Failing to Protect Those Who Need it Most

I wish our political leaders would spend a weekend at Goose Rocks Beach, not for the sun and surf, but for the moral education.

The Maine coastline shows how nature has evolved to protect those least able to protect themselves. The lowly moon snail builds a “sand collar” made of mucus and sand, almost identical to the color of the ocean floor, to cover and camouflage its eggs. When a Piping Plover senses a predator threatening her chicks, she walks away dragging one wing on the ground, feigning it is broken, to divert interest and tempt the predator to follow her instead. A mother and father duck bob watchfully in front of and behind their dozen ducklings learning to swim.

Generational protectiveness is nature’s oldest and most fundamental law. Somehow our political and economic society has evolved to violate it. We aggressively protect the strong, but fail to acknowledge the vulnerable that need protection the most.

Last week the Children’s Defense Fund released their State of America’s Children report. It explains “there are 16.4 million poor children in rich America, 7.4 million living in extreme poverty. Children under five are the poorest age group in America and one in four infants, toddlers and preschoolers are poor during the years of greatest brain development.” The report’s sobering statistics include: more than 1 in 4 children in the U.S. are on SNAP; 39.1 percent of black children were born poor in 2010. Only 3% of eligible infants and toddlers secure spots in Head Start due to funding constraints.

What’s more shocking than the statistics (the full report is @ http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/soac-2012-handbook.pdf) is how little attention the report received. Scanning the web for reaction or response, what I found instead were examples of how protective society can be, just not of vulnerable kids:

 Financial regulators in Washington responded immediately when errors at Knight Capital undermined confidence in the stock market.

 Apple spent $647 million in advertising to protect its investment in the iPhone.

 The Obama campaign has spent more cash more quickly – $400 million so far – than any incumbent in recent history to protect his lead, and SuperPacs for both parties will spend hundreds of millions of dollars more.

There is of course a rational for each of these actions. But what’s the rationale for only acting on behalf of the strong but not the weak?
In the forward to the Children’s Defense Fund report Marian Wright Edelman wrote:

“Millions of children are living hopeless, poverty and violence stricken lives in the war zones of our cities; in the educational deserts of our rural areas; in the moral deserts of our corrosive culture that saturates them with violent, materialistic, and individualistic messages; and in the leadership deserts of our political and economic life where greed and self interest trump the common good over and over. … child hunger and child suffering have become normalized in the richest nation on earth. It’s time to reset our moral compass and redefine how we measure success.” ….
Her prescription for change pointed to the kind of work we do at Share Our Strength: “A transforming nonviolent movement is needed to create a just America. It must start in our homes, communities, parent and civic associations, and faith congregations across the nation. It will not come from Washington or state capitols or with politicians. Every single person can and must make a difference if our voiceless, voteless children are to be prepared to lead America forward. Now is the time to close our action and courage gaps, reclaim our nation’s ideals of freedom and justice, and ensure every child the chance to survive and thrive.”
At Goose Rocks Beach one can bear witness to nature’s extraordinary efforts to protect those who need protection the most. In doing so you realize it is not just tragic that we allow 20% of America’s children to struggle with poverty and hunger, it’s unnatural. Moral leadership might be enhanced if our nation’s leaders spent a day at the beach.

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