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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

MY VISION FOR AMERICA–Part I

In my last Blog, I asked: what is your Vision for America?  In line with that inquiry, I am submitting a start to  my own Vision.  I hope it will be a catalyst for others to consider what they also envision.  At any rate,  I have found it to be a worthwhile endeavor, forcing me to think beyond the day-to-day political debates that have become increasingly negative, partisan and arrogant; debates often lacking in, or stretching, the truth in an attempt to bamboozle the listening audience. 

To be fair, I would have to say that my Vision for America is rooted in my personal experiences, modified by many things, such as age, geography, other people and cultures as well as study, and some ability to understand what it might be like to walk in others’ shoes.  I cannot make claim, therefore, to great prescience or revelatory Vision, but only to my own unique, and yet somewhat communal, sense of what makes America great.  I suppose there are those whose experience is richer and more vast than mine, who could rightly claim that I am somewhat na├»ve or biased or idealistic.  I accept such criticism, but object only to the extent that we are all suspect in certain aspects of our opinions, simply because no one can claim a perfect vision or a perfect set of experiences upon which to draw, to reflect, and to opine.

So let us begin at the beginning.  I was born into a family that wanted me and who were supported in their desires and ambitions by rather large extended families and relatives on both paternal and maternal sides.  That familial support was enhanced by their many friends and acquaintances who cared about them and me.  It is perhaps not too quaint to say that I was very fortunate to be born to parents who had experiences and backgrounds that prepared them in some mysterious and primal way for parenthood, and for understanding how very important is the concept of family and familial relationships we develop with friends and neighbors and co-workers.  Hillary Clinton was right after all: it does take a community to raise a child.

I believe we are a nation that puts great store in those concepts.  We care about families; we care about each other; we care about strangers in need.  We care about our communities, and people volunteer to aid their communities, and others, to make our communities more caring and more cohesive.  We organize, we belong, we advocate in ways that some other countries envy.  Although we claim a “rugged individualism” from our forefathers and mothers, we also take pride in our ability to “come together” to care for one another, especially in times of trouble and catastrophe.

My Vision for America in this 21st century would, therefore, have to include right off the importance of the way we begin life, the importance of family, as well as the importance of communal relationships.  Where do we begin in order to enhance these concepts?

There are some who believe that life begins at conception, and they want an America in which abortion is outlawed.  While my own view is that life is precious and must be protected, and that abortion is most often repugnant, I know from personal experience that abortion must remain a viable choice in order to protect other lives.  In my opinion,  the right-to-life principle applied only to a fetus is a limiting and limited concept of life, because it leaves out all the others involved in that one life.  We have in our backgrounds a concept of the rightness of the sacrifice of one life to save many lives, and a principle of seeking the greatest good for the greatest number.  In some cases, I believe that the difficult choice to abort a fetus must be made in order to protect the lives of those already living: the mother, existing children.  It is too easy to suggest that mothers and fathers and children must sacrifice their lives for an unborn child with horrendous defects.  It is perhaps not just easy, but insensitive and glib to suggest that everyone should be able to live with whatever is visited upon them (such as rape or incest or certain death of a mother in childbirth), in order to maintain the life of a fetus above all. 

On the other hand, one cannot say with any conviction that abortion is desirable as an easy solution for someone’s selfish reasons.  The idea of abortion on demand should be abhorrent to everyone.  Therefore, it must be clear that America as a nation should not advocate abortion, but must allow it as a choice in certain circumstances.   

So what is my vision for America in terms of this very controversial question?  My vision is that America will first of all, reach back beyond abortion to care for the children and youth of our nation in a way that will help them learn reverence for all life along with how to make difficult life-affecting decisions.  It would help for us to have the kind of sex education that would assist children not just in understanding their bodies, but  understanding all sides of issues such as contraception, abortion, and choice. At the same time, we must provide training in understanding how to make good decisions and solve problems that we face in this area.

Preliminarily, my Vision for America includes the idea of pre-natal care for all: i.e. every mother-to-be must have access to pre-natal care either freely delivered or at a reasonable cost for those who can pay.  Yes, that means more neighborhood clinics.  Yes, that means more doctors trained as ob-gyns.  Yes, that may mean either a government option for healthcare, or a mandate to private health insurance providers to include this benefit in all plans. 

Secondly, we need a (healthcare) plan that backs up our need for community involvement in raising children.  Not every mother, couple, or family has all it takes to nurture babies, raise children, or prepare teenagers for adult life.  My Vision for America sees a much greater role for mentors, for personal advocates, for independent living trainers, for foster grandparents, for tutors, for personal counselors and companions.  This mentoring needs to be made available to parents facing the birth of a first child and also to the children who are born.  We need more aides who will go into the homes of pregnant women to assist in pre-natal preparation and care, and more aides on birthing floors of hospitals, and aides who will follow the young family into their homes to make sure they start off positively and well with that new baby.  We need trainers to train in baby care and nurturing.  It would then be the parent’s choice to utilize or not utilize this service.

We need mentors and tutors and counselors available to children in every class room in this country.   We especially need classroom aides, and mentors, and foster grandparents, and volunteers who will give much needed individual attention and help to students who need such involvement.  But we also need parent tutors who will go into homes and teach parents how to teach their children.  Yes, we need this kind of interaction, of teaching life lessons, of advocating for children, of developing relationships upon which one can depend for positive feedback and encouragement.  We must have a Vision that emphasizes the real importance of children, not a false rhetoric about how important we think they are.

In the end, all kinds of health and educational services must be free to single mothers and mothers in poverty or with special needs; as well as to children for their needs.  We are not talking welfare here -- getting something for nothing -- we are as a society making investments in the lives of children and parents for future rewards for us all.  This is the short-sightedness of people who advocate the cutting of programs that help people: they see such aid only in terms of spending and providing welfare to people who they believe should take personal responsibility for themselves.  They do not understand the positive outcomes for society as a whole; for the health of the entire commonweal.   We are not talking welfare here; we are talking about protection, safety, training, growth and happiness for our parents and our children.  To do less is to continue along a path of neglect and half-measures for our families and their children.  The Vision here is of responsibility for one another; an active interdependence that enhances society and our cherished values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.