We can do better

By Steve Frey

We are better than this. America is better than this.

No matter what your political persuasion may be, when you saw the picture of the father and child face down in the water trying to cross the Rio Grande, you had to be extremely distressed.

Yes, one can debate immigration policy and favor various strategies, but when faced with the deaths of those two fellow human beings, and also knowing the father tried to ask for asylum the day before and was turned away, thus the desperate river crossing to claim refuge, how can you not care? If you simply blame the people themselves for leaving their home countries to seek a safer life for their families and that’s the end of it, well, what can be said?

We can do better.

When children are separated from their parents and are denied basic necessities like soap, toothpaste, a place to sleep (other than a cold cement floor in a fenced-in area) or love, we, as compassionate Americans (and most Americans still love their neighbors as themselves), should be outraged. Again, some would say they brought it on themselves and try to connect blame elsewhere, but they are young children. They depend on adults for help, guidance and support. Right or wrong, they have fallen into America’s responsibility.

We can do better.

Closer to home, school buildings in Virginia are disintegrating before our eyes. There are problems with mold, lack of electrical outlets, ceilings falling in, roofs leaking, and so many other issues. All children deserve a decent, safe place to learn. But a plan to solve this problem statewide can’t get out of a committee to even be discussed by the state legislature.       Schools in other parts of the Commonwealth and the country have state-of-the-art facilities providing a 21st-century education for students, while in poor school divisions in Southwest Virginia, many cities, and actually in pockets statewide, impoverished children aren’t given an even playing field.

We can do better.

Two families live side by side in a neighborhood in the NRV. One has an employer-provided health care plan. The other’s income falls between Medicaid and a health plan with unaffordable premiums, deductibles and copayments. The mom in both families has critical medical issues; one will live, and one will die because one can get doctor’s appointments and can afford medications, while the other can’t pay for the months of care necessary and must ration medicine because of cost.

We can do better.

These are just a few examples of situations where caring people could work together to make a difference; where caring people could change lives; where caring people could save lives.

Aren’t Americans taught the Golden Rule? Don’t all religions profess love, kindness and compassion as fundamental tenets? Why is there any reluctance to find ways to alleviate the suffering of our fellow human beings?

No, there are no easy answers or simple solutions, but when massive corporations like Amazon or General Electric make huge profits and pay no taxes, is that fair? Recently, many of the ultra-rich pleaded to pay more in taxes when the government gave them enormous tax breaks but were ignored.

Unfortunately, too many others live fictional character Gordon Gekko’s motto that “greed is good.” Where is the balance?

We can do better.

How many children have to be shot to death in schools? How many extreme weather event deaths or sequences of the hottest years in history have to occur to move legislators to take steps to stop climate degradation?  How many hardworking families have to lose their farms because of tariff wars? These and so many more problems are begging for a thoughtful, rational resolution.

The answers are not Democratic or Republican talking points. And the solutions don’t live on the extreme fringes of policy that legislators sometimes feel forced to take. The answers beat in the hearts of millions of good Americans who sincerely care about their fellow human beings and put compassion above politics, people above obscene profit margins and love above the unspoken blindness of self-complacency.

It pains every caring American to see a dad and his child face down in a river.

Millions of Americans do believe we can do better.

Can’t we?

Steve Frey is a writer and CEO of Ascendant Educational Services based in Radford.




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