Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Our Disposable Society

Today in my email at work, I got a message from a coworker. Attached was the photo of two adorable Golden Retriever mixes. It seems that three weeks ago, someone left them in a park and never returned. A woman who lived near the park noticed them, noted that they stayed in the same area as if waiting. Finally she took them in to foster. But she has pets of her own. These are two housebroken, leash trained dogs, yet nobody claims them. Someone simply left them to fend on their own-to become feral strays or to get hit by a car. I guess now we don't have to commit to caring for an animal when it becomes too inconvenient. I guess pets are just disposable.

But it's worse than that. As I have said before, I teach high school. I teach in the most diverse school in the district, with kids that are scions of pro athletes alongside kids who live in trailers. But there is no significant difference in the role of negligence and absolute loneliness. We have kids who are in poverty who literally raise themselves. Sometimes it's because parents are working more than one job and must leave kids on their own. But just as often it is parents who have abdicated their responsibility to raise, nuture and protect their children. It is often just as common to have wealthy parents shove cars and money at children instead of spending time with them. I've been to many a school concert for choir, band and orchestra. There may be over 100 students on the stage, yet the audience is strangely missing. It is one thing to be unable to come, it is quite another to be unwilling to come. As a parent, I cannot imagine not being there for my children. Sadly, with far too many parents, that is not the case. I guess kids are just disposable.

Perhaps this comes from the sexual revolution. Remember when they said The Pill-Big Letters-would "liberate" women. If that's the case, then why was Roe v. Wade ever put into law? If that's the case then why are increasing numbers of poor children born to single parent households? Why is it that we have young women who seem willing to allow dangerous males into their lives and the lives of their children? Once upon a time, it was love and marriage that proceeded the baby carriage. Now it seems that in desperation some young women pursue the idea of a baby as a magnet to hold a man, but in too many cases, these children barely know the names of their fathers, much less have a relationship with him. And as these children see their mothers and fathers flit aimlessly from partner to partner, they don't see love in terms of trust demonstrated, all they see is love in terms of lust. So I guess relationships are disposable, too.

I may sound old-fashioned, but it didn't used to be this way. It used to be that even poor families had a mother and father. Maybe they didn't have the latest fashions or toys, but they had the constancy of family to rely upon. Our shiny new disposable culture seems fueled by acquisition of goods rather than appreciation for the finer things. Reading is seen as unnecessary, listening has become a lost art. And writing, well it exists only in small pockets with people who still believe the written word has power. I do not claim to know the answers, but I know that something has to change. Perhaps I am enough of an optimist to think that life isn't linear and that the problems our sloppy self-indulgence has wrought can be resolved by people caring enough to reinvoke the claims family, faith, constancy and reject the shallow TMZ world of style over substance. Our lives, our childrens' lives, are too important to allow them to be disposable.

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