The season of hope, good will and charity is upon us once more. What better time to ask ourselves the important question about what we owe to our fellow travelers in this great human adventure? Our society remains deeply, perhaps hopelessly, divided on the issue.
Back in May 2014, in a quote worthy of Ebenezer Scrooge, a commentator on Fox News, Todd Willemon, offered his take on the discussion during an interview on the “The Daily Show”. What insights did he offer on the 40 million Americans in need of health care insurance? “If you are poor, stop being poor!”
Willemon offers, in earnest, a counterpoint to what Representative Alan Grayson (D – FL) had previously offered, in jest, about conservative plans for health care, when he said, “Don’t get sick; if you get sick, die quickly.”
How is it that the affluent harbor such contempt for the impoverished? Tens of millions of the working poor toil at multiple jobs for subsistence pay. What person would choose such a life if any alternative were available?
Families do not choose endless labor for inadequate wages and benefits; that reality is inflicted upon them by an investor class that values personal profit over the welfare of employees.
Sixteen million children – more than one-in-five, nationally – did not choose to be born to poverty; intergenerational poverty has been the status quo in this nation for centuries.
More than half a century ago, Bishop Fulton Sheen bemoaned our national obsession with the unbridled acquisition of what he called “superfluous wealth”, or wealth that serves no purpose but the generation of ever more wealth.
Sixty years later, the richest nation on Earth provides the fewest supports to the children in most need. We pay lip-service to the idea that “children are our future”; however, our schools are inexorably drifting back to the status of “separate and unequal” effectively removing the most stable ladder to escape the hole of poverty.
So, in this season of charity can we agree, please, that achieving equity in the schoolhouse is not just for your child, but a moral imperative for all children, right here, right now?
[Originally appeared in the now defunct Prince George’s Gazette on 12/18/2014.]