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Gary Horton: Personal determination and a village

Posted: May 21, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 21, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Katie in India. Katie in India.
Katie in India.

Followers of this column know that five weeks ago my daughter Katie was struck by a motorcycle in India. Katie suffered severe traumatic brain injury; required emergency cranial surgery, was comatose two days, spent six days in the ICU, and subsequently required 16 further days of hospitalization to recover sufficiently well for the 24 hour jet trip back home. Landing at LAX, Katie immediately spent two days at UCLA for a thorough work up, followed by one month of outpatient cognitive and occupational rehab. Five days ago, virtually fully recovered,

Katie flew to Seattle to resume her regularly scheduled life with her husband, Dan. She will return to work within a few additional weeks.

Katie is a tremendous success story involving a dedicated family, a cast of hundreds of concerned care and service providers, and extremely important – her own personal determination to heal and recover. Katie’s transformation from helpless, comatose, critically injured young lady on a dusty street in India - through all the steps of recovery - mimics many of the stages of our own lives. We all begin helpless and dependent; we receive the loving care of family and society; and when we’re sufficiently prepared, we fly on our own wings, under our own power, to determine our ultimate fate.

Conservatives are exactly right that a successful life requires personal character and determination – often as only a solid family structure can provide. Success and happiness generally starts in a loving family environment, with few good alternatives to parental (or parental surrogate) love and support. Success takes a family teaching values encouraging personal character. Government can’t “give” anyone success. Willingness to work, learn, and commit are deeply personal and must be taught by either family or very close institutions.

Progressives are spot on correct however, when they insist, “We’re all in this together,” and “It takes a village to raise a child.” Conservatives go wild at such “socialism,” but that’s the politics of divisiveness clouding the reality of modern living. All the family love and personal determination won’t go far unless levered up with properly designed and supported community infrastructure and services. Society is a vast web of interdependence and we all truly need the care and concern of one another.

Often, those who need society’s care and support are those most helpless, vulnerable, and powerless to help themselves. Katie’s stay in ICU might be symbolic for those times when we were growing up or when we’ve been unexpectedly cast into helpless or vulnerable conditions.

Katie happened to be first rescued by family members. But doctors and nurses, surgeons and caregivers – brought her from death’s door back to life. Pilots, and jet mechanics and air traffic controllers got her back home, safely. Freeways, built by yours and my tax dollars, guided her first to publically funded UCLA and then finally to her family home. Dentists, therapists, teachers, both publically and privately funded her at home, assisted her towards her final recovery.

And yet, Katie also owned her own recovery personally, and took responsibility for her own success and well being as well as she could. She worked out. She ran. She attended rehab and therapy sessions and put in required time for homework. Recovery from brain injuries is hard work, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Katie remained positive and personally committed through the process, as we have to be for our own success and well-being.

Plainly, Katie personally earned a good chunk of her recovery. But even the most remote hope for success was a total non-starter without a giant global and local interwoven village of caring providers and infrastructure acting on her behalf, first.

Katie experience is a microcosm of our own life experiences and we shouldn’t lessen that message by divisive politics. Success in life is complicated. It takes an individual. It takes a family. It takes ethical institutions. It takes a village of everything from firemen to teachers to doctors to janitors to pilots and even to landscapers! There’s no way out of the reality that we’ve all in life together. We lever our own smarts and determination against the best society assets we’ve got at our individual means.

Katie enjoyed some of the best services available in India and in the U.S and levered that with her own determination to wonderful success. Many of us have enjoyed the same benefits in our own lives.

That said, in America’s “village” – how “fair” do we want to be? How much shall we share to those more vulnerable than ourselves? What’s our commitment to build an open and effective “village” for all – including the “different” and powerless among us? How much do we care?

This is an essential question we’re facing that will determine the course of liberty, justice and life potential for generations of Americans to come. Are we committed to equitable life so as to build a better “American Village” for all Americans - or do we really believe we can or should, “go it alone.”

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.



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