There are no words more eloquent and to the point than those of the late Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, who said, “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” America has thus far failed that test.
During the height of the Great Recession food banks all across America were hurting because of substantially decreased donations, yet the number of people who were going to bed hungry, the very young and the elderly, has increased. The supermarket I shop at has coupons from the local food bank you get when you pay for your groceries in denominations of $1, $3 and $5, and you give them to the cashier with your donation and the cashier uses the bar code on the coupon to register your contribution. Countless number of times when I was shopping for food I saw people in line with shopping carts overflowing with food, and when the cashier asked each one of them, “Would you like to make a contribution to the local food bank?” every single person declined.
There is not a week that goes by when a newspaper somewhere in America does not report incidents of abuse, abandonment and neglect of the elderly, whether in their own home by their children or at nursing homes. Ask a physician or nurse who has it the worst in America and they will all respond “the elderly.” This is inexcusable in the richest nation in the world, and the problem grows worse year after year.
In Asia age is venerated, but in America it seems when the elderly are harmed by incompetent healthcare staff little if anything is ever done. The constant refrain is “well, they’re 80 years old and are not going to live forever. They’ve lived their life and probably didn’t have that much time left anyway, so although the poor care they received may have pushed them out the door they already had one foot out the door.” That attitude is something that is too prevalent in our society and is inexcusable and will not change until many more people find it intolerable and demand that states and the federal government do more to ensure that elderly citizens are treated with more respect and greater attention is paid to their care when they become unable to take care of themselves any longer.
The Republican Party seems hellbent on destroying the safety net that tens of millions of Americans have depended on for decades. To the Republicans food stamps, unemployment compensation, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are all evil and need to be drastically cut. What’s sad about all of this is that while we express our anger at the Republican politicians in Congress we forget that they would not be in office unless millions of Americans were voting for them. Since they are aware of the views of the people they are electing, they are just as guilty if not moreso than the politicians.
It’s sadly not only the Republican Party and the voters that support them. Listen to sports talk-radio shows all across America and you will hear caller after caller lambasting their local team for not paying an athlete tens of millions of dollars. In my own hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I heard hundreds of callers call in and say things like this at the same time the City of Philadelphia closed libraries in hundreds of public schools as well as closed a hospital in a poor neighborhood for lack of funding. At the same time they closed the hospital the city and state found hundreds of millions of dollars to give to the billionaire owners of the baseball and football team to build their stadiums. Schools were being closed, some schools had no heat in the winter and had dangerous asbestos problems, but somehow millions of dollars in taxpayers money was used to help very rich men build their sports arenas.
If the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped, then America has thus far failed that test.
Mark Jeffery Koch
Cherry Hill, NJ
Sep 27 2013 - 2:39pm