Djcnor’s Weblog

The US’s shame – poverty

Posted on: November 23, 2008

I’ve been reading the Guardian again. This time, a photo-essay in the weekend magazine section about the permanently poor in Troy, NY (ironically the home of the original Uncle Sam, a butcher who supplied meat to US troops during the war of 1812). Each picture is sadder than the last.

A 22-year-old woman with “special needs” gets a pellet gun for a birthday present. [Just what she definitely does not need.}

A pitifully thin young homeless mother with her baby. [Why is the empty metal hanger hanging on a nail in the wall so disturbing?]

A baby sleeping on the floor between two beds with a newspaper over her head, a TV on beyond her. [Was it her choice to sleep on the floor rather than either of the beds? Why]

Folks waiting for the Uncle Sam parade, the adult wearing a novelty US flag hat and an American Spirit T-shirt, the face showing only a grim resolve to survive, the child standing with crossed arms, just as grim.

A house full of various generations, each person with a major problem,

A child looking out the window of a room. The room is totally unfurnished except for a nearly life-sized poster of Britney Spears. [A portrait of how huge the wealth and life-style differences existing in the US].

A fat kid in a homeless shelter, food apparently his only comfort. [Apparently, he’s not alone. My husband read yesterday that 2/3 of Americans are overweight. What is so lacking in America that so many find food their most available comfort?]

Two grade-schoolers pretending to smoke. [Their future health in danger, the choice already made, their lives already foreshortened.]

A girl at home alone with cats and a tangle of Barbie-type dolls, a huge speaker in the corner. [On what basis are purchase decisions made in this home?]

And the last, which is the most poignant for me. A young woman in her Dunkin Donuts uniform, next to her mother who does housekeeping in a nursing home. [Her mother? The woman looks far too old and world-worn, and the look on the young woman’s face shows very clearly that she has given up hope on a future other than the one her mother has lived.]

I wish that the US had a show like one we saw on Brit TV called “Filthy Rich and Homeless”. The show took prosperous people who believed that any person of merit, and of course they were persons of merit, could dig themselves out of that situation in short order. They gave them sleeping bags and decrepit clothes and put them on the streets to try doing that. Within three days, they had failed so utterly as to have violated the rules by going begging to their friends and were ready to give “mentors” from the truly homeless respect. These mentors then taught them how to really survive and showed them the obstacles to getting out of that situation. Each of them was changed for life.

I have a special empathy for all this. I have never been homeless myself, not yet. But I do know someone who was for seven long years. No, he did not find his own way out of it. He was rescued. And now he has a special commitment to helping others. He is a true person of merit, and probably always was, even during those years of depravity.

The US is presently a place of great waste, and the very greatest waste may be the talents and capabilities of its people.

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Djcnor’s Weblog

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