Doc Rioux At Large

Bridge to 21st Century: What's on the other side?

Richard "Doc" Rioux · January 26, 1997

I'm battered by emotions this night. I feel distressed beyond my ability to make sense of the world.

On my way home from work on Thursday, Jan. 16, my car phone rang. My wife called to tell me that a friend's 4-year-old granddaughter had been killed in an automobile accident in Arizona. Her 13-year-old sister was in a coma. Our friend's daughter-in-law was driving in Arizona with her husband and three daughters when she lost control of the car trying to put the heater on because of the icy cold.

The 4-year-old was thrown from the car and died instantly. The prognosis for the 13-year-old remained indefinite. The father had 100 stitches by was not in critical condition. How can one live with such a catastrophe? The memory will haunt them forever. There is no permanent relief from the torment.

While watching the 11 o'clock news that night, I learned that Bill Cosby's only son, Ennis, had been murdered. There is no escape for anyone from the violence in our society. Bill Cosby had become an authority on and spokesperson for good parenting. Now his son was dead. Ennis wanted to start a school for poor children diagnosed as having learning disabilities. How does one deal with such a tragedy?

Somebody set a bomb off in another abortion clinic. When will the violence end? I'm against abortions, but blowing up buildings is not an appropriate way to reduce the number of abortions in this country. We must stop unwanted pregnancies before conception, not after. Men must assume greater responsibility for contraception in order to prevent unwanted conception. That's the way it should be. That's the way it has to be.

President Clinton gave a decent speech at his inauguration Monday. He called for unity and an end to partisan bickering in order to deal with the country's mission as the world's only "Indispensable nation."

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to reprimand Newt Gingrich for ethics violations. The speaker will have to pay a $300,000 fine to cover the cost of some of the investigation into the 70 charges made against him. I agree with Congressman Buck McKeon. The punishment was far too excessive considering the transgressions of too many congressional and White House Democrats over the last four years. Only one of the charges against the speaker was sustained.

I think most Americans are ready to see peaceful accommodation in Washington, DC. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott is right. The squabbling in the House has to stop. Our representatives need to declare a cease-fire on the partisan warfare that has cast a long shadow over the nation's capitol for too long.

The preservation of the family, race relations, illegal drug use, the education of our children, over-regulation of business, tax reform, national defense, more and larger national parks and wilderness areas, rebuilding roads and bridges, Medicare, terrorism, murder rates in our cities, trade imbalances . . . these are problems that must be faced by our leaders. That's what we elect them and pay them to do.

During the campaign and in his inaugural, the president talked about building a bridge to the 21st Century. In terms of the very basics, what does this mean to you? If we get to the year 2050, what do you think America will look like if we have not yet dealt effectively with the problems listed above?

The illegal use of drugs among too many young, pregnant women has already produced thousands of crack babies with irreversible brain damage. Illiteracy is an epidemic in our inner cities. There are several million adults in America who cannot read or write. Can they be reached?

Over 80 percent of inmates in U.S. prisons are functionally illiterate. Can they be expected to enter the mainstream of society and pay taxes some day if they have no skills to obtain legitimate work once they leave prison?

Unwed teen-agers give birth to more babies in this country than in any other industrialized country of the world. Venereal disease among the young is on the increase. AIDS lurks in the shadows as the killer disease for the promiscuous and ignorant. Safe sex among the unwed, adulterous and young is an obscene myth. The only safe sex is sex between men and women in marriage.

Mr. Clinton is right to focus our attention on the 21st century. But one must wonder what the bridge he wants to build to the next century will actually do. Will it carry an elite over the growing masses of illiterate and violent below? Will anyone want to cross the bridge, given the swamp of unattended problems waiting on the other side?

It's truly the moment in our history for all able Americans, including members of Congress, to reach down deep into themselves and make the sacrifices required to reverse the trends that threaten to bury the dreams of our Founders in the cemetery of lost civilizations.

Create the time. Choose a cause. Get involved. Shut off your television sets. Volunteer your services to make something in your community just a little bit better.

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