What has happened to our values?

When sitting at my desk to write this commentary I am bombarded with questions of which I find myself lacking in answers. Too many issues can sometimes take up residence in my subconscience and no amount of trying to shake them loose can help. For instance, have you noticed how we have gotten away from the simple American values on which this country was founded?

Have we become so accustomed to seeing lines outside the soup kitchens, and children living in one-parent households that we just drive by without a thought? Have you noticed the number of unwed parents of newborns listed in the paper lately? And then I read where “The traditional family – one breadwinner and one homemaker – has been replaced by the “juggler family.”

Now I don’t know about you, but I am not familiar with what a juggler family is. And just who is responsible for this happening anyway? Is it up to the teachers in our schools, employers or the government to teach us right from wrong and to care for us from cradle-to-grave? Has personal responsibility for one’s self and respect for others been thrown aside for an easier “if it feels good – do it” lifestyle? Are values placed on morality the way they are on which movie to go see or what song to download on our iPods?

This country was founded on strong family values, hard work and free enterprise. While President Obama has said that he is committed to families and family values, he has also said that he wants to provide incentives for the small business owners. He has promised to work with states to provide paid family leave, paid sick days and has given his support to the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. But these things will cost the small business owner money and may even reduce the number of workers. Someone needs to tell the President that he can’t have it both ways.

When a woman becomes pregnant, is it reasonable to expect her employer to pay her while she is not at work either giving birth or tending to a sick child? If the employer pays for these benefits – they are not rights – won’t the cost of doing business go up?

Won’t the cost to the consumer for the product or service be increased? Should the government subsidize the woman’s income because she now has a child or children, and is unmarried? I agree there needs to be a balance of compassion and compensation, but it is not the employer’s responsibility to pay for work that is not being done by the recipient of that pay, and it is not the government’s responsibility to subsidize her for her choices. Therein lies the rub.

Balancing employer incentives with the desire to care for the single parent or juggler family creates conflicts. Just like it is not the teacher’s responsibility to teach respect, manners, please and thank-you, it is not the employer’s responsibility to compromise their profit because an individual believes that it is “their right” to be paid for time away from work; that’s what benefit packages are for and why they are written into contracts and labor agreements.

We are fast losing our work ethic and moral compass that our grandparents, parents and many of us grew up with. It’s not the ’50s, and the “Leave it to Beaver” family no longer exists, but maybe the values it portrayed should. Parents need to step up to the plate and be positive role models for their children – while it might take a village, it needs to start at home.

In the “Leave it to Beaver” world we didn’t see young people with pink or rainbow-colored hair, or men and boys walking with their pants exposing their derrieres. There weren’t tattoos up and down the arms, thighs and necks of our young parents, and we certainly didn’t hear the “F” bomb thrown into every conversation.

We saw parenting taking place at home, and with teachers being supported for demanding discipline in the classroom. Today the parent has abdicated their responsibility for teaching manners and respect to others; this is just wrong.

Working used to mean being proud of earning a paycheck; today it is the last resort for some. We continue to see manufacturers and businesses close their doors. The cost of doing business, not just here in New York but throughout the country, is becoming more and more difficult. If you are working and making an honest wage in today’s world, you should be happy. Jobs are not as plentiful as they may have been at one time, but there are jobs if one wants to work. It is time for all Americans to take responsibility for themselves, their children and their decisions and actions, it is not always the teacher’s, employer’s or government’s job. Americans need to return to the basics of doing the right thing.

No, it isn’t a “Leave it to Beaver” world. It’s no longer the ’50s, but we are still Americans. If we don’t stand up soon and teach our young people about right and wrong, responsibility and respect, our little corner of the world will become a third world country being overrun by the human beings who prefer to lurk in the shadows and treat us to the savagery as depicted in the book by William Golding, “Lord of the Flies.”

If we don’t get a grip on who we are and what our nation is becoming we will become victims of the most evil of humankind. If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it, and America’s future is dependent on the simple value of goodness, hard work, respect and personal responsibility. We can’t continue to ease goodness and right out of our lives.

I suppose I must not try to find all of the answers and just remember all things are possible if In God we Trust.

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com