Treatment of widows and children
Sometimes we lose track of how humane our culture is when contrasted with much of the rest of the world. It is always a disaster, emotionally, when a father and husband dies--particularly if the family is young. In the United States, however, we have several safety nets in place that at least alleviate the suffering of the family on a financial basis. Between Social Security, Workers Compensation, life insurance, welfare and the potential of wrongful death recoveries, many families are at least maintained at poverty level. A few are even able to maintain their pre-existing standard of living.
This is not the case for widows and children in much of the world. Although it is exceedingly rare for a widow to throw herself on her husband's funeral pyre, as happened just five years ago in India, it is still true that the plight of many widows and children is desparate after the death of a husband and father. In rural Nepal and India, widows are still expected to shave their heads, sleep on the floor and avoid being seen by men for the rest of their lives: what a shameful waste. Self-immolation wouldn't seem so desparate when compared with a lifetime that bereft of normality.
In Afghanistan, where nearly two million women have lost husbands in decades of civil war, widows have no means of supporting themeselves or their children. In Tanzania, they may well be denied the opportunity to inherit their husband's property. It is estimated by the United Nations that there are 30 million widows in India struggling to provide for themselves and their children, under various legal and cultural limitations and degradations. Some estimate that 100 women worldwide face similar hostility and indignities.
While we work to better the condition of widows and children worldwide, we must also celebrate and preserve what we have created in this country. We must be vigilant to protect this modest safety net we have created from the pressures of industry and commerce which would--left unchecked--relegate the protection of workers and their families to churchs and non-governmental charities and other "thousands of points of light".