Thursday, May 26, 2005

No Child Left Unscathed

Andrew Lichtenstein, Corbis

Leave My Child Alone!

"The time not to become a father is eighteen years before a war." E. B. White

My pal Swami Uptown has done it again. In his personal holy war against the unholy war in Iraq, he's discovered a loophole that could protect our children. It's a long shot, but a hell of an idea. If you have children high school age or younger, you can-you must-read about it on his beliefnet blog. Here's what he found Leave My Child Alone!

This brought to mind a stump speech I wanted to write for John Kerry during the 2004 campaign -- targeting the Soccer Mom Vote. A force to be reckoned with, if you recall, and as it turned out, one of the decisive swing votes that cost Kerry the election.

I used to be a speech writer, but I'm rusty, so this isn't poetry. And I never submitted it (don't ask), so he never delivered it. But it's still painfully relevant today, especially in counterpoint to the egregious failure of the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind.

I See A Child

"I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, 'Mother, what was war?' " Eve Merriam

As I look out over this enthusiastic crowd, I'm heartened to see so many men and women determined to take America in a better direction. Dedicated to make the changes that will regain our country's honor ... our safety ... our reputation ... and our future.

Then I see a child. And I ask: in the past four years, who has looked out for him, and his future? Who has given her a better chance to survive? Who has improved the quality of his life, his education, the streets on which he plays? Who has provided for her medical care, her college fund, her personal freedom?

George Bush? No!

I see a child. And I ask: will he grow up to fight and die for his country -- or will his country have renounced war fought for personal revenge and political gain? Will she put herself in harm's way to save others from the abomination of terror -- or will her country have used the RIGHT resources for the RIGHT reasons to hunt down and destroy the REAL agents of terror?

Under George Bush? No!

I see a child. And I cannot help but see all the children lost to us, and to their loved ones. Every one of the brave soldiers killed in Iraq was somebody's child ... and wife or husband, brother or sister, mother or father, friend. Every one of the innocent citizens, heroic firefighters, police-and-rescue personnel, and ordinary heroes who lost their lives on September 11 was somebody's child ... and father or mother, sister or brother, husband or wife, friend.

Four years ago, and then three years ago, and now again, at critical turning points in our nation's history, George Bush promised hope. And change. And a safer world.

Has George Bush delivered? No!

I see millions of children living in poverty, their parents working two and three jobs to keep a roof over their heads, while legions of corrupt CEO's rake in billions of ill-gotten profits -- directly from your hard-earned tax dollars. And George Bush has done nothing to stop it, nothing to stem the torrent of jobs flowing overseas, nothing to create more jobs here at home. In fact, he has mortgaged America's future, allowing the national debt to climb to over 7 trillion dollars.

Who will stop the profiteers, strengthen America's Middle Class, protect our environment and restore fiscal responsibility to the government?

George Bush? No!

I see a child. And I ask: will he find a level playing field in higher education and in the job market? Will she be able to afford a home, day care, a well-deserved retirement? Will they be breathing clean air, drinking clean water, viewing the natural beauty of uncontaminated forests and wetlands, mountains and valleys, rivers and oceans?

Under George Bush? No!

I see a child, too many children, suffering and dying needlessly of preventable and treatable diseases, while health care costs skyrocket. And the Bush Administration's drug industry friends rake in obscenely inflated profits. Who will overhaul our failing medical system and make health care affordable to all?

George Bush? No!

I see a child, desperately turning to crime, to drugs, terrorizing other children, because no one has given him an opportunity, a chance, a helping hand. I see a child having a child, dooming them both to a hopeless cycle of poverty and oppression, because no one has given her information, options, the power of choice.

I see a child, trying to learn in crumbling schools, to survive in desolate neighborhoods, to discover possibilities in shrinking employment markets, while George Bush pours billions of American dollars into a war with no global support, cuts hundreds of vital social programs and allows his NRA friends to put deadly assault weapons back on the streets.

Who will save our schools, our neighborhoods, our jobs, our children -- our children's lives?

George Bush? No!

I see a child -- and I see hope slipping away under the Bush administration policy of protecting the rich while ignoring the poor and middle class. I see respect weakening under George Bush -- respect for America, for her citizens, for her children.

And I know we must get Hope and Respect back. We CAN get it back.

We must tell that child-all children-that their parents and teachers and doctors and police and firefighters and soldiers will protect and provide for them. That laborers and farmers and industry captains and government leaders are going to bring HOPE and RESPECT and SAFETY back to them, and to America.

Because when I see a child, I see our most precious resource -- the future.

And I know that to save our future, we must first see a child.

U.S. National Debt Clock

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