This essay deals with an issue upon which conservatives and liberals have always shared a common thread. The difference are in methods and finance. Liberals want the programs to be professional and run federally; conservatives are in favor of a mixed approach. Read on to see how and why and also to see how the differences carry over into such other special group problems as dealing with the so-called "Native American" issue.
Compassionate Conservatism and Mental Health
or How to be practical with the mentally defective
By Richard R. Tryon
The liberal compassion for the mentally retarded, disturbed or deranged is a thing of beauty that compassionate conservatives share equally. For here is a group of people, for which for most we see little or no chance of cure. Truly there are people for whom no amount of investment can spell a difference. Of course, medical people never give up hope. Someday we may be able to inject stem cells into the human brain that was never fully built and provide what it needs to repair its failings.
Until then, we who are compassionate join in with those who just want to make life easier for those for whom life is so strange, that meaning is often not easy to discern. Of course, only a small portion of those afflicted with mental illness are so far removed from reality as to be unable to grasp anything about their personal situation. Many more are in the category where medication and sometimes psychological treatment can make a positive difference. Funding for support to relieve the burden to family and friends is an objective that can be embraced by all.
As a fact, I do not think that either group can claim having invented the idea of helping the mentally defective. However, some liberals have taken their sense of compassion to the point of making things less than better when they try to ‘main-stream’ those that have no chance of being able to take a place with meaning and dignity. The effort is artificial and not real to anyone.
For this group the greatest danger is that they may become a people managed by bureaucracy in the hands of those who do not have a humane point of view. Given to political pressures and personal aggrandizement, leaders of this type of government service are unfortunately in a position to manipulate the patients and work without close supervision by any public control body that is motivated to scrutinize carefully. Volunteers and family can be shut out of the process that is run by professionals and real danger lurks in such a scenario.
Compassionate conservatives are far more prone to look for ways to promote a partnership between government control and church sponsored programs that bring in volunteers and others in a position to critique without being self serving. The danger of mismanagement is still high because the patients or customers, if you will, have so little impact on the decision process that regulates their positions.
American Indians are not in this group, but they have a strange similarity in many ways. They too are subject to decisions over which they have little control. As a result, and combined with the general trend to the age of civil liberties, we now see hundreds of American Indian tribes being reorganized as part of a vast Native American movement. For some, things will never be right until the lands are returned to the survivors of the white man’s quest and the many forms of Indian culture can be restored.
To the liberal this means providing for separate but equal facilities in schools, colleges and in all walks of life, so that each distinctive culture can be maintained and glorified in a multi-cultured society! The bureaucracy needed to insure that this is happening is mind boggling! The result is more frightening, for it leads to a ‘balkanization’ of America that is even self defeating. How can we become a homogeneous America, if we must be kept apart? I believe that the Compassionate answer is to allow those that want to integrate into the mainstream to do so. Artificially providing funds via a subsidy that is a partial return for providing the vehicle for the many so-called Indian run Casinos, which is a sham for the Mafia, provides a way for some to live on the Reservation in comfortable indolence while most continue to suffer from poverty and worse.
So, what conclusions can a compassionate conservative reach from a study of these conflicting reports?
1. We have no alternative but to care for the mentally retarded, but we do not need to provide for their means of procreating more of the same in the name of their ‘civil rights’.
2. We should strive to make our mental health care system one that incorporates a humane use of volunteer support of people, as well as gifts in kind.
3. We should recognize that special groups that can be easily pigeon holed into convenient minority status should be avoided. Especially when we mix up the body count. Why lump those who are successfully integrated into the main stream of American economic and social life into groups that draw benefits aimed at helping others who only share a common heritage? Why encourage some to come forth for benefit because they have a grandparent, who was part Indian?
Compassionate conservatism must view the impossibility of taking the so-called Native American cultures back to some ill defined previous incarnation. The egg is scrambled and can not be put back into the shell. We can maintain tribal reservations; or we can help as many as wish learn to be accommodated and assimilated, while keeping as many aspects of ancient culture as any want. We can do no more and expect any real societal gain.
The next essays will deal with other minorities and economic problems of the modern age.
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