Reader responses to last week’s question about how we should understand the condition of life below the poverty line were particularly thought-provoking.
Reader Richard B Mann, PhD drew on memories of being a 7-year-old during the Great Depression to make his point:
My father lost his job. I had a sister and two bothers at that time (two more came later). We all walked up and down the railroad tracks picking up coal that fell off the steam engines so we could heat the house and cook our meals. I thought it was fun, like a game. . . . Defining people as poor and giving them welfare turns them into slaves and takes away their dignity, IMHO! It may buy votes, but robs people of their humanity.
There are people in situational poverty and those who are in generational poverty. . . . I ask, ‘Will you go live in a generationally poor neighborhood and raise your family?’
Reader Theodore Radamaker argued that children can’t be poor the way adults are, since poverty “largely involves a feeling of humiliation.” He added:
Not being able to provide any particular need for one’s family, whether medical or dental care, a pair of shoes or a birthday present is to experience the humiliation of poverty. So does presenting food stamps at the grocery cashier. The attitudes of others toward those they perceive to be in poverty also has a lot to do with the extent of humiliation suffered by the poor.
And reader David Robinson tied together the sting of poverty with a proposed measurement of its severity:
Think of the mental toll of both adults and children of getting your clothes at clothing banks, paying at the supermarket with food stamps and having no choice but to go to the emergency room because that is the only healthcare available. A good measurement might be: Are the children in poverty getting out or are they perpetuating the cycle?