write a lot about my childhood in Chicago’s westside neighborhood of Austin. Chances are your old neighborhood has changed a great deal too. But hopefully not as much as mine. A sprawling patch of quiet rural green, it was annexed into the big city in 1899, soon becoming Chicago’s largest ‘little 19th C town in its 20th C.’
All that has changed. Quickly. dramatically. violently. In the last six months alone close to a thousand shootings and scores of deaths. Few any more wish to move in, few if any know any more how to get out. However, there’s more than bursting demographics imploding our large cities. It is bursting populations like mine: Old age with its cursed costs in increased disease, decline, and deaths.
The irony of progress.
The populations we would have swell — HS graduates, responsible citizens, solid families — continue to shrink, while others grow — dropouts, gangs, addicts. There are more elephants than our data can keep up with. But to lay bloody blame on the leaders — here and throughout other elephant graveyards in the industrialized world — is not a plan.
China today would have us consider their national program as one type of plan: The nation’s one-baby-policy. Since announcing it in 1971, Chinese doctors have performed 336 million abortions and 196 million sterilizations. According to the London Financial Times, China’s 1.3 billion population would have by now been 30% larger. A staggering challenge for any nation’s leaders. Perhaps even for the world.
To be sure, abortion is a moral as well as a population issue. It continues to wrack our national soul. In point of fact, the issue was not born in Nazi Germany as many would have it, but among Western economists and industrialists of the early 20th C using rubrics like Eugenics.
When I visit my old neighborhood and scan the streets of poverty, crime and despair, I wonder if China’s nationalized abortion mission makes sense. Or if the mission of the many little storefront churches here make greater sense. Inside there you hear the ancient litany of hope about ‘our better angels.’ About how life is not a tragedy to be controlled and contained, rather a gift to be nourished and perfected.
So far, organized religion has failed in most of its missions. Is the organized state religion of China doing any better? Well, that all depends on how you count your elephants…
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