We read that foster homes are getting filled to capacity. We read that Native American kids make up a high percentage.
There was a time in our history when it was a norm to have a large family or to seek a large family. Remember the movie "Spencer's Mountain" with Henry Fonda? Large families by their very essence seem heart-warming and inspiring. (Liz Morrison hated it when I used the term "heart-warming.") Large families seemed right out of the American fabric. Catholic families led the way.
Today, it seems raising kids is very daunting. Regardless of how the Dow Jones keeps rising, the common folk all across America seem stressed in ways we didn't see in prior times. Not only are families stressed, they are having to live under a microscope. Rules and standards were lax if not nonexistent in prior times like when my boomer generation grew up.
Today, I gather that if you have a lapse and allow your child to play unaccompanied by a supervisor in a park, you risk getting a call from Human Services. Maybe your kid will end up getting whisked off to one of those foster homes. Will we need to expand our foster home system? If so, someone will have to pay for it.
In the old days, your child would attend a school very close by. If you lived in a small town, there would be a school right in your town. Your child might elect to walk or ride bike to school. Today, the powers that be seem to look down on kids going to and from school by themselves - too much danger.
Danger has always existed around us. It appears the parents of the boomers, and generations before that, just shrugged and realized they and their children would have to live with those risks. "Bums" might pass through the area on freight trains. Howard Moser once told me his mom got mad at him for waving at some bums. "Don't wave at them - they're bums!" How much nostalgia should we feel about those earlier times?
People my age often think virtue was instilled. We became self-starters. Human Services could hardly have controlled all the boomer kids in our midst. We swarmed like faux gangs. In the summer we might be gone from the house all day. For sure, some kids had bad things happen to them. I think we just accepted that as a matter of human nature, danger existed and we simply had to strive to be vigilant against it - a stance that didn't require government workers all over the place.
Today we have Human Services keeping watch even on small families where issues ought to be manageable. No one wants bad things to happen to kids. But will the day come when, in the name of protecting kids, they'll simply all be sent to facilities or institutions where they can be raised according to impeccable government-approved standards?
More and more people are in fact getting dependent on government. Part of this is due to our aging population. It is just populist rhetoric that we need to reduce the imprint of government on our lives. It is pie in the sky or fantasy. The reality is, government intrusion proceeds despite lots of conservative or Republican politicians getting elected. Senior citizens without a doubt need considerable help because they're beyond their productive years.
I have mixed feelings about all the intrusion into young families where the kids might not be getting a textbook upbringing. Just think back, you boomers, to when you were young. The state decided to lower the drinking age in the early '70s. The government conscripted young men to fight in Viet Nam. Tens of thousands were sent to those jungles, were handed guns and told to shoot and kill other human beings while they shot back. Yes, as if this will solve an ideological divide. We are finding out years later that the absolute necessity to leave Viet Nam had to do with American troops killing each other - it was called "fragging." What a backdrop for my growing-up years.
The idea took over that aggressive school consolidation was a good thing, having kids travel ever-longer distances simply to attend school. The Lac qui Parle school was drawn up as such an idealistic thing, so state of the art. Fortunately for Dawson-Boyd, they pulled out when all factors were considered.
Della DeGier at the paper once said to me that consolidation would continue until Morris kids were bused to Alexandria where they'd live in dormitories. "And then we'll have communism," she said.
The spouse of an old high school friend of mine, residents of Willmar, said "eventually the Federal government is just going to take care of everyone." Her husband is now retired as a sheriff's deputy.
The original American ideal was to fend for yourself in a free society. With time, of course, perceived problems were going to be tamped down by government. After all, government exists to solve problems.
The media and technology have been part of the evolution. All those bad things we hear about today, like child abduction, have always gone on, it's just that the pervasiveness of today's media impresses them on us. Technology connects everyone. We are more aware of the foibles and peccadilloes of everyone. We decided that any and all human failings must be eradicated. Just turn to the government. Turn to Human Services. Report your neighbor.
In a long-ago time, having a large family helped ensure the financial security of the parents when old. Your kids were your "Social Security." Then we got Medicare in the '60s despite the efforts of the likes of Ronald Reagan to stop it. Bernie Sanders leads the effort to increase the safety net considerably. It is inevitable that we will get this.
But the old days of larger families and "freedom to roam" for kids will be locked up in history books. We need to ponder whether we really will be better off.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org