The people's voice of reason

A Biblical Look at Elder Abuse

When the Lord selected Moses to lead his people He set down some rules. The first four dealt with ecclesiastical matters about who was the leader of the team, and the rules related thereto.

He then got down to laying down temporal rules, and the first of which concerned honoring fathers and mothers. In Exodus 20:12, He told Moses that he and his followers should honor their fathers and their mothers; respect one’s elders. In short: When you’re young do what they say; when you’re older, take good care of them; and, perhaps, they may take care of you—some day.

But over the years man has gone somewhat astray with regard to the respect he renders to his elders; in fact in many cases he has downright made a mess of it.

As a result, we now have legislation languishing about in Congress pertaining to elder abuse: a measure designed to attend to our lapses in honoring our fathers and mothers.

We find that abuse of the elderly is happening all over the country, and the National Center on Elder Abuse is doing its best to keep tabs on them. But it’s not easy since there exists a blur between what qualifies as elder abuse and what does not, claims the center. Furthermore, the situation is worsened by the fact that each state has its own set of rules as it relates to this matter. We can give thanks that Alabama has some good, strong ones.

We Alabamians can take justified pride in the fact that our Legislature has seen fit to endow us with two pieces of legislation pertaining to elder abuse and outlining some stiff penalties for abusers. Not only that, but our Governor saw fit to create a Council for the Prevention of Elder Abuse; a body that meets regularly and most recently produced an Elder Abuse Tool Kit that is being placed in the hands of seniors in order that they might better be able to recognize abuses—and abusers—and that they may know precisely how to respond to them. If you don’t have one, ask your ASHL representative about it, or contact your local Aging Consortium and ask them for one.

A sad commentary on all this, say the folks at the National Center, is that most seniors are being abused by their own adult children through neglect, abandonment, physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault and exploitation. Now that's shameful.

In 1996, the National Elder Abuse Incidence Study showed that more than 500,000 Americans over the age of 60 were the victims of abuse that year. That's the equivalent of about the entire population of Montgomery and Madison counties combined. On top of that, 84 percent of the cases went unreported and only 16 percent of those who were abused had lodged an official complaint.

To add to the grim reality of this picture is a report from the Senate Special Committee on Aging that tells us that nearly 5 million seniors suffer from elder abuse each year. Elder abuse is a problem that is being addressed by the Federal Older Americans Act, which allots money to the various States in order that they might provide the necessary services that relate to abuse of the elderly.

Apparently there are some federal dollars (that's taxpayer dollars) laying about in Washington, but all this political posturing is getting in the way of this much needed funding getting where it can do the most good. Let's hope that our elected representatives get back to doing what it is they promised us they would do when they wanted our votes.

It might be well for our elected representatives to reconsider the message in Galatians 3:26 in relation to the old folk. Are not all Americans on the same team?

What's ahead?

After viewing the results of last month's elections, a quote from Thomas Jefferson comes to mind: “I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

While these comments are most assuredly as appropriate now as they were more than two centuries ago; we should take caution from the words of the Greek philosopher Plato, who observed: The heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself.” This message should take a prominent place in the minds of the electorate when the next general election takes place. Caveat emptor.

Leaping ahead a few centuries for words of wisdom, take President Gerald Ford's admonition that “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” The last six years or so have certainly born out the truth of that bit of wisdom.

And if there was ever a summarization of the present situation in Washington it was surely uttered some time in the recent past by Carl Sagan, who posited that: “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

Are we, we must ask ourselves, not on the precipice of that warning today?

Americans have complacently sat back and let government have its way. Now is the correct season to compare what has been happening to American by comparing it with the prospect of a major league football team kicking off at the start of the game, then complacently wandering over to the bench to see what will happen.

And to wrap it all up we return to observations made by two more of the founding fathers. “The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest,” said Thomas Jefferson. Add to this the warning of his fellow Founding Father, John Adams, “A constitution of government once changed from freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”

And there we have it. America has enjoyed what many hope will be a fruitful election, but we still have ahead of us two more years with the same captain at the helm.

This will more than likely be a contentious two years, since our current President has given no evidence that he will steer this country in the right direction.

America is teetering on the brink of a Depression that will far exceed that in which most of us old folk began our lives. All of which brings to mind another oft-mentionee memorable quote from 19th Century Spanish poet, essayist, and novelist George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We old timers remember well the past, we'll never forget it. We wouldn't care to repeat it; but a solution, to our peril, may be beyond our grasp.

“Top Whatever”

More than six decades ago, “Restricted” was a serious security classification, and “Secret” was something a government worker didn't even want to think about infringing upon. “Top Secret,” back then, was so far removed from one's daily activities that it was seldom ever mentioned.

But, in circles where the security classification did have some meaning, ignoring the importance of it had serious consequences.

Folks employed by the government, even in the most benign of security environments, actually disappeared overnight for even the most innocent of security classification transgressions.

The recent situation involving Mrs. Clinton causes one to wonder if there's even any point in classifying information as “Secret,” “Top Secret,” or any one of the more serious levels of classifications that involved information that relate to the safety and wellbeing of our nation.

Granted, even then, loose handling of classified information was seriously frowned upon. After all, the reasoning went, one was playing fast and loose with information that had an impact on the security of our country.

Granted, as the years passed, there was a tendency to over classify. Documents bearing a “Secret,” or “Top Secret” label seemed to give a document even greater status, but over time, this indifference to the importance of the security label, began to erode its significance.

The security aspect of what went on in Mrs. Clinton's case is one thing, what it has done to erode the manner by which we handle the security of our nation, is quite another.

Why not just eliminate security classification all together? Mrs. Clinton has proven to the world that it really doesn't mean anything any more.

What else of national importance is she indifferent to?

We may soon learn.


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