Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Isolation: What do we do?

In every community people are isolated. What is isolation, and what can we do about it?

Suburban isolation
I am not a great fan of suburbia even though I live in a suburban neighborhood. I believe that the way many suburban communities have been built leads to isolation--often these communities include tracks of similar-looking houses that are distanced from shops, libraries, town services, schools, and more. The fact that most people need a car to get around or do their chores, I believe, creates isolation. Also because many Americans are working a lot, there's often not a lot of activity in suburban neighborhoods daily. That prevents people from knowing each other, working together, and supporting one another.

In the best of circumstances, I think society has to begin to think about their landscape--what kinds of housing, neighborhoods, and architecture lift us up, bring us together, and lead us to the best possible living. Dull strip malls, little green space, no sidewalks, few bike trails, less public transportation, and inaccessible services all contribute to isolation.

Urban isolation
In some urban areas, the need for safety creates isolation. I've heard about families who don't let their children play outside because they fear for their safety due to gun violence, gangs, poor transportation patterns, and pollution. Poor public transportation also creates isolation in urban areas because people can't access the places and services they need. I grew up in a relatively small city. At that time, the public transportation was terrific, safety wonderful, and services accessible. There was a strong community at that time. Since then, however, like most urban areas, the services are not as strong, safe, or accessible.

Service isolation
It appears that needed services are not as accessible these days. For those without transportation, good health, and knowledge, services are hard to access. I fear this is a way, for some, to reduce the costs of those services because if people don't know about them and can't access the services, they won't use them thus reducing costs.

The trickle down affect of social problems
Social problems sadly have a trickle down effect. For example if parents suffer from great poverty, domestic violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, and/or psychological problems, it's likely that their problems will impact their children. Supports and education for social problems never receive enough funding and support necessary to help out, and that's why so many children suffer from the poor parenting and the lack of support these problems create. Children who have experienced poor parenting often have a difficult time parenting their own children continuing a cycle of struggle. We can definitely do better in this regard in the following ways:
  • Recognize the social problems that challenge good parenting and good lives for children. 
  • Educate the population deeply about the struggle these social problems create.
  • Provide great help to families that face these devastating social problems with the knowledge that good education and help will slow down and possibly stop this devastating cycle. 
  • Rid society of the factors that greatly promote destructive behavior in realistic and researched-based ways. For example, many Republicans demeaned video games recently related to gun violence, yet research does not support that claim. Whereas research does support the need to reduce, regulate, and restrict the number and kinds of guns on the street as one way to greatly reduce gun violence. 
  • Provide positive supports for families including bike trails, clean and attractive natural spaces, top-notch schools, state-of-the-art recreation facilities, sidewalks, accessible nutrition-filled farmer's markets/grocery stores, libraries, and more.
Nurture children
We can take much better care of our children in the United States. Children are often the last consideration for policy makers and leaders.  I can't stop thinking about the five year old in El Paso whose mother and father were gun downed because of their cultural background and the hate and prejudice of a young killer and our many racist, hateful leaders in the United States including the President of the United States whose words have promoted hate and violence repeatedly. When children today hear the President's name, there are two possible reactions--sighs and sadness or expressive hateful rhetoric similar to the President's tweets. This clearly demonstrates a President who does not demonstrate any concern for the welfare of children, a President who puts young children in harm's ways with his hateful, bigoted rhetoric.

We all know what children need. It's not that complicated, but because the country has worked against children's rights and needs for so long, we have a lot of work to do. If the country really cares about children and its future, the country will do forward the following:
  • Structurally and environmentally safe schools
  • Wonderful playgrounds
  • Healthy, nutritious lunches and snacks for all students at school
  • Access to healthy, affordable food for all families 
  • Welcoming, safe, and clean homes for all children
  • Safe neighborhoods
  • Clean, accessible transportation
  • Accessible, safe, healthy recreation
  • Laws that support realistic, safe, and positive work schedules, salaries, and conditions
  • Affordable, accessible health care for all
  • A society free of prejudice and hate
  • The ability for children and their families to live as they choose as long as their lives represent respect for the law and people in the community
  • Leadership that sets an example of good living, respect, and care for one another
Young people need positive endeavor, models, and direction
I read that the El Paso killer had been out of work for five months. We all know that old phrase, "Idle hands do the devil's work." While I'm a big fan of down time and time to think, I do believe that when young people are isolated too much and not engaged in positive activity, there is a great potential for those young people to embrace negative behaviors and affiliations. I always say that one of the greatest teachers for young people is to work. Working teaches children so many skills and provides them with perspectives they would never be exposed to. Particularly jobs such as being a waiter, waitress, shop clerk, maintenance worker, lifeguard, camp counselor, and any other service work that demands hard work and meeting all kinds of people are positive because those jobs expose people to what it means to serve others, and those jobs typically build a sense of empathy and respect in young people for the many workers out there that do those jobs day in and day out. 

When I saw the picture of the boys wearing McConnell campaign shirts clutching the neck of a cardboard cut-out of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I was horrified. I know that young people do stupid things, and when that happens we have to teach them better with consequences and better education. If the hate and ridicule they displayed (hate and ridiculed fostered by Trump and McConnell words, actions, and passivity in the face of racism, hate, and violence) are not countered, those young men will continue to develop in ways that look down on people and potentially ways that hurt people too. Did they think that was funny because they were supporting their President's ignorant, bigoted, hateful speak? Did they think that was funny because she's a woman and they have no respect for women? Did they think that was funny because they have no regard for government leaders or the policies they foster, policies that can truly uplift lives? I'm not sure, but their action was hateful, and when we promote hate, we tear at the promise and potential this country holds for positivity, unity, and strength.
It is not natural for people to kill other people. To a large degree, the senseless, avoidable deaths we see via domestic violence, human trafficking, mass shootings, suicide, accidents, and avoidable illnesses are due to our lack of attention to the many factors that isolate people--factors that create greater hate, neglect, frustration, and anger. As a society, we have not thought or acted deeply enough with regard to our potential to lift lives everywhere, instead we're stuck at the surface level of band-aid responses that do little to truly make a difference for lives today and our country in the future.

I do think it might be in our country's best interest to institute more opportunities for young people to do service work of some kind at ages 16-18. This might be a step in the right direction. We also have to elevate the supports for our lost, wayward, and ignorant young people--people who need affiliation, direction, and greater education in order to do better and live good lives for themselves and others. 

We can do better. We know what we need to do. What stands in our way is ignorance, greed, and an unwillingness to work together for better in ways that truly make a difference. Everywhere I look I see opportunities for betterment; everywhere I look I see ways that we can uplift lives for children, families, and the community. We have to do our homework and then elect the best possible leaders, leaders who will bring the country forward, not leaders who support racist, hateful, greedy acts and agendas--this is the time.