Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Teach your children

By Nancy Greggs

An Open Letter to the Republican Representatives Who Control Our Government:

We heard it over and over during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal: What do
we tell the children? It was a phrase obviously premised on the fact
that the average first-grader was parked in front of CNN all afternoon,
asking uncomfortable questions about the sexual conduct of the president.

Well, there are some very uncomfortable questions being asked by OUR
children these days, and they flow from the very circumstances you have
created. Therefore, I think it only appropriate that you give us some
advice on how to deal with the queries being posed by the children of
ordinary Americans across the country.

What do we tell our children when they ask why their grandmother’s
health is failing, due to the fact that her life-saving medication is no
longer within her financial means? Should we explain to them that the
multi-billion dollar profits of the pharmaceutical companies are more
important than Grandma’s health, or anyone else’s?

What do we tell our children when they ask why soldiers in Iraq have to
fight without the necessary equipment, or have to use contaminated water
to bathe in? Should we explain to them that Halliburton has been handed
billions of dollars that were earned by mommies and daddies all over
America, but that money goes into already-wealthy people’s pockets
instead of being spent on the welfare and safety of the men and women
who may die fighting for their country?

What do we tell our children when they see us crying because we have
lost our jobs, and we can’t find another one? Should we explain to them
that someone in another country was given that job because they agreed
to do it for less money, so that the children of the people who own that
company can have $250,000 birthday parties?

What do we tell our children when we have to feed them cheap meals four
nights a week, because the price of gas just went up again and we had to
use the grocery money to get to work? Should we explain to them that the
oil companies can’t get by with the billions of dollars they are making
already, along with the subsidies that mom and dad have to pay for as well?

What do we tell our children when they ask if we can help them go to
medical school, or law school, or even a community college to learn a
trade, when we can’t afford to contribute a single penny? Should we tell
them to get a job that pays minimum wage, and maybe in ten years they
will have saved enough for their first semester? Should we explain to
them that training for ANY job right now is a waste of time, because it
will wind up being given to someone in another country anyway?

What do we tell our children when they see photographs from Abu Ghraib,
or hear stories about Guantanimo Bay? Should we explain to them that
because we go to church on Sunday and sing ‘God Bless America’, God just
looks the other way when we imprison and torture our fellow human beings?

What do we tell our children when they ask why the kid down the street
who was caught with drugs had to go to jail to be punished, but when one
of YOUR kids got caught with drugs, they went to the hospital to be
cured? Should we explain to them that the difference between being a
criminally inclined addict and a non-dangerous substance abuser depends
on the financial wherewithal of the parents?

What do we tell our children when they ask why multi-billion dollar
corporations are allowed to pollute our air and water? Should we explain
to them that if the air is unbreathable and the water undrinkable by the
time they are grown up, that’s because you thought it was more important
to look after the companies that give you campaign contributions than to
think about the world you were bequeathing to future generations?

What do we tell our children when they ask why there are people living
in cardboard boxes on the street, when they’ve seen you and your
colleagues argue about million dollar bridges-to-nowhere? Should we tell
them that real people in need don’t matter, in comparison to people who
might vote for someone who brought the bacon home to their state?

What do we tell our children about honesty and integrity in government,
when the president gets caught lying or ignoring the laws of our
country, and you make yourselves busy looking the other way, or come up
with endless excuses for his behavior? Should we explain to them that
although our country was built on the Constitution and the rule of law,
once you get to be president you can arbitrarily decide that those
concepts are no longer valid?

What do we tell our children about American democracy and its system of
representational government, when you, our representatives, pay no
attention to the needs or desires of the people who elected you? Should
we tell them that this whole “democracy” thing has been a scam all
along, and they’d better smarten up and get used to it?

What do we tell our children when they ask about The American Dream? How
do we explain to them that it is no longer within their grasp, that it
no longer exists for kids like them, that it is only available to YOUR
children, and not ours?

I’m truly curious. On the off chance that any one of you has
inadvertently raised a child with a social conscience, with morals, with
compassion for their fellow citizens, when they become adults and look
at what you have allowed to happen, what will YOU tell your own children?

You may not deign to answer the questions I have posed, but when that
one is asked by your own child, you’ll have no choice but to respond.
And I’d give almost anything to be there when you do.

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