Vital questions that really need asking

17 years ago

To the editor:
Much of television, radio, news magazines, newspapers, and conversation are dedicated to trivia, gossip, and senseless partisan arguments that lead nowhere. I do not here advocate that we devote all our time, energy, and thinking to serious and meaningful matters; but certainly more needs to be done to understand, resolve, and act on society’s genuinely pressing problems. Rather than endless TV coverage of celebrity legal cases; demeaning and humiliating “reality” TV shows; haranguing, partisan radio talk shows; seemingly endless soap operas and game shows; end an ever spawning series of Law and Order spin-offs, I would like to see at least a few hours of serious dialog, debate, and careful non-partisan, non-sectarian, and non-class or race consideration of those matters in our society that need remedy, planning, and effort. Following are some of the issues that desperately need careful thought, support, and action if we intend to live our lives peacefully, contentedly, and sensibly.
University professors, lower school teachers, and parents need to discuss the questions posed below and class assignments need to be posed that introduce students to the skills of and the values of posing such questions and seeking answers. Only when such questioning and probing values are introduced will we have adults used to continuing this behavior.
What behavioral, attitudinal, and verbal signs give clues that children are so disturbed that they, like so many tragic others, may go on a violent and tragic rampage of murder, assault, and rape? How can parents, siblings, teachers, and neighbors detect and report such suspicions? Disturbed children and society need to be protected by our understanding more about what triggers such actions. We need to learn how to prevent such trouble rather than dealing with it after the fact.
What can prison authorities, threatened prison inmates, inmate families, as well as state and federal legislative and justice authorities do to prevent the ravages of prison rapes, assaults, drug smuggling, and gang activities? The situation where inmates control much prison activities and wardens and guards seem helpless to control inmate safety and behavior is unacceptable and outrageous. Controlling and managing prison behavior goes a long way in managing recidivism when inmates are finally released.
What can houses of worship, parents, teachers, neighbors, and government agencies do to help reduce teenage pregnancies, abortions, school dropouts, gang behavior, and suicides? These behaviors are not natural or inevitable; they result, in great part, due to a lack of vigilance and causal understanding, apathy, and an unwillingness on the part of many to accept personal responsibility to take some responsibility to help stem the tide of unacceptable youngster behavior. Our young people deserve to have these issues seriously and intensely examined and for solutions to be found and implemented. Our young citizens are our most valuable asset.
How can signs of mental illnesses be detected early on and humanely treated? What can be done to assure that these ill souls are treated tenderly and effectively? What needs to be done to assure that once released from institutional care, these mentally ill people do not become released without appropriate and supervised social, housing, economic, employment care and medical management? The mentally ill cannot ethically nor legally be made castaways available to evil doers ready to prey on them.
What can be done and how do we get people to cooperate to reduce the poisonous level of political partisanship in the U.S.? Partisanship inhibits rational discourse on many topics listed here. Party allegiance is so silly when seen from the outside. Party votes of 211-217 where all votes on each side belong to one part or the other makes our political leaders and the parties look like they cannot act as individuals but rather succumb to a group loyalty. When our leaders feel inescapably captive to such loyalty, we all lose any benefit from honest debate, serious deliberation, and credible legislation. This party pack mentality needs to be terminated or at least greatly reduced.
What measures do individuals, families, schools, employers, health care institutions and providers, insurers, and pharmaceutical firms have to better provide people with ways to self-analyze our health; perform needed preventative medical measures; adequately learn to ask incisive, quality questions to health care professionals; to listen carefully to provider responses; and to learn attitude and behavior measures deemed useful to avoid medical problems. Too few Americans have received and paid attention to sound lifestyle measures that can prevent or reduce medical problems.
These are but a fraction of the questions that we need to pose, debate, pay serious attention to, and act upon individually and collectively. Failure to deal with these matters portends private and societal misery, pain, and failure. As media consumers and as social dialog participants, we must learn to change the content of a significant amount of what transpires if we indeed intend to change our ways to get answers to the pressing questions posed above. Our present lack of adequate venues for useful information and for needed dialog on vital issues is costing us all dearly.

Ken Petress
Presque Isle