Jesus made it clear that we must love our brothers and sisters
as he loved us. Any law that hurts children is inconsistent with
this commandment, and a person of conscience who hears a call
in his or her heart to act, must act. In my conscience, the proposed
legislation was clearly unjust and would not only degrade children
and many others, I believed it would result in the deaths of many.
In a society fixated on the more obvious forms of violence, those
in our streets and on our battlefields, the violence inherent
in legislation to balance the budget and "reform" welfare
is not so evident. The truth is there is a far, far greater violence
occurring in our country and in our world, not at all unrelated
to street crime and war, to which this legislation would contribute.
It is a violence that can barely register on the consciousness
of a culture anesthetized by consumption, bottom-line thinking,
and military dominance.
That far greater, but almost silent, systemic violence against
children that I chose to witness to in the Rotunda manifests itself
to me with a profound and painful clarity. In a country whose
rule of law is supposed to protect the right of every citizen
to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," laws
are being passed that create the opposite effect on children,
the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and on so many millions who
live on the margin in this, the wealthiest country of the world.
PAUL WEISS is founder of Children of the Americas in Washington,