Ashamed to Shame

Today I read an article that brought potential Republican Presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, under fire for an excerpt from a book he wrote 20 years ago. The excerpt was discussing the use of public shaming to decrease the number of children born out of wedlock, repeat offenders, and those on public assistance programs. Feel free to read the article here:

There are several things I see wrong with this article.

First of all, quoting a small excerpt from a book written in 1995. This assumes that Mr. Bush’s stance on these major issues hasn’t shifted at all in the last 2 decades. Come on, yeah right. And shame on the Huffington Post for finding fault with the candidate by using such old material. If you want to attempt to sway the public vote, find something recent. If you can show me that he still feels this way, and then you want to reference the old book to prove he has always felt this way…that’s fine. But don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes using material 2 decades old. That’s misleading and I don’t like it.

Second, I hate Mr. Bush’s choice of words. Though I think I understand Jeb’s point, what a horrible way to put it into words. From reading the excerpt I think what he is trying to say is that, as of 1995, an influx of individuals were having children out of wedlock, and he thought the trend needed to stop. His idea for causing this trend to stop was by increasing the negative stigma attached to those effected. This is where our agreement stops…..I do agree that the trend should be reversed, but there is a better way to do so.

Since the book was published that is referenced in the article, births to unmarried women has continued to rise significantly. In fact, in 2007 the percentage of children born to unwed mothers was 40%, which more than doubled from 1980 (CDC, 2009). Why is this true and what can we do to stop it? Or is it even a problem?

The first thing that must be analyzed is why do women have children out of wedlock? Some are by choice, convenience, or accident. But some are by forced sex and rape. Some pregnancies begin as an accident but then a man makes empty promises to marry the woman and start a family if she has the child. As humans, we can’t help but judge others…it’s in our nature. But do we really take the time to think of all these scenarios in that instance?

Think of the Christian woman who knows the value of a human life. And even though she did not intend or plan to give birth, God has granted her the gift of fertility and she knows she should not abort. Think of the child who is raped but who wants to have the baby to give up for adoption and a better life elsewhere. Think of the woman who had a lapse in judgement and neglected to use protection. That could be any of us. Any one of us could be part of this statistic. You, me, your mother, sister, and friend. We just happen to have been lucky enough to forego the consequences of our actions or circumstances.

Children are largely a product of their environment. Children learn from what they are see around them. This is the case particularly if no one else takes the time to educate children any differently. Children who are born to unwed mothers are more likely to become unwed mothers themselves, unless someone intervenes. Interventions must provide real education, not just textbooks and powerpoints and lectures. In order to truly get through to them, someone has to care, and the woman has to know that. How is this love shown? Through empathy and education. Through taking your knowledge and experience and lovingly sharing it with someone else. Instead of pointing the finger, come alongside these mothers and help them develop self-help skills and reasoning skills to prevent another repeat of their current situation. Bashing someone never produces positive results. Love wins out every time.

Kicking someone while they are down is never the answer. Ever. And besides, public shaming is not going to work anyway. The reason why? The punishment is not connected to the act.

You see, in order to truly reverse behavior, one must feel the full effects of their actions. The true consequences for their decision. My Mama says, “for every action, there’s a reaction.” Oh how true.

On one level, Mr. Bush is right. Funneling these unwed mothers and their children into the system is not the answer. It’s not going to stop or deter anything. Because the consequences are not felt.

You see, for me…I know the effect having a child would have on my life. Because although I am broke, I’m not poor enough to receive assistance. So I would struggle daily to provide for the child. I would be forced to sacrifice my time and money to raise my child. I would not receive food stamps or free child care. And I can promise you, if I did have one….I would make SURE I didn’t have another.
These mothers know what causes children. And though there are some that abuse the system and have children just for the sake of a check, I don’t believe there are many that do that. I truly believe that many parents continue to have more children because they do not feel the effects of their actions. They have little consequences because taxpayer dollars come to their aid.

This issue isn’t just about children born out of wedlock. The same premise could be argued for repeat offenders and those who receive welfare as well. If people don’t feel the full effect of their actions, they are likely to continue to repeat them. And if people don’t have to knowledge or tools to do better, they won’t. There are many people who resent being a statistic and relying on assistance. There are many who are ashamed and embarrassed. I know that’s not all…some brag about and look forward to the assistance. But that’s not all. Using the word ALL and placing every person into a group isn’t a proper representation of the facts.

Maybe we should focus time and efforts in providing these individuals with some tough-love. Maybe we should give them some education surrounding the effects their decision not only has on their life, but the lives of their children as well. Because some don’t mind screwing up their own life, but few want to see their children at a disadvantage. Maybe we should show some love to these people. Embrace them. Be a positive influence. Maybe then they will be more likely to listen to us and appreciate our views.

Just let love win and see what happens.



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