Threats to America
According to many people with whom I communicate, the biggest threat the USA is the USA. The notion is that by extending power and influence to the far reaches of the globe, American presence begets a negative response. They see the power and influence as colonial reach, or meddling.
When I examine why we Americans are involved elsewhere, at the core, it is about resources that we perceive we need and want. It is about competition over resources such that if we don’t get our share, someone else will, and the result will be detrimental to us.
Americans believe that we have the best set of values in the world, and that we value individualism, freedom, and liberty more than anyone else. Some of our allies might argue that they are on par or even better, but that would be splitting hairs.
There is an apparent gap or gulf between free and democratic governments and others that we see clearly. Governments like China may argue that their system and values are essential to manage the sheer numbers of people. To them, sacrificing individual freedom is at the expense of being so large. On the other hand, India may argue that it is possible to have a free and diverse society without resorting to communism, for instance.
If Americans adopted a strategy of self-sufficiency by exploiting resources that it has and working around what it has not, is it conceivable that the nation would be able to live in peace without external threats?
The answer is of course not because people, being people, come in a spectrum of motivations and behaviors. Some are malicious and threatening and demand defense and protection. Rules are put into place that protects the borders of nation states like ours.
Ideally, we will one day learn that the planet is too small for people to operate without respect for individual freedom and liberty and mutual respect for cultural diversity. For that some of us will be in constant pursuit, and others will fight like hell against it.
“1 the plague of poverty
One in five American children lives in poverty. As a result, their lifetime contribution to the economy will decline by an estimated $130 billion because poor kids grow up to be less educated and less productive workers. Children growing up poor are much more likely to experience an array of problems regarding their health, emotional well-being, school-readiness and achievement — and their employability as adults.
Solutions: Programs that help working poor parents gain better access to child care and health care and expand access to higher education and capital can help. There is also a need for: higher family incomes, obtained by raising the minimum wage; better outreach efforts by subsidized programs and better enforcement of child support payment laws.
2 abuse and neglect at home
The legacy of child abuse and neglect is seen starkly in the experiences of the 25,000 to 30,000 young people who leave foster care each year to take on the responsibilities of adult life, either by reaching 18 or by being emancipated. Within one year, 25 to 40 percent experience homelessness, only 40 to 50 percent will have completed high school, less than half will have jobs, and over 60 percent of the young women will have babies within four years.
Solutions: We must offer more quality out-of-home care for abused children and streamline the adoption process to provide children a sense of permanency more quickly. We must also address the drug and alcohol problems of adults that often fuel episodes of abuse and neglect.
3 violent crime
Violent juvenile crime arrests in America have fallen 25 percent since 1994, in part due to tougher laws. However, public concern remains high because of the volume and visibility of crimes involving children, both as victims and perpetrators. In 1997, law enforcement agencies made about 2.8 million arrests of youth under the age of 18.
Solutions: Parents and other supervising adults must take additional steps to make sure that guns and other weapons stay out of the hands of children. Schools and communities must offer more quality after school programs — for all ages — to ensure children are spending their time productively and not getting into trouble on the streets. Promoting parental involvement at schools and community are other ways of preventing juvenile crime.
4 dangerous escapes
The 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse showed that overall, illegal drug use declined among young people ages 12 to 17 from 1987 to 1998. However, that followed a dramatic rise from 1991 to 1996. The teen years are also a time of sexual experimentation. More than half of girls and three quarters of boys under age 18 are sexually active and each year, three million American teens are infected with AIDS, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Solutions: The most effective way of preventing drug, alcohol and tobacco use is by educating parents, teachers and school-aged children about the signs, symptoms and dangers. Parents can influence their children by not using harmful substances themselves. Youth should receive information from their parents and their communities that supports their decision to abstain from sex.
5 children having children
Every year in America, one million teenage girls become pregnant and more than half give birth. Studies have suggested that 43 percent of all teenage girls in this country will become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20. According to a report by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, more than 80 percent of teenage pregnancies are either mistimed or unwanted.
Solutions: Although teen pregnancy and birth rates have declined in America, they are still far too high. Youth should receive information that supports the decision to abstain from sex and be encouraged to ask their parents or other trusted family members for information. Human service professionals must be better trained in issues of teen pregnancy prevention.
6 inadequate child care
About 65 percent of mothers with children under 6 years old and 78 percent with children between ages 6 and 17 are in the labor force, creating a necessity for affordable, quality child care, but that can be difficult to find. An alarming percentage of the child care in America is poor to mediocre. One four-state study found that 40 percent of the rooms serving infants in child care centers were so poorly run that they actually put at risk children’s health, safety and development.
Solutions: Polls show many Americans support additional tax breaks for enrolling their children in child care. Schools and communities can also establish scholarship funds to assist families who need help paying for child care. Public and private sectors must step up to the challenge by fully funding quality programs.
7 absent parents
In many families today, it is necessary for both parents to work, making it even more difficult for parents to know what their children are doing, whom they are hanging around with and what they are thinking. Every day, nearly 5 million children come home to an empty house because their parents are working, and in many instances, there’s nothing parents can do about it. It is during the 3-7 p.m. period when crime and victimization peaks in America.
Solutions: Parents must understand what messages in the media are influencing their children and be prepared to talk through sensitive subjects. They must take time to ensure, as best as possible, that their children are engaged in supervised, healthy activities.
8 lack of health care
In 1988, an estimated 11.1 million children under 18 had no health insurance. The percentage of children not covered by health insurance has been on the rise. In 1998, 15.4 percent of children had no health insurance; in 1992, 12.4 percent of children were not covered. Children suffering from untreated illnesses often are not ready to learn, and thus, struggle to keep up in school. One study found that uninsured children were 25 percent more likely to miss school than kids who were insured.
Solutions: Accessible, affordable and comprehensive health care for all children is critical to ensuring the societal health of America. Until that happens, we must preserve the federal guarantee of Medicaid for all poor children, taking additional steps to enroll those children who are eligible yet not participating. We must improve Medicaid benefits and broaden health insurance coverage for uninsured children, and oppose efforts to sacrifice good coverage for wider, inadequate coverage.
9 new pressures in the classroom
America’s elementary and secondary schools face a variety of complex challenges in educating our children in the new millennium. With spotty academic performance in overcrowded classrooms, continuing high dropout rates and threats and fears of violence on campus, children face pressures never seen before in the classroom.
Solutions: Schools must receive adequate levels of state and federal funding to improve academic scores for all students and reduce class sizes, as well as adequate resources to provide for increasing numbers of students enrolled in special education programs. Parents, schools and communities must work cooperatively to identify at-risk students and direct them to alternative learning programs to prevent them from leaving school.
10 dangers in the environment
Every day, children are exposed to known carcinogens, neurotoxic substances such as lead and mercury and potentially dangerous pesticides. These substances can lead to serious developmental problems in children, and in extreme cases even death. Lead, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are among the substances suspected of having harmful and perhaps permanent neurological effects on children.
Solutions: For our children, we must work to protect the air we breathe, water we drink and the land we live on. Communities should dedicate additional resources toward surveying older homes - particularly those of the poor - to determine if lead-based paints are endangering children. Pesticide makers should better educate parents about the potential health risks of common pesticides used indoors and out.”
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States