Sages say there’s no such thing as a coincidence. Everything happens for a reason. Related events point to a deeper meaning, a higher truth and the need to act. Thus, my ‘week that was’ fired an arrow of truth that could change the world.
It started with my working on a strategy to end Kentucky’s out-of-control business tax incentives. Frankfort gives away billions of our precious tax dollars every year to private enterprise. At the same time it slashes or underfunds essential public services. Our most vulnerable citizens and most vital public needs are being left behind in this massive corporate welfare scheme.
Thus, abused and neglected children and their relative foster parents, treatment for addicts and the mentally ill, early childhood education, health care, the judiciary, infrastructure and pensions lose out to the billions showered on corporate welfare.
It’s all about misplaced values. Legislators are fine people, but short-term-itis and political expediency (aided by silver-tongued lobbyists) can turn even the best-intentioned from their prime duty to the greater public interest. Thus, politicians of both parties promote corporate welfare as an economic development ploy. But there is little accountability, and studies show the huge cost to the state outweighs the benefits.
Next up was the Kentucky Bar Association’s annual convention where we reviewed missed opportunities of the opioid crisis. The START program keeps addicts in long-term treatment and has a great success rate. Non-funding hampers medically assisted treatment, which has a 90 percent success rate. A relatively small amount would free drug-enslaved lives, create a safer and happier community and save money in the long term.
Another session reviewed the over-incarceration of prisoners. We jail far too many people pre-trial, before they have been proven guilty of anything. A panel of judges, prosecutors and public defenders all agreed that we should get less risky people out of jail, put addicts in treatment facilities, and provide mental-health treatment for others. This may halve our prison population and cut our costs while creating more justice.
Next up was Lisa Bloom, the civil rights attorney whose representation of sexual-harassment victims fueled the #MeToo movement. Again, a sea change of values awakened us to a higher truth: that the mistreatment of women — whether in Hollywood, the workplace or on the college campus — is totally unacceptable.
This related to one of my pet projects: the protection of child actors in movies full of sex and foul language. This misuse of children could be a form of child neglect, if not abuse, but for the money-fed power of Hollywood and our social desensitization. This devaluation of decency mirrors the rise in child abuse, domestic violence and sexual harassment. In response to my question, Bloom agreed and offered to connect me with similar voices in Los Angeles.
I was then off to get a shoe shine from Mister Young, who always has words of wisdom. Out of the blue he said, “We’ve got to develop moral values in people, especially the kids. Then we won’t have need for guns. There will be less feeling of the need to carry a gun, less feeling of a need to retaliate. Moral laws are the word of God, and come down to love. This means ‘help my neighbor.’ And when I help my neighbor, my neighbor helps me, it’s a circle. This will give others less reason to hurt me, and more reasons to help.”
He nailed it. All week long, the arrow of truth was tying together event after event, to drive its point home: Values are the key to everything. And in the absence of values, calamity follows. As shown by the last event: kids in cages.
While President Donald Trump finally retreated from his directive to separate immigrant families, that this inhumane policy ever saw the light of day is a tragic sign of how far we have strayed from our nation’s foundational values. These are, dare I say, the values of Jesus, which are, coincidentally, the same values as secular universal morality.
When we do exercise moral values, we will never cage kids, we will treat people equally, affording due process to all. We will never deny health care to anybody, anytime. We will love our neighbor as ourselves. We will be positive, uplifting and encouraging. And we’ll forgive with mercy and compassion penitents who miss the arrow’s mark.
And this will truly make America great again. And not only America, but the world.
Richard Dawahare is a Lexington attorney. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org