Street Youth in the U.S.

The number of youth living on the streets has dramatically increased. As the recession destroys the lives of families, children are running away from dysfunctional parents or being forced by economic stress to leave, and more and more are attempting to survive on the streets.

Nothing says more about a society than how it takes care of its most vulnerable people, and this says a lot about the state of contemporary U.S. society. After decades of rhetoric and practice of rugged  individualism, corporate greed and insatiable material gain, it’s come to this, expendable children.

In contrast to this sorry state, Bob Herbert writes this morning of the need for personal responsibility. Reminding us of individuals who have courageously made a difference in the world, he decries the lack of personal responsibility that contributes to a sense of paralysis today, a feeling that we as individuals can do nothing to change the world.

This is the irony, standing between the two faces of individualism–rugged individualism and personal responsibility–is a sense of paralysis that we can’t do anything individually meaningful to make the world a better, safer place.

We’ve heard for decades that government–our collective expression of social accountability–should be reduced and we’ve celebrated “empowered individualism” as consumers. And it’s come to this, we’ve made the most vulnerable members of our society, poor youth, economic refugees in our own land. We’ve seen the youth of Brazil, Manilla and other developing countries left to fend for themselves, but Medford, Oregon?

There is no rugged individualism. We are accountable for and responsible to each other. We are interdependent and we are only as strong as the weakest links in the chain of our community connections.

If ever there were a time when we are called to be accountable and to act responsibly, to claim our empowered state and change our attitude of paralysis to action, to move from individual isolation to connected community, this is it. Kids living under bridges should compel us to change and act.

What do you think?

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