It’s About Time by Katie Dunne
A homeless man sits on the sidewalk of a bustling city street, holding a Styrofoam cup. His hair is gray and matted and his clothes are torn and ragged. He shakes the cup halfheartedly, and the few coins inside clink together. The man looks up, scanning the crowd. One after another they pass him: students, doctors, lawyers, businessmen. All too busy to take notice of their fellow citizen. “Not my problem,” they think as they walk by.
Sound familiar? This phrase, “not my problem,” seems to describe the attitude of many Americans toward the less fortunate. It’s so easy to overlook poverty, especially for those whose lives are never touched by it. As a society, we are reluctant to commit time or funds to the disadvantaged simply because it’s not our problem.
So whose problem is it? The single mother who works two full-time jobs to pay the rent and feed her children? The man who was laid off after dedicating thirty years of his life to a company that supposedly valued his work? The disabled woman who has no family and is living off the minimal income of social security?
Capitalism teaches us that every person is responsible for his or her own circumstances. Though this is not the ideal manifestation of capitalism, it has created a selfish mindset on the part of many Americans and because of this state of mind, we’d rather blame the poor for their condition than to examine the fundamental structural problems that cause poverty.
These people are underrepresented because they are not a valuable demographic to politicians. They don’t contribute a significant number of votes, making them easy ignore.
Those in poverty are not poor as a result of their own laziness or incompetence; they are poor because the system has failed them. The ideals of American society no longer apply to all Americans. The values of equality, charity, and opportunity have become subordinate to the agendas of major lobbying groups and politicians. The homeless and impoverished are given very few outlets, and limited means by which they can improve their lives. The government is not fulfilling its responsibility to this group and, as a result, poverty has become a vicious cycle.
All too often I hear the phrase “not my problem” in response to these concerns. It’s about time we reexamine the definition of representative government and give a voice to the voiceless. It’s about time we stop thinking as Democrats and Republicans or as members of a capitalist society and start thinking as human beings. Many of these people that we label as “poor” are lost without the helping hand of their fellow man. It’s about time we make poverty our problem.
Katie Dunne is a freshman double majoring in Political Science and Spanish. Katie is a newly elected Student Senator, the Chair of the ISS Appointments Committee, and one of my favorite people.