Independence and Women

from the ICF Adoption Update Newsletter July 2, 2011
I hope that everyone has a fun-filled, relaxing and patriotic weekend.  It’s nice to have a time to celebrate our history.  The US has been a beacon of hope and freedom for people since the beginning, but not without cost.  It’s a moment to be thankful for the courage and resilence of early Americans, for their defence of the principles that formed this nation.  And, to thank the warriors who continue to defend and protect us, and their families, for the risks and hardships they endure.
Our mainly suburban lifestyle cushions us from so many hardships.  People starving in other countries, people dying fighting for freedom.  Women remain chattel in countries across the globe, with no rights, no protection, no choices.  Living in Arizona I am all too aware of the immigration crisis, but I also deeply admire the persistence and danger that most immigrants face.  “Give me your tired, your poor” does not really apply today.  It’s “give me your educated and your wealthy and keep your poor.”
This is what Emma Lazarus wrote and remains emblazoned on a plaque inside the Statue of Liberty since 1903: The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These sentiments derived from the our Declaration of Independence, which has defined us since its publication:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Here we are, today, still a beacon, still champions of democracy.  We are a flawed and complex nation, politically turbulent, unclear much of the time as to what constitutes the greatest good, but steadfast in our belief in liberty, religious tolerance and separation of church and state.
My grandson, age 12, told me he was glad Obama is president.  This came as part of a conversation where he told me what he knew about Sept 11 and noted that his dad thought the President was doing a lousy job.  I asked him why he was glad.  He thought it was an important moment in history, whether a person liked Obama or not, and he was glad to be part of it.
I think it made him proud, in some measure.  His very-young generation bring a new set of eyes to this country.  There is a feeling of hope that Obama seems to bring to their world, politics aside.  I remember feeling the same way, and the mood of the younger people in the country when John F Kennedy was elected.  Hope.  Breaking down of barriers.  Inclusion.
Back to Emma’s poem.  The problems in the world are many, but the one that is looming is crowding.  The reason we are not welcoming the tired and poor is because the US is crowded already.  We fret a bit about population stability, how we will grow the economy, how we will support Social Security… but aren’t we applying wrong headed thinking to a world teetering on environmental collapse?  Isn’t the question really… how can we convince the entire world to only have children you can care for, feed and educate?  Where is the moral compass that can govern population growth?  Where is this conversation?  It seems to be political taboo to bring it up, to say… we cannot save our planet simply with windpower… we must address the current and exponentially growing population crisis.
People who flee their countries do so for many reasons, foremost among them is an inability to feed their families.  They risk life and limb to get here, for low-paying jobs, to send most of the money back to their families.  This is not the American dream to a US teenager; it is a nightmare.  But to the tired and poor it is the door to a future with the possibility of survival, and that is heaven.
It is not an accident that countries people are fleeing from have this in common — there is little birth control, no rights for women or no protection of their rights, and high infant mortality.  Which brings us to the well established and one might even say, self-evident truth, that the way to save the world is to educate and empower women and give them control of family planning.
Let’s celebrate Independence Day for the US as the model for people in many countries, a model that shows no country is stronger or more successful than its women.  They are, the young women of this generation are, the hope for the future of the planet.  They don’t know it, perhaps, but they are.  I would recommend highly the books by Greg Mortenson, Stones into Schools and Three Cups of Tea.  There is the future.  There is the path to independence.
The US will never be free of fear of terrorism until the rights of women prevail.
What we focus on expands.