(In the U.S. sense)
By Gary Baker
While viewing and commenting on a different blog today (Enemy of the Republic ((Hi Susan!))) I came across a comment that was amusing, exasperating, and somewhat ironic. It was amusing in how sincere the writer was. It was exasperating in how factually wrong she was. And it was ironic in that a few comments ago I was cautioned about using that particular blogsite as forum for personal view, and then this comes along. So it goes. At any rate, I sent a follow-up comment stating that I would not try to engage her on that site, but that she could come over here if she had any interest in honest discussion. I am eager to see if she will arrive.
The subject of the thread was government neglect of education. The blogger who commented put forth a number of statements regarding the Bush administration and compassionate conservatism. Many of these are worth examining.
She (the commenter) began by telling the story of a sadly depressed area, the city of East St. Louis (ESL). Lest anyone think that I am mocking the poor, please be assured that I am not. I hardly grew up in a well-to-do area or family. I did some research in this area, and it certainly has had its share of hard knocks. What the commenter wrote:
"I live near one of the most disadvantaged areas in the US. It's called East Saint Louis, IL. At least,75% of the people who live there are below the national poverty level. And these people, were forced to live there because they had no other place to go, they were segregated. Their children were not welcome at our schools, with our children....they were the untouchables of our society. ESL has basically been a reservation. "
Back in the 1980's the city was sued and the plaintiff won, after this the city went bankrupt. ... They no longer had any money to pay the garbage collectors, there were bags of trash sitting in back yards, in empty lots, in the streets. There were huge rats everywhere. Of course, there were children living here. Then, the ancient sewer stystem finally began to wear out. There was sewage all over the city, backing up in peoples houses, their basements, coming out of peoples sinks, pooling in the empty lots. The school kept having to be shut down, the sewage was coming out of the sinks in the school kitchens where the children's meals were prepared. Diptheria and hepatitis were major health threats.
And again, I remind you, this was in the late 1980's.
There have many large factories outside the city, one of them being Monsanto. They had been illegally dumping chemicals into the soil for years. The lead level in the soil is way beyond what is considered toxic. No-one cared, these people had no-one to help them. "
(Full Disclosure - Some of the parts of the text above, though reproduced accurately, do not appear in the same order as they were posted on the original thread. I have taken great pains, however, to ensure that the meaning of the words quoted is accurately preserved. For the complete full thread, please go to Enemy of the Republic blogsite.)
This certainly sounds like an impoverished area. For those most part, the facts are uncontested. According to an article in Time on line, the lawsuit was in 1995. It also said that the town used to be integrated, but by 2001 was 98% black. There are other statements, however, that are far less accurate from a historical aspect. For example:
"This was during Reagan's administration and the policies of the administration were what was making this possible."
A review of the history of the area shows that if Monsanto was illegally dumping, then it was the last of a long and illustrious line. The town had been largely a mining town since early in the century. According to PATRICK E. GAUEN, Politics writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, coal was a large part of the economy, as well as aluminum and zinc. This continued from early in the century until after WWII. Considering the methods involved, I think it reasonable to assume that a good deal of the damage had been done before Reagan took the reins of the country. Also, according to the same columnist,
"East St. Louis remains an enigma to most Illinoisans, who know it only through its poverty, corrupt past, outsized crime rate and historical ability to deliver Democratic votes."
In point of fact, the article shows the past of the town as one mired in corruption, gangsterism, drug abuse, prostitution. All of this, and reliably democrat elected officials. I find it very odd through all of this, only a Republican president is singled out for any blame or responsibility. When the commentor brings up Clinton, it is in a far different reference:
"When Clinton became president, he fixed the most immediate problems. The city is still bad but at least there is not garbage and sewage in the streets. The city is actually run by the State of Illinois now. "
If the commenter can offer some bona fide points that Clinton "fixed" I would be happy to examine them. The press that I read gives credit for the limited recovery to revenues that came when a casino located there in the 94-95 time frame.
"There are people who manage to become productive members of society who come from there, most of them join the Military and hope that they don't get blown up while they are over in Iraq, it is their only ticket and they are willing to take the chance. And we say that they don't try?"
As a former veteran myself, I question the ability of the commenter to determine all the motives that people have for joining up. I myself went into service more for training than for patriotism, and I freely admit that. I got the training, and it has helped me to be far more successful than I might have been without it. I, for one, applaud those who take advantage of the opportunity and privilege to serve.
"No child left behind withholds funds from schools that do not meet federal standards. ESL is a perfect illustration of why this program will not help those who need help the most. It shows a lack of insight and understanding of the environments that these children live in and how they can best be helped. It shows a lack of compassion."
Granting funds to schools that take the children, give them no useful skills, and trap them into poverty is not compassion. It is stupid. And again, the schools were lousy before NCLB. The schools are now being held accountable. Parents with students in failing schools now at least have the hope of transferring to someplace better, and taxpayers have the hope that their hard earned money is not thrown down a rathole. This is compassion that works. This is improving people's lives, not offering them a fake smile while you slowly ruin their children's lives.
The commenter also wrote " Get out of your books and take a walk. Talk to people like this, ask them questions, get to know them.....Jesus did.....and he would have never promoted 'compassionate conservatism'. Anyone who thinks he would have must have a different Bible than I do."
Take a look at that Bible again. Christ gave people a chance for success. He fed some people at his sermons. Once. He didn't say "Come back tomorrow for more." He didn't set up government food programs. During his time, the church was the program for the poor, not the government. Families were to take care of each other. The poor were helped through the church if they were unable to work. Those who could work were expect to do so (Check "gleaning" in your concordance.) Yes, we are to be generous, but with our own resources, not with those who we feel "already have enough." Compassionate liberalism gave people generational welfare, several generations without two parents, and an endless cycle of dependency. I never recall Christ pushing people to be dependent on anyone except for God; certainly not government.