Friday, May 9, 2008

Where Are the Grown Ups?

Every so often the pollsters ask Americans if we think the country is on the right or wrong tracks. Lately, the answers seem to be coming in more heavily on the wrong side of things. These answers usually get attributed to the war in Iraq or the economy or our energy policy or something like that. But there may be something even more fundamental than that.

I've been thinking that something has gone seriously wrong in our country since I read a Daily News article yesterday about grandmothers in their 30s (or younger). It's about teen mothers who had teen mothers. You do the math on two generations of 14-year-olds having kids and you get a grandmother at the age of 28.

That's when you know things are on the wrong track.

What made things worse in my mind was the general positive spin the article and the grandmothers themselves put on the situation. There is no positive spin for something like that. None. You can tell yourself that things are going to be okay. Maybe you even need to tell yourself that in order to get through. But it is not okay. It's just not.

Clearly there's a vicious cycle at play here. The kids of teenage mothers are more likely to become teenage mothers. So the problem goes round and round. In the South Bronx, one in five teenagers become pregnant. In the Lower East Side it's one in seven.

Where is the personal responsibility? Where is the sense of self respect? Where is the community who stands up and says this isn't okay? Where are the grown ups?

Maybe that's the problem. When you have 20% of your girls having babies before they can graduate from high school, there just aren't many grown ups around. They may become adults, but they're not grown ups.

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