Willful Ignorance

Posted: August 27, 2008 in Children, Family, Homelessness, Morality

One of the news items I came across this past Monday was about Richard Cooey, an Ohio death row inmate, who is seeking clemency. His execution is scheduled for October 14th of this year. And, like most death row inmates, he is trying to find a way to avoid being executed.

He is using a novel approach in his attempt at getting a reprieve. He claims he’s too fat to be executed by lethal injection.  

Now, I realize the issue of the death penalty is a touchy subject. Some folks have no problem with it. Others are vehemently opposed to it. The truth is that there are staunch supporters on both sides of the issue. This post isn’t about my trying to argue for either side.

However, the very fact that there are strong opinions on both sides, at the very least, opens up the possibility of dialogue. To be sure, that dialogue may stir up a heated discussion, but it brings things to the forefront and that creates the possibility for some type of solution – or at least the potential for a compromise.

But it makes me wonder…

How is it that we can get hot beneath the collar about a man who has been convicted of a heinous crime and now faces the possibility of being executed; but we don’t seem capable of becoming equally as hot under the collar about the fact that this year nearly 1.35 million children will experience homelessness?

Through out the nation, cities are implementing 10 year plans to end "chronic" homelessness, claiming that the chronic homeless are those who are "most at risk." But, no one ever seems to clearly define what "most at risk" means.

If anything, it would seem to me that our nation’s homeless children should be the ones who are considered to be the "most at risk."

The National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, Homeless Families with Children, states:

Children without a home are in fair or poor health twice as often as other children, and have higher rates of asthma, ear infections, stomach problems, and speech problems. Homeless children also experience more mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and withdrawal. They are twice as likely to experience hunger, and four times as likely to have delayed development. These illnesses have potentially devastating consequences if not treated early.

Also, consider these facts about homeless children:

  • 97% of homeless children move, many up to three times.
  • 22% are separated from their families to be put in foster care or to live with relatives.
  • 25% have witnessed acts of violence within their family.
  • More than 20% of homeless preschoolers have emotional problems serious enough to require professional care.
  • 47% of homeless school age children have problems such as anxiety, depression, or withdrawal, compared to 18% of other children.
  • Four times as likely to have developmental delays.
  • Twice as likely to have learning disabilities.
  • Twice as likely to repeat a grade, most often due to frequent absences and moves to new schools (28% of homeless children go to three or more schools in a single year).

I fail to understand how we can become so riled up over some of the most mundane and ridiculous issues, and yet seem able to completely ignore the reality that there are over 1 million homeless children in our nation.

We have poured hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to Presidential wanna-be’s, but we aren’t willing to spend money on helping our nation’s homeless.

Congress allows NASA a discretionary budget of billions of dollars each year to explore the vast reaches of outer space, but won’t allocate adequate funding to provide ways to help the homeless.

Senators and Congresspersons are constantly trying to get bills passed which will pour millions upon millions of tax payer dollars into their local economies for their "pet projects" and pork barrel spending, but do little or nothing to provide programs and services which will level the playing field for homeless children.

We’re willing to pay ridiculously high prices for a cup of designer coffee, but we aren’t willing to give a homeless person a dollar or two.

As private citizens, we’ll eagerly send our donations to whatever charity we happen to see on television the help the children of other nations, but we aren’t equally as willing to make a donation to our local homeless shelters.

Are we that petty as a society? Or is it just a case of willful ignorance?

  1. AnAmerican says:

    I’ve always found it ironic that we spend around $30,000/yr. for housing prisoners as inmates,yet can’t fund the funding to help our homeless who haven’t committed a crime. (And the criminals get fed and a bed each night for committing a crime!) What’s wrong with this picture?

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