What About Our Children?
By Marianne Stanley
We lament the rise in crime while creating criminals; enact punitive policies towards the very immigrants who make our food and homes affordable; punish teachers rather than the policies that make it impossible to teach, and not only permit but support the new American attitude of indifference towards the suffering of others….as long as it isn’t us.
From the days when we proudly embraced the words on the Statue of Liberty to “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Give these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door,” we have evolved (or more correctly, devolved) into a heartless, mean-spirited, authoritarian, selfish society.
If that were not so, Congress would have quickly and unanimously enacted the 2010 Child Nutrition bill that would ensure that none of America’s children go to bed hungry. To our national shame, 17 million children do not have enough to eat. Food is not a luxury. Nor is shelter. Nor medical care. Nor a job. What has happened to our country and why are we permitting it?
To add insult to injury, the funding for this bill would come from the Food Stamp Program. We rob from Peter to pay Paul, planning to only fund ongoing child nutrition programs in schools if we can steal food stamps from their mothers or fathers to pay for it, in other words, taking food off their tables at home in order to put some food on their table in the cafeteria at school. This is unmitigated nonsense.
Congress never blinked an eye in authorizing two, now three, invasions (they call them “wars”) that have cost us hundreds of billions of dollars (see CostOfWar.com) and more than 5,700 young, vibrant, promising lives. Where are the “sanctity of life” people? Do only our unborn children count?
Yet, oddly, Congress can’t seem to find a way to pay less than $5 billion to keep our own people fed. What kind of legislature would give the biggest and best tax breaks to our wealthiest while allowing the criminally motivated financial sector to push millions of us out of our own homes and into the street? What goes through the minds of our governing body in Washington that makes it OK to act as though they are the only and last generation worthy of care and concern? What about future generations? What about our children? What about the most vulnerable?
Cleverly, talk radio has formulated the right mix of buzzwords to allow the “haves” to escape any pangs of guilt about the “have nots.” And since we are a poorly educated society now rather than a well-educated one, most people follow blindly along, enjoying an exhilarating sense of superiority over those who have fallen, through no fault of their own, on hard times in a rotten economy created by Wall Street, banks and an acquiescent Washington D.C. Translation? Our children are doomed. While all animals in the animal kingdom will sacrifice themselves to save their young, we here in the late, great United States, willingly and consistently lay our children on the altar to be sacrificed for and by us. They have small voices so we do not have to worry about them weighing heavily on our collective conscience.
The Child Nutrition Act of 1966 was enacted “in recognition of the demonstrated relationship between food and good nutrition and the capacity of children to develop and learn, based on the years of cumulative successful experience under the National School Lunch Program with its significant contributions in the field of applied nutrition research.” This Act launched the nation’s first school-based breakfast program in recognition of the link between hunger and education.
Yet, we sit here, all these years later, ignoring science and common knowledge time after time in policy after policy. Families in poverty and children with empty bellies grow anger, resentment and failure, not only for themselves, but for all of us. What has become of our hearts? As a supposedly Christian nation, aren’t we told to feed the poor and care for the sick? Many in our country are hurting. Before one more cent goes to corporate contractors or foreign “wars,” we need to enact laws and policies that will help our ailing countrymen and rebuild our nation. Time is running out.
Oddly, most Americans still cling to the rather odd idea that America is the greatest country on Earth. Most of us are blessedly ignorant of the fact that there are far better ways to run this country. For example, Germany, a European Social Democracy, has created a high-wage, unionized economy without shipping all its jobs abroad or creating any trade deficit. They also provide free university tuition and free nursing care. Yet they, as part of the European Union, spend far less than the United States for universal healthcare with the World Health Organization rating it number one in the world, while ours ranks a dismal 37th.
In other words, without throwing any of their citizens under the bus, Germany and the EU are thriving as the U.S. continues to slip and slide on misguided policies. Until and unless we stand up and make ourselves heard about critical human issues like hunger, homelessness, unemployment, climate change, education and poverty, we will become this planet’s newest third world country.
Marianne Stanley is a writer, artist, professor and avid advocate for the teaching of critical thinking skills in elementary schools. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org