Friday, October 03, 2008

A Nation in Miniature Part 2

Grandpa and grandkids. Soon there will be a new one to hug.

In a recent post called "A Nation in Miniature" I shared the following quote from the Baha'i Writings:

"Today the human world is in need of a great power by which these glorious principles and purposes may be executed. The cause of peace is a very great cause; it is the cause of God, and all the forces of the world are opposed to it. Governments for instance, consider militarism as the step to human progress, that division among men and nations is the cause of patriotism and honor, that if one nation attack and conquer another, gaining wealth, territory and glory thereby, this warfare and conquest, this bloodshed and cruelty are the cause of that victorious nation's advancement and prosperity. This is an utter mistake. Compare the nations of the world to the members of a family. A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations and you have all humanity. The conditions surrounding the family surround the nation. The happenings in the family are the happenings in the life of the nation. Would it add to the progress and advancement of a family if dissensions should arise among its members, fighting, pillaging each other, jealous and revengeful of injury, seeking selfish advantage? Nay, this would be the cause of the effacement of progress and advancement. So it is in the great family of nations, for nations are but an aggregate of families. Therefore as strife and dissension destroy a family and prevent its progress, so nations are destroyed and advancement hindered."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 100)

You may be aware of the recent stories about a father in Nebraska who attempted to "abandon" nine of his ten children under a law intended to prevent "dumpster babies". Here is the latest on this and similar incidents in the New York Times:

"OMAHA — The abandonments began on Sept. 1, when a mother left her 14-year-old son in a police station here.

Jim Jenkins of Lincoln, Neb., who described his son as “out of control,” said he did not know where to turn for help.

Todd A. Landry, director of children and family services, said parents and guardians could not avoid their responsibilities.

By Sept. 23, two more boys and one girl, ages 11 to 14, had been abandoned in hospitals in Omaha and Lincoln. Then a 15-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl were left.

The biggest shock to public officials came last week, when a single father walked into an Omaha hospital and surrendered nine of his 10 children, ages 1 to 17, saying that his wife had died and he could no longer cope with the burden of raising them.

In total last month, 15 older children in Nebraska were dropped off by a beleaguered parent or custodial aunt or grandmother who said the children were unmanageable.

Officials have called the abandonments a misuse of a new law that was mainly intended to prevent so-called Dumpster babies — the abandonment of newborns by young, terrified mothers — but instead has been used to hand off out-of-control teenagers or, in the case of the father of 10, to escape financial and personal despair.

The spate of abandonments has prompted an outcry about parental irresponsibility and pledges to change the state law, which allows care givers to drop off children without fear of prosecution. But it has also cast a spotlight on the hidden extent of family turmoil in the country and what many experts say is a shortage of respite care, counseling and especially psychiatric services to help parents in dire need.

Some who work with troubled children add that economic conditions, like stagnant low-end wages and the epidemic of foreclosures, may make the situation worse, adding layers of worry and conflict." (Read the whole thing here)

I'm reminded of comments made in a letter from the Universal House of Justice:

"In the current state of society, children face a cruel fate. Millions and millions in country after country are dislocated socially. Children find themselves alienated by parents and other adults whether they live in conditions of wealth or poverty. This alienation has its roots in a selfishness that is born of materialism that is at the core of the godlessness seizing the hearts of people everywhere. The social dislocation of children in our time is a sure mark of a society in decline; this condition is not, however, confined to any race, class, nation or economic condition -- it cuts across them all...Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children. They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity."
(The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 157, 2000, p. 8)

If "the conditions surrounding the family surround the nation" the challenges facing families in Nebraska and throughout the nation in these trying times, are surely a sign that the future of America is in serious peril. It is in the interest of all Americans to contribute to the well-being of children and the adults tasked with caring for them. Such efforts must be freed from the constraints of ideologically driven debates and partisan politics and animated by our recognition of the oneness of humanity:

"The Blessed Beauty [Baha'u'llah] saith: 'Ye are all the fruits of one tree, the leaves of one branch.' Thus hath He likened this world of being to a single tree, and all its peoples to the leaves thereof, and the blossoms and fruits. It is needful for the bough to blossom, and leaf and fruit to flourish, and upon the interconnection of all parts of the world-tree, dependeth the flourishing of leaf and blossom, and the sweetness of the fruit.

For this reason must all human beings powerfully sustain one another and seek for everlasting life; and for this reason must the lovers of God in this contingent world become the mercies and the blessings sent forth by that clement King of the seen and unseen realms. Let them purify their sight and behold all humankind as leaves and blossoms and fruits of the tree of being. Let them at all times concern themselves with doing a kindly thing for one of their fellows, offering to someone love, consideration, thoughtful help. Let them see no one as their enemy, or as wishing them ill, but think of all humankind as their friends; regarding the alien as an intimate, the stranger as a companion, staying free of prejudice, drawing no lines."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 1)