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Parents must take lead in protecting children

Monday, November 26, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:16 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Rose M. Nolen

Skeptics predict that, in spite of the warnings, lead-painted toys made in China will wind up under many American Christmas trees this season. Likewise, tainted food products from China will have a place at American dinner tables.

Newspapers devote their pages to keeping citizens aware. Television news people spend thousands of hours repeating the same stories endlessly. Is anybody reading? Is anybody listening? Of course, millions are. But other millions are watching celebrity news, visiting Internet chat rooms and corresponding with like-minded friends on MySpace. The young have their own ideas about what constitutes news.

If this happened in the 1960s, people would be marching on Washington demanding that the Consumer Product Safety people and the Food and Drug Administration get off their duffs and inspect products coming into the country from around the world. Where are the young parents of today who are supposed to be protecting their children? Unfortunately, they came into a ready-prepared world, where they were given the impression that they were only here to enjoy the fruits of the efforts of older generations and no contribution was expected of them. In other words, somebody — the government, their parents, their grandparents or total strangers — will make things right and their children will have safe toys for Christmas.

As hard as financial downturns are, especially on the working poor, sometimes it’s the harder lessons that are easier to learn and remember. The crisis in the housing market will affect millions. Some, driven out of their homes, will have to accept the charity of their parents and other family members and face lifestyle changes. The challenges that many middle-aged people have had to adjust to are factors that have helped shape their character. Maybe, a little financial pressure would prove helpful to some of the young.

Too many young parents have come to depend on society to assist them in bringing up their children. School administrators and law enforcement agencies are supposed to keep drugs, alcohol and tobacco out of the hands of children. Social service agencies are expected to keep children out of abusive situations. Society as a whole has the job of watching for the safety of the nation’s little kids. As far as many parents are concerned, we are a nation of baby-sitters.

Undoubtedly, it will have to be older adults who start the process of fixing the country. And goodness knows it is badly in need of repair. It’s going to require a lot of negotiation to get people to understand that the two-party system is fatally flawed and we’re going to have to create a new model. More and more people are coming to this realization everyday. We are going to have to demand that those agencies whose job it is to inspect the goods coming into the country get their heads out of the sand. We are going to have to demand that money be appropriated to hire enough people to do the job right.

And Americans are going to have to accept the fact that Big Business cannot be trusted to look after the country’s best interests. Moving factories overseas to save money was a bad idea but business owners are not going to stop any practice that allows them to make big profits. We are going to have to enact laws that make moving businesses overseas an expensive proposition. Deregulation is the process that got us to this point, so we’re going to have to elect people who realize that regulation is the only way to protect America’s interest. Trying to rely on the patriotism of business owners to make them responsible is nothing but a myth that has cost this country mightily.

Parents need to begin to encourage their adult children to get involved in civic projects. National service organizations are desperately needed in this country to help make young people aware of their responsibilities in maintaining a democracy. Some people are truly proud of the fact that they have led their children to believe in the free lunch principle. And that might have worked for a very long time.

But a lot of astute observers believe that we are in for a bumpy ride during the next decade and the time has come for us to start tightening our belts. Whether they like it or not, young people are going to have to learn to read newspapers and listen to news programs so they can be informed citizens.

Children and lead paint are a bad combination. Parents, you have been warned. Please take action.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.


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