Thursday, March 6, 2014

So Just What Should Poor People Eat?

We have all heard it. The great antipathy for the poor. It's as if anyone poor has never worked, never made any contribution to the country and so their needs are minimalist. There are certain things poor folk out not have: they shouldn't have a television set or if they do, it should be on a desk or table. They shouldn't look well fed. An overweight black child cannot be malnutritioned, that meant that the child ate too well to be hungry. Two hundred dollar pair of sneakers don't represent a parent who worked hard to provide their child the very best...they can't be cheap knock-offs.

In America, we really do hate poor people and the hatred runs deep. How deep, do you ask? So deep that people characterized as poor are denigrated for how they use food stamps. Many of the stories affluent commentators tell about food stamps aren't about how they have seen food stamps used, but how they have 'heard' they have been 'misused'. And they feed into the worst fears and the stinginess of people who hate the poor.

Few men tap into the illogic of this hatred better than Jon Stewart. Even in his stinging humor he zeroes in on the tragic nature of this unreasonable and sad unbrotherliness that we as a society have grown to embrace.

Humorous as these clips may be, they speak sadly and soberly about our attitude toward the poor. We assume that if a poor person has a cell phone or is dressed nicely they shouldn't have public support. We want them to be obviously and visibly 'below' us in their economic situation, so that we can feel better about ourselves and so we can lecture them about their personal, moral responsibility to be better men and women. And we want to be able to walk away from these same people, feeling good about what we've done if we have helped and they are sufficiently grateful; or wiping our hands in disgust if they haven't paid attention to the 'instruction' they've been given.

Somehow we just ought to be ashamed...

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