I know it might be taxing to watch an hour and a half TV show, but please take the time to watch this episode of Frontline - it's worth it.
"Two American Families", is the story of two families from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one black (the Stanleys), one white (the Nuemans), followed for 20 years, watching their struggles to achieve the American Dream. It is a near perfect picture of how politics and government policy intersect with everyday life. And it reveals what many of us already know...for far too many people, the hopes of prosperity and the dreams of a better life for their children are far too elusive.
In order to evade any sense of concern for people who may have fallen into poverty, these tales are often brushed aside with speculations about what they might have done 'wrong' and how they are to blame for their circumstances. These families actually did almost everything right. In the case of one household, it includes everyone working and two parents who stay together despite their difficulties. Yet they are no better off in 2012 than they were in 1990...indeed they are arguably worse off. And they don't go away simply because they confront us with an inconvenient reality.
It's easy to look back over someone else's life and determine how they 'should have lived'. It's far more difficult to come to grips with the fact that there are too many middle-class, hard working families who fall into poverty and that there is a playing field that needs to be leveled.
Let me put it another way: maybe we turn away from really looking at families like these, because we fear it could one day be us...