One of the things I admire about both Crunchy Chicken and Sharon Astyk is that they fearlessly charge into discussions that are bound to become difficult and rancorous. Lots of things just plain need to be talked about; regardless of hurt feelings. So they do.
I'm about to do that too. However, I want to start with a disclaimer: I'm not judging anybody here. I'm really not. But we have a problem no one is facing, and we need to face it.
In the last couple weeks Hunger In the USA has gotten a lot of attention, and rightly so. One of the nifty little facts that came out in the NYT was that currently 1/8 of adults are getting food paid for by the government, via what used to be called "the food stamp program"; and 1/4 of our children.
That shocked a lot of people. In truth, I'm pretty angry that people were shocked. We should have been horrified- and aware and doing something about it long before it got to this point. Once again, I'm embarrassed to be a citizen of this country. We let 1/4 of our children grow up in such poverty? Unforgivable. Not a word I use at all lightly.
At the time, Sharon put up a post on the topic; and my comment on it was the second one. My topic here is a little different.
There, I pointed out that quite a few people who are actually hungry- are in situations where their parents or caretakers truly just do not know how to feed them.
What I want to say here - non-judgmentally, remember! - is that many who believe they are hungry- are not. They do not know what real hunger is; in spite of those ubiquitous advertisements with skeletal children in them.
Today the Washington Post has chimed in; and I think without knowing it, they've hit a nail right on the head. There's both an article, and a rather long photo gallery.
These were the photos that set me off. Neither this woman, nor her child, are actually "hungry", in the sense of not having enough to eat. They certainly may be malnourished- but hungry? No.
I do not, in the least, doubt that the woman believes she and her family are hungry, and that she is frantic about the welfare of her children. I would be willing to bet she's entirely sincere, and in no way a "bad person"- quite the contrary. But her problem has been misidentified; and the help being offered her- will not help.
Later in the photo gallery there is another mother- who is skipping meals, so her children can eat. She's skinny. And I'll believe in a second her stomach hurts, and that her children's do too.
There is the crux of why I'm writing about this. One of my myriad ex-girlfriends (ok, 3) fiercely accused me during one of our breakups of being a "problem solver"; a great sin for someone who didn't want her problems solved, she just wanted me to listen to them. (Evidently this is a fairly common source of friction between males and females, but I REALLY don't want to talk about it.)
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima etc. Loathsome as it may be, I really do prefer to come out the other side of a difficulty in an improved state, if possible.
Hunger in the world is actually a major focus of my life. To hear that one out of every four children in my country requires help from outside the family in order to not be hungry sets me going. Big time.
A tried and true way to fail at problem solving is to apply the wrong solution to a problem. For example, like trying to fix a flat tire with a wad of bubble gum. Looks kinda like it might work, if we're lucky. But in fact, it's just truly dumb.
I think we have abundant proof available that we're applying bubble gum to our hungry populace. It isn't going to help; which is by far my biggest objection; and it's insanely expensive, in a time when the country doesn't have a dime to spare. The money could and should be spent so that the recipients of the aid actually get help for their problem.
Problems come in layers, more often than not. The next layer to this particular one is that we know many people on food stamps are not actually hungry- but we don't want to deal with what's really going on. It's embarrassing, from all directions. So, rather than cause some forced blushing- we continue as a nation to pretend: lack of food is the problem; and money is the answer.
Very simply- lack of food is NOT the problem; and money is NOT the answer. Can't get much simpler than that.
The problem is- we refuse to talk about, or deal with, the problem.
If you haven't read the Washington Post article, now would be a good time. Surprise! They actually talk about all this.
I was delighted to discover that; and that others are struggling with it.
Once you've discovered your solution to a problem isn't a solution; and the problem isn't what you thought it was - you must, must, must - throw everything out and start over.
What we're doing right now, to continue the flat tire simile, is "hey, maybe if we got the gum hotter, it would work." "hey, maybe if we mixed the gum with gasoline, it would work" "hey, maybe if we put sand in the gum, it would work." "hey, mixing the gum with gasoline almost worked, let's try mixing it with brake fluid instead."
It's painful to throw out a "solution" that you're so deeply invested in. But anything else is almost certain to just add to the "fixing the fix" cycle.
A black hole for the people; and the money.