Our children deserve better

Two time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof wrote an editorial earlier this week in The New York Times called “Our children deserve better.” It is a clarion call to our nation showing the plight of kids in America.

Here are a few quotes to frame the issue:

“UNICEF says America ranks No. 37 among countries in well-being of children, and Save the Children puts the United States at No. 36. European countries dominate the top places.

American infants at last count were 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than children in other advanced countries, according to an article last year in the journal Health Affairs. We would save the lives of 20,000 American children each year if we could just achieve the same child mortality rates as the rest of the rich world.”

“Half a million American kids also suffer lead poisoning each year, and the youth suicide rate is at its highest level on record….The Census Bureau reported this week that the number of uninsured children increased by 425,000 last year.”

These are different views and sources of the threats to US children that note we have a problem. Another source I read a couple of years ago noted America has a much higher maternal mortality rate at child birth than other civilized countries, which further endangers children as well as the mothers.

Yet, these issues are not being discussed in the halls of government. We have a poverty problem in our country with too many living in or just above poverty levels. We have not expanded Medicaid in fifteen states whose numbers are worse than these national numbers per capita. We have not addressed our national water crisis which has a Flint, MI like exposure to lead in too many cities and a volume of available fresh water issue in other places. We have not invested as we should to diminish crime and provide more opportunities for jobs in disenfranchised areas. There are several pockets of success that can be emulated in more cities.

We also need to address better gun governance, especially with the number one gun death cause by far being suicide and a non-inconsequential accidental gun death rate. And, we have not dealt with the continuing and rising exposure to technology and artificial intelligence which have taken and will take even more jobs in the future. Finally, there is that climate change thing we need to deal with.

These are real problems. And, they will get worse. Data driven analysis of causes and solutions are needed. They are both multi-faceted. Investing more now, will save huge amounts later. This is not just an urban issue, it is rural one as well. The opioid crisis is rampant in these impoverished rural areas, for example.

None of the solutions will fit on a bumper sticker. And, political attempts to oversimplify issues should be questioned. Here is an easy contradiction to spot – if people believe gun deaths are a mental health issue, then why the effort to eliminate or not expand mental health benefits?

Please make your legislators aware of these issues and ask pointed questions. These questions deserve answers, not bumper sticker slogans. These concerns deserve to be talked about, studied and acted upon.

Let’s fix the larger gun death problems

Mass shootings are very tragic and heart wrenching. Homicides are also tragic. Yet, the biggest gun problem and another tangible and avoidable problem make up between 60% and 70% of annual gun deaths in America. The lion’s share of gun deaths in America are suicides. Last year, over 23,000 of the 38,000 plus gun deaths were suicides. This ratio is not unusual and tracks pretty well year in and year out.

The other much smaller, but more avoidable gun death problem is accidental shootings. And, tragically the ones doing the shooting or getting killed are children who come across a weapon. To lose a child is the worst nightmare I could possibly imagine. But, to lose one because you did not put away your gun, is even more traumatic. The gun owner has to live with the guilt. While accidental shootings are about 2% of gun deaths, they seem to be ones we should be able to avoid irrespective of one’s fervor for the 2nd Amendment.

After each mass shooting, there is concern registered by kids and parents about not letting this happen again. The people for and against more gun control go into camps with some saying now is not the time, while the others asking when is the time. I must give a huge amount of credit to the Parkland kids and others around the country who are forcing action. But, outside of a little lip service in Washington, nothing tangible happens. They may regret inaction come November.

These past few months, the barest of minimum change was done, but there was the President of the United States speaking before the NRA convention last week. He was the one who taunted Congress representatives for not standing up to the NRA. These were obviously just words, which we should be used to by now. With this said, I do give kudos to Florida who acted a little more demonstrably than DC.

To prevent more suicides, background checks on all sales with elongated waiting periods are needed. Doctors must be permitted to ask patients if there is a gun in the house as the propensity for suicide is much higher than one without. All it takes is an impulse and it is over. We must add more psychologists and counselors to schools. The greater gun risk is a depressed student taking his or her life. And, we should expand Medicaid in the remaining 18 states along with its mental health benefits.

As for the accidental shootings, the majority of states require guns to be locked up at home, but why do not all states have such a requirement? I have shared this before, but I asked my father-in-law to lock up his weapon, as I did not want his grandkids around a loaded weapon. He did so. One idea that has merit is requiring a finger printed trigger, where only the owner can use the weapon.

Please note that none of the above speaks of taking weapons away. These steps would help reduce the number of suicides and accidental shootings. Even if the number is only 100, 500 or 1,000, those are lives saved. Isn’t this what it’s all about?

 

 

We need to protect the children of the world (to protect ourselves)

There is one constant across all people, religions, and cultures. We love our children and want to protect them, nurture them and give them opportunity. Yet, we need to do a better job of protecting not just our children, but all children of the world. There are too many strident and zealous people who provide challenges to this goal. And, there is too much corruption among greedy leaders who stand in the way of helping.

Our missionary friend in Nigeria notes in his view the three greatest challenges we have are climate change, global poverty and global corruption. The latter seems out of place, but it is a major cause of disenfranchisement everywhere in the world, even in western countries. It stands in the way of getting resources and help to those in need and lays the groundwork for terrorist groups to find a way in to help. It is only too late, when the people realize the terrorists are far worse than the leaders.

Terrorists are very good at brainwashing adults and children leading them to extreme beliefs. Just as bigotry has to be carefully taught, so does hatred and zeal. It has to be nurtured and the terrorists are good at recruiting innocents and creating new generations of haters and using them as their army. It should not be lost on anyone, that the young impressionable person is strapping a suicide vest on, not the teacher.

Outside of the extreme example above, we tend to avoid thinking about helping our children. We have far too much short-sighted thinking that stands in the way of doing a greater good long term. We have too much corruption in politics that our profit makers get their way at the expense of others. And, the messages can easily be manipulated, so that blame can be assessed. We are too good at blaming others than looking at the real problem.

Here are few real truths that need to be addressed by leaders:

  • The World Economic Forum in their Global Risks report note the two greatest risks over the next ten years are the global water crisis and climate change inaction. Please ask your leader and want-to-be leaders what they intend to do about it. If they deny these issues are a problem, then do not vote for them.
  • The global maltreatment of women, including in western worlds, is an issue as it affects women and girls. Women must be viewed as partners not chattel, as to do otherwise is not only unjust, it is unwise, as women hold up half the sky. If a region does not value women, then it is competing in a world with half of its resources and intellectual capital.
  • To the first point, a major concern is overpopulation, which will heighten the impact of climate change and water. Our earth cannot support its people if we grow like expected and people consume more like western cultures. Plus, increased family size is highly correlated with poverty, so family planning is essential. The religions of the world need to get their arms around this issue and not prevent holistic family planning.
  • The refugee crisis must be addressed by all, including the US and Russia. Xenophobic fear mongering that is espoused by a few politicians does not serve the purpose. It is a resource issue and one country cannot bear the burden. Our Canadian partners are showing the US how to help, but we have decided to let politicians fear monger rather than help more. Russia needs to be part of the solution, instead of looking to gain influence at others’ expense which is Putin’s goal on most anything. Europe cannot do this alone and we need to get Syria more settled or the problem will continue.
  • When regions are in a state of disruption, little education is occurring. Our children are not getting the education they need if they are too consumed with just surviving. The refugee children are an extreme example of this, but when adults are disenfranchised, education suffers everywhere.

I have noted before that treating women better around the world will have an echo effect. It is not only the right thing to do, but economies will grow, we will be tapping more intellectual capital to solve problems and women do not compete like men do in politics, avoiding zero-sum games and seeking collaborations. I remind folks it took ten female senators to avoid the US from defaulting on its debts in October 2013, when Senator Ted Cruz single-handedly shut down the government.

Treating women better will enhance how we look to help our children. Girls are maltreated just like women, sometimes worse as they are sold as property or stolen. So, this echo effect will greatly help our children, through more stable economies and a greater focus on education. People should not lose sight that some of history’s greatest advancements came out of the Middle East. If we leave entire populations in disarray without education, that hurts us all.