You are invited to a Children's Party
Guest columnist Andrew Bryant reflects on Occupy Wall Street and offers an idea that everyone can agree on. Throw a Children's Party that looks out first and foremost for society's children.
Special to The Times
I'M cynical. I'm burned out. Hope is dead. Why don't we throw a Children's Party?
Here is a simple concept: What's best for our kids is best for our country. All of our domestic concerns, from global warming to income inequality to cuts in social services, have common outcomes: American children suffer, get sick and, possibly, die.
Yet children are not a priority. Republicans have hijacked the national debate with a few deceptive talking points, and Democrats refuse to put up a fight. Most of our representatives are beholden to business interests. Meanwhile, many look on, angry and frustrated.
Lacking a coherent platform with a clear and inclusive theme, we float, helpless and adrift in our own soup of opinion. No one in charge — definitely not President Obama — is coming to our rescue.
The Occupy Wall Street movement recently has brought important issues into the national discussion. This is a great start, but your neighbor, your uncle, your plumber won't jump on board an occupation. As energy and media attention dwindle, so may the message — unless we can take the next step and frame our country's problems in a way that the everyday people from Capitol Hill to Seattle can identify with.
I believe that, left or right, average Americans would rally to the cause of children if given the chance. As a father and as a child social worker, I know my fellow citizens value children and want them to be safe and protected. Regardless of political affiliation, most would instinctively act to protect a child they saw in imminent danger — a girl who has fallen from her bike, or a toddler walking into traffic.
The difficulty is that we rarely come face-to-face with the real impact of harmful policies. The task of a Children's Party would be to communicate the plight of the children who are currently invisible in the political system and advocate for them.
We would have three goals: educate, reframe and endorse.
Educate by collecting and disseminating clear measures of child health and well-being, and using them to promote good policies.
Second: Relentlessly reframe the political discussion so leaders could no longer ignore the impact of policies on children. No politician should be able to get through a news conference without a question about a policy's impact on vulnerable children. Our dismal rates of child poverty, infant mortality and teen pregnancy should be topics of every presidential debate.
Third: The party would endorse candidates who prioritize our kids. I'm not proposing a third party to split the Democratic ticket. The Children's Party would be a voice for children within government and would endorse Democrats, Republicans or anyone who is serious about children's well-being.
It may seem trite to bring children into the political discussion — too beside-the-point when terrorists loom and the economy crumbles. But it is no joke, and it is dead serious: The dithering of politicians, beholden to lobbyists, has real consequences — American children suffer and die every day.
How to address the needs of children is, of course, a complex issue. Disagreement is fine. Thomas Pynchon observed, "If they get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." The Children's Party would make sure we start asking the right questions and start looking for real solutions.
Please don't think you have to be a parent to join the Children's Party. You don't even have to like kids! The key is this: By doing what is best for children, we all benefit.
Can we rally behind such a message? I don't know. I told you I was hopeless, remember? But I believe a Children's Party would build on what we all share: a sense of empathy and kindness for children, and a hope for the future.
You are all invited to the party, and I think it will be fun. Date and time to be announced.Andrew Bryant is a father, and a child social worker with a background in public health. Information at thechildrensparty.org