This past week we published news stories about the annual Kids Count report, a state-by-state analysis of childrens well-being in the U.S., along with an editorial about the worsening plight of poor children in Georgia and Alabama.
The Kids Count report is always a sad and depressing read. Whether its more depressing than some of the responses to it is another question.
The facts themselves are, or ought to be, genuinely heartbreaking: They are about real and profound human suffering. The telephone, e-mail and online reactions -- to the statistics themselves, yes, but even more to the editorial assessment of them -- really dont go much beyond dispiriting, unfathomable, predictable and occasionally contemptible.
They follow a familiar pattern. The children themselves are an inconvenient statistical puddle to step over, quickly and dismissively, on the way to the more comfortable condemnation of indulgent government, the sins of the dependent classes, the downfall of the institution of marriage and even the value of the Second Amendment -- the relevance of which, in this context, is at best dubious and at worst despicable.
Yep. The chilllllldren, reads one online post. Lets keep throwing money at the situation When we want to get serious about eradicating economic and spiritual poverty, give me a call.
Shouldnt we talk about handing out condoms and syringes to minors and drug abusers in our society who lack a moral compass, goes another. Its no wonder we have so many on government assistance.
And so forth. (They took prayer out of the schools was conspicuously absent, but maybe I just didnt give it time to show up.) The editorial and the online comments are still there, so you can judge for yourself whether Ive distorted anybodys tone or meaning.
Its not that blaming childrens miseries on bad or absent parents, out-of-wedlock births, society, drugs, government, the media, etc., is necessarily wrong. In many ways its demonstrably right, both anecdotally and statistically.
What I dont get is how that assignment of blame somehow absolves the rest of us. I dont even mean any obligation to devote our lives to childrens welfare, but just the minimal and meager indulgence of compassion. (If I hear the miserable lives of poor children blithely dismissed with one more sanctimonious reference to personal responsibility, I think Im going to puke.)
By what line of moral reasoning does ostentatiously self-righteous contempt for welfare statism, or irresponsible parents, or whatever, necessarily preclude intervention or even sympathy? If it does, then Ive got news for you: Spiritual poverty has spread well beyond the poor parts of town.
OK, so nothing about the wretched lives of poor kids is our fault. Feel better? Good.
Because our self-absolution doesnt provide prenatal care for young mothers-to-be, many of them kids themselves, or medical care for their children. It doesnt give hungry, neglected, abused, forlorn children anything to do, anything to eat, anything to wear, any reason for hope, any clue that anybody gives a damn.
What it does do, apparently, is give the rest of us another lame excuse -- as if we were ever lacking in those -- for scornful and self-congratulatory wallowing in our own essential superiority.
What a reforming influence on the social order that promises to be.
Dusty Nix, 706-571-8528; firstname.lastname@example.org.