Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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Marc Polonsky lives in Camp Meeker, California, and cohosts a radio show on KOWS in Occidental called Commanders of the Airwaves.
Anytime we see an adult who is homeless, we can think about the child they once were and what might have happened to them. Anytime we see somebody who is pushing a shopping cart and talking to themselves or apparently drunk on the sidewalk, we know they didn’t start out that way. They were once every bit as adorable as any other child; there was every bit as much hope in their eyes, every bit as much beauty in them as in our own children. Something happened to them, probably something awful, probably more than once, that broke them and brought them to their sorry state. They were once children who didn’t get a fair break. So let’s honor who they were. Let’s at least give them a fair break now.
The ultimate consequence of my time in the Seed was an overwhelming self-disgust that lingered for years. Everything seemed a mockery of itself. I fundamentally doubted the authenticity of any conviction — my own or someone else’s. I had acquiesced and adopted the Seed’s judgment for a time, and I could not easily disown it.
The research is very clear: In the vast majority of cases, keeping children within the family and community is far more effective than sending them away. The exception would be a teen with a genuine acute addiction or psychiatric problem — which is not the same as a “behavior problem.” For psychiatric disorders and true addictions, there are professional, licensed treatment centers. Are they accessible to everybody? No. They are expensive, and insurance often won’t cover them. But the same is true of tough-love programs, and if you’re going to spend thousands of dollars on treatment for your child, I recommend you spend it on a program that has demonstrable evidence of its effectiveness, as opposed to one that probably won’t help and may harm.
Progressives need to help people imagine more ambitiously what we can do together. American liberals today are stuck defending government programs that are, in some cases, more than half a century old. We need to reinvent progressive politics by reinventing a strategic role for government that unites Americans and transcends interest-group politics.
This month marks The Sun’s twenty-fifth anniversary. As the deadline for the January issue approached — and passed — we were still debating how to commemorate the occasion in print. We didn’t want to waste space on self-congratulation, but we also didn’t think we should let the moment pass unnoticed. At the eleventh hour, we came up with an idea: we would invite longtime contributors and current and former staff members to send us their thoughts, recollections, and anecdotes about The Sun. Maybe we would get enough to fill a few pages.
What we got was enough to fill the entire magazine.
Though we haven’t devoted the whole issue to the anniversary, we have allowed the section to grow beyond our original plans. After seeing the pieces, we felt that our readers would enjoy them as much as we did — for the information about the magazine’s history, for the glimpses into the writers’ lives, and (not least) for the quality of the writing.
Toward the end of the Great Peace March For Global Nuclear Disarmament, we all anticipated that we would finally be getting plenty of national media attention. It was what most of us wanted all along, but in fact there is something surreal about being a media item. No matter how sympathetic or even accurate the stories about us were, I always felt, “That’s not us.”
There must be many creative things one can do or statements one can make with a million signatures, but the most important moment in the life of a signature may be just when it is signed and the most important effect, however infinitesimal, may be on the signer. Today some people signed their names to a petition calling for nothing less than global nuclear disarmament, and joined their names with hundreds of thousands of others. Even if they turn right around and “forget” about it, does that render it an insignificant act? I don’t know, but I doubt it.