Penn State’s punishment was harsh. One could argue and say it was too harsh if you hold college football in high regard. Others could say it was not harsh enough given the terrible silence for so many years and the number of boys’ who were hurt. Yet, I don’t think anyone would argue that something had to be done for such unbelievably awful behavior and the silence that kept it hidden for so long.
By now a lot of commentaries have been written, but I’m not adding my own to this specific situation. The long silence (cover up if we’re really being honest) points out the desire to give more weight to institutional preservation than justice for children, and that’s pretty sad.
But I can’t stop thinking of Penn State’s silence from a different angle, child poverty. I know they don’t seem related, but it’s the attitude surrounding it that strikes me as similar.
Children who live in poverty don’t have a choice. Furthermore, it potentially scars them in different ways for life and sets up a perpetual cycle. Our childhood poverty rate exceeds 20% (See the EPI report – U. S. Poverty Rates Higher, Safety Net Weaker), which is the highest poverty rate among peer developed nations. Furthermore, only the United States has a childhood poverty rate exceeding 20%.
That 20% of this nation’s children live in poverty is nothing short of sinful, especially in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. But you wouldn’t know it because we’re just silent.
The GOP won’t draw attention to it. Furthermore, their economic proposals, thin and regressive as they are, don’t and will only exacerbate child poverty. The Democrats are hardly bold in their dismay over child poverty. Kind of like Penn State… “let’s not talk about it, that way we don’t have to do anything.”
God forbid we should address child poverty. Gasp! we might have to raise taxes. Reducing child poverty will jeopardize a tax cut. We might have to provide health care through Medicaid. (which given the recent Supreme Court ruling, states will not be penalized for not expanding it. However, see the article in The New York Review of Books that notes opposition by some states seems to reflect reflexive GOP opposition to Obama.) We might have to do something serious about income and wealth disparity.
What makes this even worse is child poverty has been over 20% for years, even before the 2008 economic collapse. But you wouldn’t know it listening to the things that animate our political leadership.
If we’re going to be serious about ending poverty, reducing child poverty is a great place to start. But maybe it’s too damaging to the institutions that sustain our political and economic leadership to acknowledge it. So, don’t talk about it. Wrap it in a shroud of silence. Let’s keep the world thinking everything is just great.