  It is ignorance and obfuscation to deny how we feel and what we fear.  We cannot change what we do not acknowledge.  Elusion will not bring bliss.  We may be insecure; we may question whether we can survive.  Indeed, if we act as we have in the past, if we focus on our faith and antipathy, there will be no reason to hope.  Americans, divisions have distracted us for too long.  To negate our natural response is to restrict our growth.  This time citizens of the United States, let us come together.  Bitterness can become sweet.

Sources of insecurity.  Resources for survival . . .

Humans Inhumane. Furry Friends Abandoned in Foreclosures

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Americans like to think of themselves as humane.  We set up societies to ensure the four-legged creatures will be protected and cared for.  People build playpens and homes to shelter their furry friends.  We coo and hold close the littlest, most dependent, beings we call doggies and kitties.  Man’s best companion is the dog that sits by his side, or the cat that curls in a ball on his lap.  We carry photographic images of our pals.  Some store these in their cellular telephones; others post the likeness of their “pets” on a computer screen.  We love the beings who return our affection unconditionally.  Yet, throughout America babies are being abandoned.  

The small and cuddly beings who share their lives with us have become a casualty of foreclosures.  People lose their home and then their minds, hearts, and souls.  One can only surmise.  What occurs in America?

Reports of this crisis are beyond belief for many.  In a civilized society, animal abandonment is epidemic.  This seems such an enigma.  It is difficult to believe that benevolent people, when in distress, might forget their principles and their pets.  It is a challenge to accept that living beings are left behind, with little care or thought, as homeowners’ head for the hills.  Yet, tis true.  In America today, our beautiful babies are left to fend for themselves.  Few survive without food, water, or the heat an occupied shelter provides.

Nationwide, our neighborhoods scorned Michael Vick for animal cruelty.  Letters and calls pour in to the courts.  The formerly famous athlete, now know for disrepute, was justly sentenced to prison for his abusive behaviors.  Yet, individually, en masse, Americans allow their bow-wows and meow-ers to die, slowly, without the comfort of the person they once thought a companion, their best friend, care giver, and protector.

Pets becoming casualty of foreclosure

By John Simerman

Mercury News

December 22, 2007

BRENTWOOD — The kids at Stay & Play Pre-School take their afternoon naps among a few new friends: a pair of large turtles, rescued after months alone in a foreclosed Discovery Bay home.

Other animals weren’t so lucky.  One — a pit bull puppy — died tethered to a fence in a Pittsburg backyard.

“People are losing their homes, and animals are the fallout of that,” said Cecily Tippery, a Coldwell Banker agent who specializes in foreclosed properties, and now also in rescuing pets left behind.

Here in one of the nation’s foreclosure hotbeds, Tippery and her colleagues say they have found several pets in abandoned homes — enough to spread the animal care workload among them.

At one Antioch property, they found a dachshund, a Chihuahua, a beagle and a dead turtle.  A Calico cat turned up at an Oakley house.  A litter of kittens remained in still another empty house.

It is another sorry aspect to a foreclosure epidemic that has hit east Contra Costa harder than anywhere in the East Bay.  Although local animal control officers say there’s no evidence of a big spike in abandoned pets, stories of often starving animals left behind in foreclosed houses have begun to crop up across the country.

In Ohio, animal control agencies have scrambled to find space to take on an increase in abandoned and stray pets.  In Arizona, pet lovers have launched an e-mail network to help find homes for abandoned animals, according to reports.

“I’m sure there is an increase in it,” said Michael Parker, acting senior animal services officer in Stockton, at the epicenter of the nation’s foreclosure boom . . .

People do not know how to care for themselves.  Sadly, and certainly we do not teach young children the finer points of finance.  Economic mastery is not required in schools or in society at-large.  Few truly understand how to best secure shelter for themselves, or for loved ones.  The logistics of  how to best purchase a home is elusive for the vast majority of Americans.  We rely on experts.  Yet, for reason unknown there seem to be few experts on love, reciprocal reverence, and how to live humanely.

One would think in homes, churches, and schools we learn the importance of relationships.  Humans are gregarious creatures.  We give affection and wish to receive fondness.  No living being genuinely wishes to be alone; nor is survival effortless without another to aid and support us, even if only emotionally.  Animals of every type have a symbiotic relationship.

Yet, apparently, humans do not fully comprehend this.  Little beings, who fill our lives with joy, are not as possessions.  Rover, Rex, Tiger, and Tillie are not our property  People must  protect and provide for our pals.  Those unfamiliar with our four-legged family members, by law, cannot care for our fuzzy children.

One sticking point: The pets are considered personal property and cannot be removed until 18 days after a foreclosure sale.  The banks, the agents say, do not want the agents to feed them.  They do it anyway.

“My first impression was, how can somebody do this to these animals,” said agent Trish Balocco.  “We’re not supposed to take care of them.  How can you not?”

One Contra Costa County animal control official said the law requires the banks, or whoever owns the home, to tend to the abandoned animals.  Lt. Joe Decosta said he expects more forsaken pets as the wave of foreclosures and the economic fallout washes away more homeowners.

“As times get harder, there’s more cruelty.  You get animals that suffer more.  You’ve got people that can’t feed themselves,” he said.

Decosta said banks may misconstrue the law.  Part of the problem, he said, may be the legal definition of the animals as property.

“There’s no clause for them being a living being,” he said.

“If there’s no water for them, no heat, no shelter, no food, something’s suffering.”

Misery intentionally inflicted upon the babies is not legal, not humane, and beyond belief to those of us who truly care for our fellow creatures.  I wonder.  Perhaps, part of the problem is we call them “pets.”  We do not realize that while humans may stroke the little beings, the action is to pet; the animal is our brother.  Language is only part of the paradox.

Statutes treat these breathing beings as though they are less worthy, as if they are property, possessions, objects that we can and will throw away when they have outlived their usefulness to us, the supposed owners.  Yet . . .

In my life, Mitzi purrs expectantly each evening as I prepare the bed.  She sits sweetly as sheets and blankets are placed neatly.  When all is ready for the night, the little ballerina bounces up and moves to the center of the comforter.  Mitzi looks at me, her Mom, and says, “I’m ready.  I think it is time for us to sleep.”

Throughout the night, the little bundle of love and fur hums with delight.  The Boy joins us, after he ensures the house is secure.

When we awake in the morning, we move in unison.  I exercise on the floor.  The Boy watches from above.  He glances at me and chatters at the birds as they fly past the window.  Mitz awaits her massage.  In the meantime, she observes my activity.  She knows when the cycle is complete.

Once done I feed the babies, before I prepare my own meal.  Water dishes are refreshed.  Food replenished.  Litter is cleaned.  The babies and I work together.

There is not a moment that passes when in the presence of the Boy and the Girl  that they are not my priority, and I theirs.  When away from them, I think of them constantly.  The distress they express when they realize I might leave lets me know they worry about me.  I see them even when they are not near.  I am told when I am away they watch expectantly for my return.  

As a friend, a parent, a person who thinks herself humane, I could not leave kitties or a bow-wow without water, a comfortable well-heated or cooled place to, no shelter, and no food for the defenseless loves . . . As I learn of man’s inhumanity to his fellow beings, my heart breaks.  Please someone help me understand why humans are so inhumane.

Survival.  Sources. Are Humans More Fit . . .

Congress and Bush Clash; Children’s Health and the Commonwealth

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

This article first appeared at Troubled Times.  I thank Steven Josselson for the opportunity to share what I believe is a vital message.

Today, I am reminded of our shared purpose.  We the people of the United States came together in order to form a more perfect Union.  We joined as one to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves, and our Posterity.  However, it seems we have forgotten.  Our children and our future suffer as,  Congress, Bush Clash Over Children’s Health Insurance.

A Bill thought certain to pass the House and the Senate easily, is now stalled.  Only days ago, it seemed the decade-old State Children’s Health Insurance Program would be expanded.

But the future of the $5 billion-a-year program, which serves 6.6 million children and has long enjoyed bipartisan support, has become mired in an ideological fight over the proper role of government in health care and in more mundane legislative arm-wrestling over how to fund the effort in a tight budget climate.

The values and beliefs in question are those discussed early on in our nation’s history.  What is the role of government and what defines overwhelming authority.  Mister Bush, in accordance with his presumed prerogative declares privatization of all programs is paramount.  Rather than use the people’s money to support us and ensure a healthy commonwealth, the bush Administration proposes programs that benefit those that already have.

President Bush has attacked the proposals as big-government attempts to enlarge the federal role in health care, saying they would siphon choice away from individuals and reduce private insurance coverage for some children.  He has proposed about $5 billion in new funding for children’s health insurance over five years, for a total of $30 billion – an amount that the Congressional Budget Office says would be too little to keep covering even just the number of children enrolled in the program now.

“The program is going beyond the initial intent of helping poor children,” Bush said at an appearance in Cleveland last week. “It’s now aiming at encouraging more people to get on government health care. . . . It’s a way to encourage people to transfer from the private sector to government health-care plans. . . . I think it’s wrong, and I think it’s a mistake.”

Apparently, we, as a nation no longer believe that we must provide for those most in need, particularly those unable to fend for themselves.  We have abandoned the notion that together, we must promote the common interests, in order to guarantee the quality of our future.  If we do not, if we choose to create a divide, a fissure between the rich and poor then certainly as a country, we will fall.

The autocrats of antiquity chose to impose their preferences on the common people.  Rulers forgot, and ultimately were reminded, governments serve society and not the wealthy few.  We must take care of those that cannot attend to their own needs. If for no other reason, if we do not, it will affect us all financially.

While it might be nice to think that we can and will pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, practically speaking, that is not always possible.  Thomas Paine perhaps presented an analogy more apt than any I might construct.  In the scholar’s desire to explain the intent of government, compare and contrast the rationale for such a system, while honoring the role of society Paine wrote.

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest; they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought.

A thousand motives will excite them thereto; the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same.

Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him to quit his work, and every different want would call him a different way.  Disease, nay even misfortune, would be death; for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.

While we as individuals might muse, “People must take care of themselves,” in truth we must realize if we are to truly respect life, ours and their, it is indeed, “All for one, and one for all,” that must guide us.

We are our brethren.  While I may be able to financially treat any ills my son, or daughter might incur, if I allow the offspring of my neighbor to suffer, than what might I say of myself.  Can I truly and admirably be satisfied with my own wealth if I am willing to watch the poor suffer and possibly perish. 

Many Americans acknowledge they could not live with themselves if they did not care for the young.  Citizens throughout the land think children must be our priority.  We as a nation must insure our progeny. Our civilization survives when our children thrive.  As a culture, we must make certain the young receive the best health care we can provide.

Congress was diligent working in the interest of the weakest among us.  While the logistics may be less than lovely, the intention is admirable.  Ensuring that  our youngest citizens  have health care is commendable.

Key members of the Senate Finance Committee announced a bipartisan deal late last week that would raise the federal excise tax on cigarettes by 61 cents, to $1 a pack, to expand the program by $35 billion over the next five years. That would create total program funding of $60 billion over the period – enough, lawmakers said, to cover 3.3 million additional kids while keeping the focus on children of the working poor. The committee is expected to vote on the plan as early as this week.

The program, which will expire on Sept. 30, “has helped millions upon millions of low-income, uninsured American kids see doctors when they’re sick,” Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said in a statement.  “This agreement will make sure that even more children get the health care they need.”

House Democrats, meanwhile, have sought an even bigger increase: $50 billion, for a total of $75 billion in funding over five years. It would be paid for, at least in part, by trimming payments to private Medicare plans for seniors.  Such an expansion would reach even more of the nation’s 8.3 million uninsured children and, more generally, provide a foundation for further efforts to cover more of the 45 million uninsured Americans, they argue.

However, it seems this well-established and necessary program may be eliminated.  If it survives, in another, poorly funded form, as the President proposes, again many of our progeny will be wounded.

A recent study revealed, 1 In 4 Kids Go Without Health Care.

Some uninsured children of the working poor don’t go to the doctor’s office; it comes to them.

They make too much for Medicaid but not enough to have their own insurance.

And 150,000 patients per year, nationwide, get free care from 21 mobile units provided by the Children’s Health Fund. But a new report out Thursday from this non-profit group says far too many kids are falling into a huge health care crevice, CBS News has learned exclusively.

The group’s report finds despite billions of dollars in government spending, more than one in four children still don’t have full-time health care a gap twice as big as anyone thought, CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

“It’s more than just insurance and lack of insurance, that are keeping children from getting medical care,” says Dr. Irwin Redlener, president of the Children’s Health Fund of Columbia University.

It’s estimated that 9 million children are completely uninsured. But the new study says 11.5 million more kids end up without medical care for part of the year. And another 3 million can’t get a ride to the doctor. That’s more than 23 million children.

Medical professionals disturbed by the finding and a reality that they are all too familiar with went to Capitol Hill to lobby for an ample increase in funding the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program.  However, it seems our compassionately conservative President rejects the prospect.

Rather than consider the needs of the young, Mister Bush postures, ‘Government is too big.’  Perhaps it is.  When Administrators make the rules, disregarding the principles our forefathers established than we, as a society no longer function.  I am forever baffled by how easily we forget, in a democracy, in a republic, the term government is meant to signify, “of, by, and for the people.”

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.  Society is produced by our wants and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.  The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.

Indeed, when we allow those entrusted to serve with extraordinary power, the people, particularly the littlest ones are left to languish.

In some local communities, citizens came together to provide services for the young.  States provided supplementary services.  In December 2005, some thought the numbers of children without health care was decreasing.

In the past year, 20 states have taken steps to increase access to health coverage for children and their parents and nine states have reversed actions they took during the 2001-03 economic downturn to limit benefits, according the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, part of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks health care trends.

As a result of these and other steps, there are 350,000 fewer uninsured children in the United States than there were in 2000, the foundation reported. Over the same period the overall number of uninsured rose by 6 million.

Ambitious steps like the child health bill just signed in Illinois and the “Dr. Dynasaur” children’s health program in Vermont have broadened coverage for children.

While elected officials cannot agree on how to provide or pay for health coverage for uninsured adults, there seems to be a consensus that covering children is both medically wise and politically smart.

However, the situation was never stable.  The States alone could not fill the demand.

Eleven states facing political and financial pressure, including Maryland, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, have made it more difficult for eligible children to retain coverage.

The movement to expand coverage for children dates to the mid-1990s, after the Clinton administration devised a complex plan to provide all Americans with health care coverage. That plan failed, and advocates of wider coverage began pursuing more incremental changes at the federal level and lobbying state legislatures to expand coverage.

Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, a nonpartisan research group, said children’s health was one area of state spending that had consistently risen, at a time when most other programs ? including health care for adults ? have suffered cuts. Weil said it was much easier for elected officials to approve spending “for the kids” than to expand welfare programs for adults, even in times of hardship.

“It goes back to the Elizabethan poor laws that drew a conceptual distinction between the deserving and the undeserving poor,” he said. “It’s very hard to call kids undeserving, even if you don’t like the parents’ behavior. It’s not the kids’ fault they are without health care.”

As of the beginning of this year, 16 percent of all Americans lacked health insurance, but only 12 percent of children under 18 went uncovered, although that still amounts to 9 million children, according to the Kaiser commission.  The gap between the two groups has been widening over the years as fewer and fewer employers offer health care coverage, federal spending on health care fails to keep pace with rising costs, and states are forced to limit eligibility to balance their budgets.

Again we are reminded that although archaic Elizabethan laws may have thought to differentiate between the deserving and those that some think are less so, the current Administration does not make this critical distinction when it comes to children’s well being.  In 2007, those in the White House, the individuals that represent the highest form of authority have lost their virtuousness.  They have become as Thomas Paine warned us against.

Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise.  For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other law-giver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least.

Might we remember that in our desire to lessen the forces of “government” we must not forego what makes us great, society.

As those in Congress and the White House debate ideology, lives are at stake.  The cost of medical care is on the rise; needs do not decline.  In a time when half the bankruptcies are due to medical expenses, America must pay attention.  Three quarters of those filing, had medical insurance.  Considering that close to two million Americans, debtors and their dependents are affected by medical bankruptcy, we must acknowledge that this program benefits us all.  When one person cannot pay their bills, we all absorb the debt.  Ethically, when an individual, a child passes because of neglect, we as a society are diminished.  Please ponder.

For people such as Beverly Chappell, 43, a Web site developer in Thornton, N.H., the debate is about health and family, not ideology.  Chappell and her husband, David, 49, a self-employed carpenter, earn a total of $43,000 a year and for years could not afford health insurance for their family. While the couple still have none, they had signed up their children for the program in 1998 – just before their son Nathan had his first severe asthma attack.

“If I had not had that insurance, I would not have taken him to the emergency room and he probably would have died,” Beverly Chappell said. “The program has value. Nobody should have to evaluate when it is an emergency and when it is not because they are afraid of getting a bill.”

Fear of big government cannot compromise our principles.  When those in authority corrupt a system that benefits society we must stand up and say, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union . . .”

The Miracle of Medical Care is Threatened . . .

  • Child Health Insurance Stalls in Congress, Plans to Renew Program Bog Down as Lawmakers Debate Funding, Philosophy. By Christopher Lee.  Washington Post. Sunday, July 15, 2007; Page A04
  • pdf Child Health Insurance Stalls in Congress, Plans to Renew Program Bog Down as Lawmakers Debate Funding, Philosophy. By Christopher Lee.  Washington Post. Sunday, July 15, 2007; Page A04
  • On the Origin and Design of Government in General,  With Concise Remarks on the English Constitution, By Thomas Paine.  The Founders Constitution. The University of Chicago.
  • Study: 1 In 4 Kids Go Without Health Care. CBS News Has Learned Researchers Found Bigger Health Care Gap Than Thought For Children.  CBS News. May 2, 2007
  • Number of children without health care in U.S. decreasing, Federal program, states filling gaps. By John M. Broder. The San Diego Union Tribune. December 4, 2005
  • Medical Problems Cause Half of Personal Bankruptcies, By Karen Pallarito. Forbes.
  • Medical bills figure in personal bankruptcy, By Christopher Snowbeck. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Friday, August 06, 2004
  • Half of Bankruptcy Due to Medical Bills, By Maggie Fox. Reuters. OC Register. February 2, 2005
  • Medical Bills Leading Cause of Bankruptcy, Harvard Study Finds. Consumer Affairs. February 3, 2005
  • Elect Susie Flynn President.  The Children’s Defense Fund
  • The Constitution of the United States of America. Cornell University Law School.
  • Together Let’s Change the World

    copyright © 2007 Possum Ponders.  Sedalia Tales

    Our world and our society are in need of so many changes.  How is it we can affect that change?  What about ourselves give us the power to bring about the changes we see as being necessary for a new world order?  I believe we make those changes by living as who we are and by serving as examples of who we all should be.  In that living we touching one life at a time.  We cannot change some of our physical characteristics.  We are black, white, man, woman, young, and old.  Those characteristics are fixed at any given moment.  On the other hand we can change our attitudes and our behaviors.  By remaining calm and rational in the face of adversity and anger, we have a chance to make a difference in this world.  If we take the position that too many follow and use our privileged skin color or sex to personal advantage we lose a valuable opportunity.

    I have said many times and will repeat many times more I suspect it seems to me all of us humans have a basic obligation to improve humanity.  The choice is ours to make.  We can honor that obligation as so many choose to do or we can turn our backs and climb the ladder of life on the backs of others.  I love the golden rule and believe living by its tenets offer the best hope humankind has for a long and healthy existence.  If each of us just followed that rule and treated others as we wish to be treated ourselves what a better world this would be.

    Conversation here in blogland allows us to find those who think as we do.  It is these snippets of conversation that drive me to blogland.  Such are so rare in daily interaction.  So few seem to share the dedication to human rights and to the rights of our fellow man that are so easy to find among our peers here in blogworld.  And yet those daily interactions are the very ones that will change the world.  We must take our findings from blogworld and use the ideas and the facts in our daily lives.  By moving one person just a bit more toward the course society needs to take we make a real difference.

    At the two local antiwar vigils each week we talk about how much effect we are having.  The past two days brought the highest number of positive responses we have seen to date.  The negative responses are diminishing in number, but the intensity is increasing.  The anger that our demonstration arouses in some people is remarkable.  Every response means we have touched the life of another human being.  Every life touched is changed.  Little by little we will make the difference our country needs.  Only by being quiet and not showing the world outside this sphere of blogland do we lose our chance to bring about change.

    Crossposted from Never In Our Names.

    Single and Married Parents Spend More Time With Children. Much is Lost


    © copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    Decades ago on October 16, I was born into a family that admittedly wanted no more children.  My mother was not working; nevertheless, before and after my birth she was rarely home.  My natural father did not wish to entertain the notion of a newborn.  With my birth, he decided to focus on life far from the family house.  During my youth it was thought, parents spent time with their progeny.  However, mine did not.

    On October 16, 2006, a report was released, “Married and Single Parents [are] Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds.”  This too, is not as expected.  New York Times Journalist, Robert Pears reveals, “Mothers are spending at least as much time with their children today as they did 40 years ago, and the amount of child care and housework performed by fathers has sharply increased.” 

    Thousands of personal diaries were analyzed and assessed by University of Maryland researchers, Sociology Department Chairwoman Suzanne M. Bianchi, Professor John P. Robinson, and Melissa A. Milkie. 

    For the purposes of this study, parents were asked to chronicle all their activities on the day before an intensive interview.  The findings were published in a new Russell Sage Foundation book, “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life.”

    Ms. Bianchi worked for the United States Census Bureau for sixteen years.  There she developed an interest in family life.  The research done for this study builds on her work as a demographer.

    In discussing this investigation, Bianchi stated, “We might have expected mothers to curtail the time spent caring for their children, but they do not seem to have done so.”  She continues, “They certainly did curtail the time they spent on housework.” 

    The researchers found that “women still do twice as much housework and child care as men” in two-parent families.  But they said that total hours of work by mothers and fathers were roughly equal, when they counted paid and unpaid work.

    Using this measure, the researchers found “remarkable gender equality in total workloads,” averaging nearly 65 hours a week.

    These words appear and many other glowing evaluations appear early on in the Times article.  It would seem at first blush parents are pursuing a balanced relationship with their offspring.  Perchance they are.

    I offer some of the other appraisal for your consideration.

    “It seems reasonable to expect that parental investment in child-rearing would have declined” since 1965, when 60 percent of all children lived in families with a breadwinner father and a stay-at-home mother.  Only about 30 percent of children now live in such families.  With more mothers in paid jobs, many policy makers have assumed that parents must have less time to interact with their children.

    But, the researchers say, the conventional wisdom is not borne out by the data they collected from families asked to account for their time.  The researchers found, to their surprise, that married and single parents spent more time teaching, playing with and caring for their children than parents did 40 years ago.

    For married mothers, the time spent on child care activities increased to an average of 12.9 hours a week in 2000, from 10.6 hours in 1965.  For married fathers, the time spent on childcare more than doubled, to 6.5 hours a week, from 2.6 hours.  Single mothers reported spending 11.8 hours a week on child care, up from 7.5 hours in 1965.

    Wow, this realization is truly wonderful.  One could surmise that Americans discovered the truth, just as our former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich did.  There is no true balance.  People must choose their priorities.  Do they desire a glorious career or a fabulous family?  Some in the study did decide.

    ? Many couples delay having children to “a point later in life when they want to spend time with those children.”  People who are uninterested in raising children can “opt out of parenting altogether,” by using birth control.
    ? Families are smaller today than in 1965, and parents are more affluent, so they can invest more time and money in each child.
    ? Social norms and expectations have changed, prompting parents to make “greater and greater investments in child-rearing.” 
      [Yet, this is part of the problem as I see it]
    ? As couples have fewer children, they feel “pressure to rear a perfect child.” 

    Ah, the “perfect child.”  The young person of today is followed or pushed by the ideal parent.  Perhaps this explains much.

    Parents today are spending time with their children as they drive them hither and yon.  The youth in America are enrolled in everything.  According to the publisher of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, By Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., Nicole Wise, and Robert Coles . . .

    Parenting today has come to resemble a relentless To-Do list.  Even parents with the best intentions strive to micro-manage every detail of their kids’ lives and live in constant fear that their child will under-perform in any area – academic, social, athletic.  Lists and schedules, meetings and appointments invade every moment – and the need to be the best is a philosophy dominating – and undermining – our own sense of self as well as our children’s.

    In my own life I may not have been given the structure that constant companionship or parental supervision provide.  However, I was given the freedom to think, to be, to imagine, to invent, and to inspire myself.  I was able to fashion a life that reflected my inner most joys.  Activities were not imposed upon me.  I immersed myself in personal pursuits.  My parents did not choose my interests; nor did they force me to compete.  I was deprived of their time, and rewarded with many opportunities. 

    I learned to enjoy my own company and to create an unparalleled community.  The world of me, myself, and I was wondrous, full and expansive. It included my grandfather, who took care of me frequently.  Mary, my caregiver was my daily companion, and though for the first five years my Mom was not fully physically present, she was totally, emotionally there for me. 

    My Mom recognized her own need to be a better parent and person and set out to become so.  In the interim, she consulted regularly with Mary.  She established a connection with me by expressing her desires to Mary.  She discussed child-rearing in depth and detail  She knew what she wanted for me.  My Mom ensured that my upbringing was the best it could be until she could again fully join me and advance my greater growth.  I was given time to play and contemplate. 

    My resources were inspirational readings, paper, pencils, and toys tailored for investigation.  Egg poaching pots and pans were early energizers.  Coloring books were considered too restrictive for a creative soul.  Thus, structures were my own.  I was encouraged to explore, to be curious, and to be the best of scientists.  The phrase often uttered in my family was, “Ask, and you shall receive.”  Gifts were not meaningless materials; they were loving and thoughtful trinkets, gems, words of wisdom and gestures of support.  What was given was invaluable, encouragement and engagement.

    In recent years, many child development experts have voiced increasing concern over the fact that children are accorded little time or encouragement to engage in imaginative play.  Too many children are overscheduled with school and other activities, according to these experts.

    Even sports, in which an adult sets the framework, leave little room for the development of creative thinking in children, these experts say.

    When children do have time to play, they too often play with a pre-programmed electronic toy or sit in front of a screen — television, computer, or hand-held game — responding to a scenario created by someone else, experts say.

    As a result, children are developing a “problem-solving deficit disorder,” says Diane Levin, a child development expert at Wheelock College in Boston. “Developing imagination and creativity is essential for children to develop problem-solving skills.” 

    Today, we as a society are saturated in standards.  As parents, producers, and power-mongers we seek accountability.  We prefer systems and forego freedoms.  We teach our children to do the same.

    In educational settings, they must engage in collaborative learning projects.  In sports, they are trained to be part of the team.  Throughout their young lives, our offspring are prepared.  They must attend the “best” schools and receive honors for their studies.  They are readied for their proper role in society.  They, just as their parents, will occupy an “appropriate” station.  The young today need not think; nor are they taught how.  They, as their employed mothers and many fathers have no time for such supposed silliness. 

    In today’s society, thinking is not considered necessary.  We are taught to quote facts and use these to formulate a life.  Our life is expected to be parallel to that of others. 

    Intellectually we may feel free to be who we are; however, in truth, conformity, not deep thought is the guiding light, and publicly accepted principle that many of us follow.  We, as a population, are as many employed mothers . . .

    On average, the researchers said, employed mothers get somewhat less sleep and watch less television than mothers who are not employed.  [The latter may not necessarily be a bad thing.]  . . . they [employed mothers] also spend less time with their husbands.

    Sadly, I suspect, we as a nation are not teaching our children well.  We present information and demand prevailing tenets.  Society states, “There is a need for scientists and mathematicians.”  Teach the formulas, the facts and create technicians.

    Administrators and those in favor of “accountability” say, “Forget the Fine Arts; they do not yield the fruits we as a nation need to survive.”  Apparently, the need for curiosity and creativity is void.  Thus, we stuff the minds of our children with statistics; we command them to “meet the standards.”  We no longer require, nor do we teach our young to think.

    As this New York Times article concludes, in 2006, nothing is as it appears.  Couples may stay together, though they rarely spend time with each other.  Husbands and wives are not friends; they barely know each other.  People, partners are busy.  Families run from here to there, mindlessly.  People do not realize their dreams, though they constantly race towards them.  They believe there may be other possibilities; yet, they never conceive these.

    I surmise that parents spending more time with their children may not breed what we human animals crave.  The connections we yearn for are lost in the dust as we scurry about.  We are rushing, chasing a career, our children, or the competition; yet, we forfeit our selves.  Our souls are lost.  Only on occasion do we imagine what we might be within.  We are too busy, too busy to breathe.

    In today’s world, hours, minutes, and seconds, man-made constructs govern us.  We measure these as though they can be quantified and qualified.  We treat our children and time as tangibles.  Researchers want to theorize the more time together the merrier; however, in reality this is not true.

    I propose we not evaluate schedules when appraising the value of a relationship.  Instead, I invite each of us to assess reciprocal reverence in the parent child connection.  This characteristic is not necessarily visible or verifiable.  Calculations cannot always determine excellence within such a bond. 

    If parents tell their children what to think, say, do, feel, or be in a moment or in many moments, this will not gratify the souls of our youth.  It will not engender closeness.  Nor will it make our offspring better human beings.  Time spent together may be important.  However, it is not more critical than what we do with our time.

  • I offer another glorious essay by Helaine Olen.  This exposé also evaluates the parent child relationship in 2006.  ‘Gifted Child Industry’ Preys on Parents’ Insecurities, does not paint a pretty picture.

    References for your review . . .

    You may subscribe to the New York Times Online Newspaper without cost or obligation.  It is free.
    If you prefer to read the article online without subscribing, please click on this PDF [Portable Document Format] version of the exposé.

  • PDF “Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds,” By Robert Pear. New York Times October 16, 2006
  • “Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds,” By Robert Pear. New York Times October 16, 2006
  • “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life,” By Suzanne M. Bianchi,John P. Robinson, Melissa A. Milkie
  • Suzanne M. Bianchi. Maryland Population Research Center
  • John P. Robinson. Department of Sociology, University of Maryland
  • Melissa A. Milkie. Department of Sociology, University of Maryland
  • Russell Sage Foundation and the American Sociological Association
  • Census Bureau. U.S. Government Census Bureau
  • The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, By Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., Nicole Wise, Robert Coles
  • Experts concerned about children’s creative thinking, By Karen MacPherson. Post-Gazette. Sunday, August 15, 2004
  • The Family Leave Act, By Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor. New York Times November 8, 1996
  • For Parents: How To Raise a Kid Who Cares. Oregon Public Broadcasting
  • Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves but Can’t Read, Write, or Add, By Charles J. Sykes
  • Summary Dumbing Down Our Kids, By Charles J. Sykes
  • Dissecting the Dysfunctions That Lead Down the Path to Divorce, By Kathleen Kelleher, Special to The Los Angeles Times. Monday, September 18, 2000
  • Keeping Art Alive Under No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB], By Ellen R. Delisio. Education World® 2006
  • O, Say, Does Your Class Know the National Anthem?, By Ellen R. Delisio. Education World® 2006
  • Standards, Assessment and Accountability. U.S. Department of Education
  • Parent-Child Relationship Quality Depends on Child’s Perception of Fairness, By Jeremy Diener. Journal of Family Psychology. August 11, 2004
  • School Shooting Safeguards. Arm Educators?



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    © copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    In the last few weeks, school shootings have dominated the news.   The frequency of these seems to be increasing.   People throughout the nation are panicking; what are we to do?   President Bush spoke of this situation in his Saturday, October 7, 2006, radio address.   He proclaimed, “We will bring together teachers, parents, students, administrators, law enforcement officials, and other experts to discuss the best ways to keep violence out of our schools.”   Conferences have been called.   The problem has been discussed for years.  

    President Clinton convened such a forum in 1999.   Educators, policy-makers, law enforcement officials, and adolescent-development specialists came to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study on May 21, 2002.   Each group was equally intent on investigating the causes and effects of Lethal School Violence.   In the symposiums, experts sought solutions.   Everyone wanted [and wants] to protect our progeny.    

    At the time, programs were initiated; yet, the violence continued.   In the last month or more, we as a nation are wondering; is there no end?   Will our children ever be safe?

    Citizens are again asking how can we secure our schools and shield our offspring from societal harm.   Finally, an answer comes from a Wisconsin lawmaker.   Representative Frank Lasee is proposing that teachers and administrators carry guns daily and use these when necessary.

    In the wake of school shootings in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Pennsylvania during the last two weeks, a state legislator says he plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers, principals, administrators, and other school personnel to carry concealed weapons.

    Representative Frank Lasee, a Republican, said Wednesday that, while his idea may not be politically correct, it has worked effectively in other countries.

    “To make our schools safe for our students to learn, all options should be on the table,” he said.   “Israel and Thailand have well-trained teachers carrying weapons and keeping their children safe from harm.   It can work in Wisconsin.”

    Now there is a solution!   Certainly, our communities will be safer if everyone is armed.   The National Rifle Association believes this is true.   Organization enthusiast state “Guns do not kill; people do.”   While this may be a fact, I remind the vitriolic members of such a vigilant organization, guns cannot cause death unless they are in the hands of humans.   We might consider accidents among trained hunters.   Vice President Richard [Dick] Cheney comes to mind, or we might contemplate what occurs when weapons are found in the hands of young innocents.

    Perhaps this determination is too rash; a conference might allow calmer heads to prevail.   We as a society must evaluated the circumstances more completely.

    We know that communities have long been concerned with gang violence.   However, what has occurred in recent years differs.   On January 29, 1979, individual outbursts came into our collective consciousness.   “Brenda Spencer, 16, opened fire with a .22-caliber rifle at an elementary school across the street from her San Diego, California, home.   She killed two people and wounded seven because she `didn’t like Mondays.'”

    Upon hearing this story, our country held its breath as it does now.   Jointly we release a communal sigh.   Still the violence increases as is evident in these last five weeks.   There is talk.   What measures can we take to guard against weaponry?

    Metal detectors were introduced in educational institutions after a 1992 shooting.  

    In 1994, the federal government began requiring school safety programs in an attempt to crack down on violence on school grounds.   Many schools introduced metal detectors to check for guns, knifes and other weapons . . . although the Supreme Court eventually overturned the federal requirements, most school safety measures remained in place.   In Los Angeles, for instance, [as of 1997] all high schools still use some sort of metal detectors.

    However, it is clear, these actions do not secure the premises.   Zero tolerance campaigns were invoked.   Violations are and were numerous.  

    Parents, administrators, teachers, and staff were told to observe student behaviors; they were asked to attend to warning signs.   Discipline problems were considered predictors; yet, this was not always the case.   Offenders did not only come from within the school system, they enter and exist throughout society.   Witness the killings within the last month or more.

    Whatever we choose to reflect upon, when looking at violence in our schools, our homes, or in our airports I ask us to bear in mind that traditional methods for preventing violence are not working.   I think we must look at why people do what they do.

    Violent crime continues to be a major problem and I suspect this will continue as long as we look for simple solutions.   I observe, when we as a country, focus on machines and mandates as a means for deterring violence in schools and within society at-large.   We ignore the violator.   I believe the life of the perpetrator is most telling. This is the key component in a crime that can be influenced and altered.   If we address it early enough and treat root causes sincerely and seriously we can make a difference.

    However, instead, we look at guns, knifes, box cutters, gels, powders, matches, lighters, and bombs as though these are the killers.   We work tirelessly to prevent these from entering the systems, schools, airports, office building, and prisons.   Rarely do we address the authentic reason for killings.   People and what goes on in their heads, hearts, and souls cause death.

    I propose we look at life, at our daily existence and the stress our culture promotes, rather than hypothesize; how might we use technology and authority to control the minds and misdeeds of men and women.   I theorize if we assess the way in which we live and the life standards we choose to accept, then, we might be able to prevent these carnages.  

    I request that you, dear reader, consider what passes for the “common wisdom.”   Is it sensible?   Please ponder accepted theories and simple solutions with me.   Then ask yourself, what might we do to truly change what comes?

    On Monday, October 2, 2006, a deeply distressed man entered a one room Amish schoolhouse.   He excused all the male pupils and personnel.   He was interested in only the young female students.   It is not known whether the church-going milkman intended to molest the girls; though there is evidence to suggest that he did.   However, what is certain is that the perpetrator shot these little lovelies before taking his own life.   Pennsylvania schoolhouse killer Charles Carl Roberts IV revealed in a telephone call to his wife, at the age of twelve he molested two young relatives.   Events of 20 years past haunted the man throughout his life.   Guilt took Roberts’ life and the lives of several young innocent Amish girls.

    Five days earlier, in Bailey, Colorado an armed drifter walked into Platte Canyon High School.   He then entered a classroom.   The transient demanded that all the men leave the area.   He wanted to be alone with the girls he corralled into a classroom.   According to a student and her mother, Duane R. Morrison seemed to prefer smaller, blonde girls.   This disturbed wanderer with his quarry of petite flaxen hair maidens proceeded to sexually assault some of the six young girls he held hostage.   Ultimately, he shot one before killing himself.   Some social scientists are theorizing `girls are the targets in school violence.

    After the crime,

    at their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Morrison’s stepmother said she and her husband, Bob Morrison, “have no record of him being, having any trouble before.”   “We just know the way he was raised,” Billie Morrison said, declining to elaborate.

    How was he raised?   Some experts think the relationships established in the lives of the killers might offer answers.   In the series of recent rampages there is a seemingly notable consistency.

    “The predominant pattern in school shootings of the past three decades is that girls are the victims,” says Katherine Newman, a Princeton University sociologist whose recent book examines the roots of “rampage” shootings in rural schools.

    Dr. Newman has researched 21 school shootings since the 1970s.   Though it’s impossible to know whether girls were randomly victimized in those cases, she says, “in every case in the US since the early 1970s we do note this pattern” of girls being the majority of victims.

    Prior to these two incidents, the focus and fantasy was on troubled adolescents.   These were thought to be the person responsible for such horrendous school crimes.   Some behavior experts hypothesized; violent young persons had been bullied in school.   They were browbeaten at home.   These youthful aggressors were tormented by their own inner struggles.   They act out after years of deep-seated frustration.  

    Forensic psychiatrist Keith Aldo says mental health problems, especially among young people, too often go ignored and untreated.   “Everybody in the class often knows who the troubled kids are.   Parents know.   Teachers know,” he says.   “And if anything we should know that there is a preventative bit of medicine, psychological medicine to be dispensed in our classrooms earlier than we have been doing.”

    Aldo urges parents and teachers to talk more openly about problems that could erupt into violence at school.   He says unresolved issues can continue to haunt a child throughout life.   “The more that you can express your feelings of fear, the more that you can talk about your reactions to terrible events, the less that those events are going to be toxic to you later on.”

    Aldo says airing such concerns helps build a stronger and safer community.   Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, agrees.   He says the community must work at making schools safe places.   “It happens by making sure that the first and best line of defense is a well-trained, highly alert school staff and student body who are aware of changes in behavior of other students as well as strangers who are walking around in parking lots and the hallways of our schools.”

    While I do not quibble with this later premise and I am willing to consider the earlier hypothesis, I think each supposition negates a broader problem.   I believe the more recent incidents confirm the quandary has many causes.   The dilemma is not limited to youth acting out against their harassing, haranguing, or hounding classmates.   These incidents are not only a reaction to discrimination from peers.   Parents are not the central problem.   This transgression is as all others, complex.  

    The complexities that cause violent crime in our nations schools are similar to those that create terrorism.

    Terrorism usually results from multiple causal factors – not only psychological but also economic, political, religious, and sociological factors, among others.   There is even a hypothesis that it is caused by physiological factors, as discussed below.   Because terrorism is a multi-causal phenomenon, it would be simplistic and erroneous to explain an act of terrorism by a single cause, such as the psychological need of the terrorist to perpetrate an act of violence.

    For Paul Wilkinson (1977), the causes of revolution and political violence in general are also the causes of terrorism.   These include ethnic conflicts, religious and ideological conflicts, poverty, modernization stresses, political inequities, lack of peaceful communications channels, traditions of violence, the existence of a revolutionary group, governmental weakness and ineptness, erosions of confidence in a regime, and deep divisions within governing elites and leadership groups.

    International terrorists, sadistic student rebels, and lone executors have a common bond; society and stressors impact their lives severely.

    Student’s killers are often exposed to frequent slights from peers or parents, just as some terrorists feel slighted by our treatment of their culture and religious practices.   These snubs are evident if society as a whole and those functioning within the system choose to recognize them.   The stress in young lives can be reduced or eliminated if we attend to these grievances quickly.

    We might realize that lone shooters, those that walk into our schools also are victims of a fragile upbringing.   There are reasons that these solitary shooters might aim at young girls, blondes, or the most innocent among us.   Again, if we as a community chose to be aware of what we are creating for our children, we can save them before they become adult or adolescent killers.

    Religious or political zealots, the defiant, defensive, and the righteous also are products of their environment.   They may act out against nations or peoples; still, the source of their rage is apparent if we choose to look for it.   Each of these executors feels persecuted and why not.

    In a world where frustrations are ignored or attributed to authority figures, women, or circumstances beyond our control, there is much to feel frustrated about.   Students feel stuck in school, at home, or in lives that demand much of them and give little in return.   Adults, loners and cult followers alike, feel lost in the unresolved circumstances of their past and present.   They want to affect the future.   However, in the future, as in the present, and the past, people are not the focus.   Folly and failed systems are.

    We evaluate preventive mechanized and legal measures.   We disregard the fact that these are not effective.

    I propose we look at life, at our daily existence and the stresses our cultures promote.   I theorize if we assess the way in which we live, the life standards we accept, then, we might be able to prevent these mass and individual tragedies.

    I invite us all to pay homage to the notion that problems are not resolved by outside solutions or systems.   What is real, meaningful, and elicits change is knowledge and understanding.   If we are to embrace people more so than policies, I believe we will all be encouraged and empowered.

    I think it vital to accept and acknowledge that any of us might turn in a split second, or so it will seem to an outsider.   However, all of us are stewing, marinating in our own milieu.   Without exception, we could easily be a mild-mannered, church going, milkman in a moment, a sullen student, a scholar, or a vagrant in one moment and a murderer in the next.   We know not what the mind might perceive and act upon.

    Yet, in assessing this novel crisis, we negotiate matters that are of little consequence, metal, gels, powder, fluids, steel door barriers, and the soles of shoes.   We ignore or avoid assessing the souls and spirits of human beings.

    For the 54 million Americans with mental illness, broad access to services and treatments is not a luxury; it is a fundamental need.   It is imperative that state policymakers not target mental health as a way to save money with state and local governments providing more than 50 percent of funding for services through programs like Medicaid and SCHIP.

    America’s mental health system is at risk of plunging from crisis to catastrophe.   Cutting budgets and instituting draconian limits to needed treatments and services not only increases human suffering, but also puts additional strain on state economies through increased reliance on emergency services, correctional systems and welfare programs.

    We must stop asking, “Are our schools safe?”   “Are our streets secured?”   “What can we do to “prevent” violent crime in our nations educational institutions or on our shores?”   I think the better questions are, what are we doing, how and what are we feeling?   What can be done to improve our lives and what resources are we bringing to bear on these core problems.

    I propose what effects our youth [or our nation] affects us all.   We drown our sorrows in drugs.   We suffer silently.   Americans no longer spend time with family; they seek support in superficial forms and forums.   Mental health care institutions are closed to all but a select and wealthy few.   The hospitals of today are not equipped to handle the multitude of mental and physical health concerns.   Yet, we as a nation create more of these lost souls everyday.

    Parents are working two and three jobs, just to survive.   Families are rushed about; people do not know their neighbors let alone siblings.   Americans are isolated; yet not insulated from all that surrounds them.   We are stressed and fighting to seem stable.   We react to real pressures and just as the man that took, the lives of the Amish girls; guilt or anxiety ultimately may grip us.

    Can we as a nation protect ourselves from aggressors?   I contend, only if we face the genuine pain that causes their reactive behaviors.

    We must understand the intentions of the people that perform malicious acts against others if we are to prevent future outrages.   The mind is our master.   Where there is a will, there is a way.   I ask that we address human resolve and spirit as a means of prevention.   I believe placing guns in the hands of potential victims will do more harm than good.   Ultimately, it will cure nothing.

    References For Reflection . .  .

    Isolation. Insulation. The Go-Go Garage Society and Its Islands ©

    copyright © 2006 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink. or BeThink.org

    Originally Published on Monday June 26, 2006 at 10:00:00 AM EDT

    Days ago I was scanning My Left Wing and saw a diary that drew me in, “I Look at All the Lonely People.”  The author, Eugene, stated “I’ve never been one to have many close friends . . . I am very, very choosy with who I care to spend my time with, who I open up to.”  I thought, “Me too!”  I have been very selective all of my life and it has served me well.  Eugene’s words peeked my curiosity; thus, I continued.

    As his article expanded, I discovered that he was discussing a recently released study, “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades.”  This report revealed people in America no longer have the close ties they once did.  A quarter of the population has no one they confide in.  Most persons are fortunate to have one close friend, perhaps two.  Intimacies within families are not what they once were, or at least they are not as they were once believed to be.  People in America feel alone and isolated.  Interesting; now, I am among the “norm” and yet, simultaneously, still far from it.

    • People have a smaller number of confidants in 2004 than they had in 1985.
    • In 1985, most persons claimed to have three close friends; now they have two or less.
    • Twenty-five percent of the respondents said there was no one that they would turn to in times of trouble.

    I think of myself as a loner.  I have very close friendships, many have lasted a lifetime. I am interested in people, anyone, and everyone.  Still, I am discriminating.  I want a genuine closeness or I want none.  I am extremely independent, autonomous, and some say I am a free spirit. I need no one.  I am not a leader; nor am I a follower.  I believe in communities; yet, I do not seek them.  I accept that I am a part of a universal village.  I am I; I think that is best or at least it is best for me.

    However, social scientists and authors of this recently released study might disagree and they have reason to, Professors, Lynn Smith-Lovin, Miller McPherson, and Matthew E. Brashears are concerned that Americans no longer have a sense of community, neighborhood, or kinship.  We have become fragmented.  These sociologists state a lack inclusion hurts our social and psychological well-being.  I agree with this creed.

    Still, I prefer my dichotomy of an existence, a separation between seeking support for emotional matters and not for physical.  I recognize that each is necessary.  I acknowledge community and connections are vital, even if, at times, I do not engage as completely as I might.  Communities provide in ways that nothing else can.  I share my story to illustrate this belief.

    Throughout my life, whether, I had someone to support me when I had a physical need or not, I would not ask for assistance.  As I stated, during times of emotional crisis, I would turn everywhere.  I absolutely will engage when I am feeling confused.  Fortunately, I have cultivated true friends for such occasions.  However, physically, I prefer taking care of myself.

    Twice in my life, I experienced an injury.  On each occasion, I needed the assistance of others.  This was difficult for me.  I rather not ask for help; nor do I wish to accept it.

    I do not believe in accidents.  I think everything happens for a reason. At the time of these incidents, I chose to accept that I needed to learn from these experiences of asking for and receiving help.  I thought I had, at least a little; however, it took months for me to assess the rationale for this next event.

    Years ago, I moved into a condominium.  It was my first experience of “home ownership.”  I could not afford much and I wanted to stay in the community I loved.  I had lived in an apartment in Irvine, California for eight and one half years.  I purchased my new home exactly one mile down the road.  Prices are high in Orange County, California, particularly in a desirable city such as Irvine.  The place I purchased did not have a garage.  In this garage-society, I wanted one.  Still, I knew, for a time sacrifices must be made.

    Shortly after I moved in the Association passed out a poll; it asked whether we, as residents wanted a garage and what would we pay for it.  Thirty-nine percent indicated they did want more than the pre-existing carports and the price proposed seemed reasonable.  I was among these, the minority.  Fifty one percent said no and they had their reasons.

    Among my nearest neighbors, most of whom had lived there for well over a decade, the vote was no.  We were told that in three years, we would be polled again.  Aesthetically, the carports were ugly; nonetheless, I grew to love these.  Each day, accidentally, and on purpose, those in the neighborhood would met and greet each other in the carports.

    Many of us were on similar schedules.  Mike would sit curbside and have a smoke throughout the day.  Our homes were on walking paths and did not face a street per se.  Therefore, it was natural to use the door closest to the car as an entrance or exit way.  Children did this; they brought their friends in through the back door.  Neighbor did the same.  If they wanted to share a thought, converse of the day, or borrow a cup of sugar, they approached from the rear.  The alleyway was a busy thoroughfare.

    It did not take long before I appreciated being garage-less.  Though I never felt truly close to my neighbors in those first two years, we were far more than cordial.

    Then, while less than a mile from home, I was hit hard.  I was in a very serious car accident.  The Great-Gray-Girl, what some think of as an automobile lost her life, as she worked to save mine.  [Oh, the tears flow.  She was truly my friend and we were connected.]  I was badly injured.  I broke my sternum, four ribs, and I reluctantly say there was great damage to my heel.  I will not share the details.  I do not want that thought to be part of my reality.

    What is part of my reality is, I am among the 44 to 50 million, depending on whose numbers you prefer, that does not have health insurance.  Nevertheless, I spent days in the hospital.  This was an experience in itself and though I was eventually released, I was told I would not be allowed to walk for approximately six months.

    Those that know me recognize that my lying in bed was not likely.  Still I could not apply any weight to my foot, leg, or heel, and crutches gave me no stability.  With the abdominal injuries, the pain was too great.  I elected to crawl.

    I was housebound and extremely restricted.  I lived alone.  My father did fly out from the Midwest to help me; however, he could only give me a few days.  We wondered; what would I do.

    For those not familiar with California, particularly in the megalopolis that is Southern California, people are known for being impersonal.  Neighbors do not know those living adjacent to them.  I recall at work one day co-workers mused, the only time they saw their neighbors was during an obligatory Christmas gathering.  I knew that my experience was different, though I never expected what occurred.

    While still in the hospital I contacted a friend of mine.  We swam together, almost daily for years; I knew she would miss me if I did not show at the pool.  She visited me in the hospital and offered her help.  She was more than there for me.  Helen took me to the doctors, did all my food shopping, as a retired nurse she was able to teach me to walk again when I was more able.  She did so much to assist me in my recovery.  However, I would never ask her to play nursemaid in my every waking moment.

    My father worried, how would I care for myself?  Who would make my meals, feed the kitties, change the litter, just help me to make my life work.  One day, just before he needed to return to his home, he was out in the carport.  He was on his way to run an errand.  My father was entering his car when my neighbor Laura approached him.  She asked of me.  She knew something was wrong.

    While I was in the hospital, Laura noticed friends of mine had come to feed the kitties.  My car was gone.  She saw me return to the house and observed I was not in the best of conditions.  My vehicle never returned; my father stayed, she was concerned and expressed this to my Dad.

    My father shared the situation and voiced his fear for my being home alone once he left.  Laura said to fear not.  She immediately contacted all my neighbors and drew up a plan.  The entire block coalesced.  For the first month someone fed me breakfast, another lunch, a third gave me dinner.  Laura sat with me for hours every evening so that I might bathe safely.

    I need to add; I do not eat processed food, none at all.  Therefore, preparing meals for me was more than dashing off to McDonald’s.  People cooked, cleaned fruit and vegetables.  They worked.  Laura’s daughter gathered my mail and emptied my trash.  Others did other tasks.  Each day was an event, a never-ending chain of care.  By the second month, I could prepare some meals though not all; dinner was too complex.  Mike a noteworthy chef was there to create gourmet delicacies, just for me.  Laura retained her post at bath time for three and one half months.  Evening time with her family was devoted to me.  Heels do not heal quickly.

    During my time of need, many of my friends and neighbors did much to help me.  They were there for me each and every day in ways I never imagined. Their giving of themselves meant and still means so much!  There are no words to express how significant and magnificent this was and is to me.  Again, the tears flow.

    My father flew in every five or six weeks to assist and relieve others temporarily.  There was no money exchanged.  Actually for a short time, I tutored Laura’s daughter in math so that I might earn money.  I was unable to walk or drive for five months.  For all that time, people assisted me.  There was never a complaint.  Years later, the neighbor experienced another grief.  A young man passed; it was unexpected.  Again, we all reached out and were there for each other.

    I discovered as this study concludes, when people are more connected, as a whole, they feel safer and more secure.  Oddly, coming from me, a person can receive comfort without loosing one’s independence.  You can still say, yes, please help me, or no, I need to do this myself.

    People enjoy helping others, they do not necessarily feel a need to overpower or overwhelm another.  From my experience, we all want to give and receive help; however, we may not know how.  As society changes, we have fewer exemplars to teach us.

    Since 1985, the number of family members in the paid labor force has increased.  Women are working in larger numbers.  Many children are also employed.  So much time is spent away from home; there are few opportunities to form genuine, true, and life long relationships even with family members.

    Familial togetherness seems to be a thing of the past.  Divorce is pervasive.  Children are shipped from one household to another.  They do not have a single bed to call their own.  Bedtimes and even siblings may vary from week to week.  “True” friendships are viable on screens. This takes a toll on the psyche of a young mind.  It would weigh heavily on me at any age.

    The concept of dinnertime is antiquated.  Families no longer feast together daily; some are not even doing a weekly meal in the company of their kin.  Rarely do we witness a once traditional pattern, parents, and siblings sitting together while enjoying a meal and each other’s company.  This is sad and troublesome.  Much can be learned from our relatives when we slowly dine and discuss life together.  We glean a sense of who they are; trust grows.

    Meals are now eaten on the run, at work, at a desk, while driving; often people eat alone, not necessarily because they want to, but because they feel so alone.  Gone are the days when a meal was cooked at home, many sharing in the preparation.  Even when a family shares a space and a time for dinner, the menu differs for each individual. Unity is lost.  It may seem a little nuance; however, I wonder if it is a reflection of a broader issue.

    The character of conversations has changed and this might be another reason Americans perceive a distance between themselves, their blood relatives, and their neighbors.  Cell phones, e-mails, and the Internet dominate, in this culture of connectedness.  Yet, these might contribute to the disconnect we experience. Tête-à-tête are chatty.  Substance is missing.  People have little to no time or experience for genuine friendships.  They are flying from one situation to another.

    Parents are working.  It takes two or more incomes to survive.  Thriving is rarely a consideration in today’s workforce.  Jobs are at a premium; they are hard to find, and it is a challenge to keep them.  Your neighbor or your associate is no longer a friend or a confidant.  They are the person that might “steal” your not too well-cemented position at the company.  For the most part, be it in friendships, within our families, or even at work, Americans do not have a sense of security or stability.  All they know is an overscheduled life style.

    We, as Americans sense a need for something.  We search.  We seek; rarely do we stop long enough to discover, what we longed for all along was there, right in our backyard.

  • I am so conflicted; I want to share the names of all those that helped me.  Yet, I was hesitant to verbalize the names that I did offer.  There are so many of you that gave months of your life to me.  I cannot begin to thank you enough!!!  I love you all.  You are very special beings.

    The Initial Inspirations For This Writing . .

    Listen to an Interview with co-author of the study, Lynn Smith-Lovin of Duke University…

  • Social Isolation: Americans Have Fewer Close Confidantes, Debbie Elliott All Things Considered, National Public Radio. June 24, 2006
  • Read One of My Personal Favorite Writings on Balancing Work and Family…

  • My Family Leave Act. [Op-Ed] Robert B. Reich. New York Times. November 8, 1996
  • References For Reflection. . . .