“The Table of the Hungry”


“Seeing poverty first-hand changes one’s definition of need”

By Roland Merullo, the Boston Globe

OCTOBER 12, 2013

“I’ve been thinking lately about an expression I once heard from a Russian friend: “The full to the table of the hungry do not go.” I suppose it’s on my mind because of the news from Washington: the well-fed insisting on political grandstanding they surely know will cause great hardship to the poorest among us. It’s quite a sight, isn’t it, men and women earning six-figure salaries and pontificating about the need for cuts to programs that overwhelmingly give succor to the worst-off — the poor, the ill, the handicapped, the helpless. Then you see these same folks making a public spectacle of kneeling in prayer and asking God to help our nation. Where I come from we have a word for that. It is “hypocrisy.”
“Maybe I’m more sensitized than usual to these events because this summer my wife and daughters and I made a 3,000-mile driving trip through the American West. It was a classic road trip, complete with tours of several national parks, a close encounter with a wildfire, and even a couple of days in Vegas. The high point was hiking up the Great Sand Dunes in time to see the full moon rise over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The low point was a brief tour of the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation in southern South Dakota.
“For me, Pine Ridge put everything else — small family arguments, money worries, less than great meals — into perspective. Like most of the American poor, the Sioux Oglala are largely invisible, all but fenced off in that barren landscape, hidden from us behind a curtain of our own manufactured desires. We “need” a new car, a granite countertop, a golf club membership, a cruise to Alaska, millions for our reelection campaign. There’s nothing wrong with looking out for ourselves. . . . but meanwhile the poor, in this rich nation, stay hungry and invisible.”
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