I was a history major in college and one of the most memorable classes I ever took was an economic history of the United States. In addition to the fact that the professor had kind of a sexy academic thing going on (complete with suede patches on the elbows of his sport coats) it was just fascinating to learn how pervasive the myth of the American dream is and has been in our history.
You know the American dream, right? The idea that no matter who you are, no matter what your circumstances, you have a shot in America to become financially well off, to make it big. Our history is full of inspiring people who came from humble or even horrible circumstances and made it big in sports or politics or business.The problem is, of course, that history usually tells us about the exceptions, the shining few that did succeed. The reality is that poverty is nearly impossible to escape for nearly all poor people.
I was thinking about that myth today when I read this story about the growing problem of poverty for Iowa's children. The article brings up some of the points I remember from the long ago history class. Almost all children born in poverty will be poor their whole lives. They are more likely to be sick, to be obese, to be educationally challenged. The start school behind in terms of skills and they never catch back up.
The little boy, Talan, in this story has so many odds stacked against him. He doesn't have a single book. His parents are homeless and struggling even though his father does work. There is another baby on the way, another mouth to feed soon.
Talan is one of the reasons I'll be voting this fall. Talan is why I think we need a national healthcare system in the United States. Talan is why we need strong schools and Head Start programs and the continuation of free four year old preschool in Iowa. He and his pregnant mama are why we need WIC and a robust food stamp program.
Talan is poor, desperately poor, and I am not. I could help Talan if I knew his family but I can't help all the Talans out there, so I have to vote for the candidates that can.
What do you think of this article? Do you think we have an obligation as a society to take care of kids like Talan?