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Monday, October 10, 2011

Fighting For The Other 22%

One of my students asked me for a dollar again today.  She does it almost every day so that she can by a bag of chips and a granola bar.   I had one today, so I gave it to her.

100% of my students get free lunch.

33% of the minors in my program are in foster care.

Everybody is poor.

Their parents were poor, too.  So were their grandparents.

One student told me today, "We're waiting for the power to get turned back on."  Another mentioned that the reason he hadn't been coming was because they got the bill for his mom's surgery and the family needed him to work right now.

Several of them are homeless.

I wasn't born yet when LBJ declared his War on Poverty but I know we didn't win it -- the enemy has firm control over large swaths of our territory and is in charge of huge numbers of our people -- but I don't know when we gave up on it.

We did, though.  We still sometimes publish the body counts -- 22% American children lives in poverty and 9% live in extreme poverty -- but I haven't heard anybody mention winning the war on poverty in America recently.  

22% of children live in families that subsist on less than $22,000 per year for a family of 4.  9% of American children starve on less than $11,000 per year for a family of 4.

We sure as hell didn't win it and since we've stopped fighting we're nearly back to where we were before we started.  Just like in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, the War on Terror and the War on Drugs, we've redefined victory and declared an end to the campaign.

Now when we talk about poverty, we split our time between blame and discussing  whether or not we should be providing palliative treatment.  We no longer discuss a cure.

This isn't true elsewhere.  England is still trying.  There was an editorial in the Guardian UK today that took the British Government to task for not having a clear enough strategic plan for ending child poverty in the UK.

In America we don't even have a strategic plan for ending child poverty to rail against for its ineffectiveness.

We don't even talk about it.  Breaking News:  7.5 Million children went hungry in America today.  But in today's LA Times, they fretted about the anti-Mormon elements in the Values Voter Conference (Jonah Goldberg: Morality not Theology), the Anti-Christian attitudes in Egypt ("Egypt's Petty Palm Embargo"), and a piece regarding the Nobel Prize for science ("Why Einstein was Wrong About Being Wrong").

Today in LA we seem to want to talk about religious intolerance, instead.

7.5 Million children who are living in extreme poverty in the land of plenty and The Grey Lady is only slightly less cuphineous.   In her opinion section, we can read about Scott Brown's body ("Naked in Massachusetts" ), why the OWS isn't worth our time (David Brooks' The Milquetoast Radicals), or why our economy is in real trouble ("This Time, It's Really Different") and why our government is unable to fix it ("Chipping Away at Gridlock").

We of the 99% recognize that the national debate is about saving the curtains or the carpet rather than extinguishing the fire that's consuming them.   We are tired of hearing about Casey Anthony, Amanda Knox, Dancing with the Stars, Mormon underwear, and Michael Jackson's Doctor.  We are frustrated and angry and looking for change because we are struggling mightily to try and make it, and we are becoming vocal because we believe that we have the right to do better than we are.

But the 22% aren't showing up.   Their electricity's been turned off.  They don't have any way to get downtown.   They're too hungry to bother and if my students are any indication, they don't hold out much hope for our efforts.

They never had insurance or a pension in the first place and they don't think that they're going to get either now.

So as we band together to keep ourselves from sliding into poverty to join them, as we rail against the excesses of the 1%, as we work to create change that benefits the 99%, I urge us all to fight a little longer and a little harder than we would if it were just ourselves we were fighting for.  There are millions of other Americans who are not yet standing up because they are just too fucking tired and we need to fight for them, too.  

Let's bring back the only War worth fighting in this country.

1 comment:

  1. Good piece. You should send it to the Occupy Wall Street Journal.