Editor’s Note: This column was meant to be satirical, and does not reflect the views of The Daily Eastern News.
America is a pay-to-play country in almost every aspect of life. The pay-to-play system is easy to see of course, even to someone unfamiliar with American culture. Those with money get the latest technology, the best opportunities and secret movie theaters where the actors watch the film with you and answer any questions you have about the plot.
The poor, on the other hand, get shamed and ignored, because being poor is proof you are an enemy of our American way.
The reason I am writing this piece is because I worry though, America. I worry we are not shaming our poor hard enough. I believe we are especially failing in regard to poor children, the most vulnerable and targetable among us.
I recently read an article in the New York Times where an elementary school in Salt Lake City allegedly threw away fifty elementary students’ lunches because their accounts were past due. And I say allegedly in the same way people are using it in Hollywood. We know the school threw away the lunches, what I worry is the school did not go far enough.
As any parent can attest, children do not know the status of their lunch accounts until they reach the front of the lunch line with their tray of food. This is good. This allows for you to throw away the child’s food in front of them while you tell them they have no money.
As a bonus, the tossing of food also happens in front of the entire cafeteria, including the child’s peers. The shamed child is then given two white pieces of bread and cheese, which is surprisingly legal under the Genova Convention.
But public humiliation and POW rations are not enough. Do our underprivileged children really understand the contempt America holds for them?
It is my belief that in addition to dumping out the children’s food whom cannot pay, there should also be a flashing red siren next to the register. Whenever an account is overdrawn, the siren starts flashing. There is no noise however, because silence is the most shameful sound.
There was also the case of Dickinson, Texas, where they took away a middle school boy’s breakfast because his account was short thirty cents. Some of the more soft-hearted among you will cry foul. But I say again, the school did not go far enough.
Lunches should be divided into tiers. Platinum tier requires a $500 minimum balance at all times, and includes a fully catered menu and private dining quarters. Gold membership requires a $200 balance, and has a pretty decent menu. Basic membership will have no minimum balance and the children will eat in a dark shipping container in the parking lot.
Or how about in Massachusetts, where a middle school in Attleboro threw away twenty-five students’ lunches, causing the majority of them to break down into tears? The tears are good, they will need to get used to them in this country. But do the students truly grasp how much their worth is tied to their money?
Again, I worry these lessons may be flying over their heads. In the case of the Attleboro middle school, an on-site employee of the lunch provider instructed lunch-workers not to extend meals to students who could not pay or whose credit was already overextended.
This was a laudable effort by the on-site employee, but we can go further. If there are already employees ensuring children have their lunches taken from them, then we can extend their duties to sitting the hungry child down and explaining to them why they are different from the other children. The employee should emphasize that it is the child’s fault he or she cannot eat.
In a perfect world, the poor will feel ashamed of themselves and not bother the rich. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, and we have to work extra hard to ensure that people without money suffer. This is especially true in our schools, where it is thankfully easy to destroy a child’s sense of self-worth.
Some of you will likely suggest that children in a first-world country should be fed, and to that I say pack your bags and tell Putin I said hello. To those of us who are not filthy commie-libo-socialists, we know the answer will always lie in the free market. And the free market says two white bread slices and a sliver of cheese.
Colin Roberts professional writing major. He can be reached 581-2812 or [email protected]