Recently, with charitable funding at an all-time low, a large homeless shelter in Detroit ran out of toilet paper – TOILET PAPER! – and simply could not find the funds to restock. A common household item of such small cost, yet something so many of us, in our own lives, readily take for granted to ensure our cleanliness, health and human dignity, and the system was so broken it could no longer provide even this smallest of necessities to those most in need.
Food banks are running empty and many of the people in line, now themselves desperate to feed their own families, are the same middle-class residents who, in past better times, were instead the people regularly donating food and funding to these self-same charitable organizations, in order to keep the shelves well-stocked to help feed the poor. These new broke and hungry are our neighbors, our children’s’ classmates, good people with jobs who still cannot put food on the table in these harsh economic times. We are, most of us, already over-extended, and only a paycheck or two away from joining the desperately poor. With more people in the bread lines and fewer people able to provide the bread, the harsh reality is that, not only are the unemployed unable to find viable work, a great many people in American are working steadily and still unable to buy the basic necessities. As a result, families are going hungry.
Almost daily in winter, we hear of families dying in house fires, started by candles, gas ovens or old space heaters, in an attempt to light and heat their homes after the utility companies have cut their service. In summer, people are dying from extreme heat, unable to afford to turn on the air conditioner for even just a few hours.
Communities faced with tough budgetary decisions are making disastrous cutbacks on public safety, resulting in fewer resources available; violent crime is up as police personnel diminish, and fire departments are reduced to heart-breaking decisions of determining which calls to answer and which to let burn. There just isn’t enough funding to go around, and this only adds to our sense of loss, our fear for our safety and our frustration with the new status quo. We cannot long continue down this path. Eventually, something’s got to give.
Americans are struggling just to stay alive, and it is shocking that one of the world’s greatest countries can no longer ensure or provide even the Basics of Life for her citizens. Nobody should go without food, warmth, shelter, clean drinking water, medical care, or personal safety; it is unconscionable that this happens to anyone, anywhere, and wholly unacceptable that it is now happening here in these United States of America. The American Dream? It is rapidly vanishing in a haze of greed, selfishness, apathy and indifference, and unless we wake up and face these societal realities soon, that dream will surely degenerate into our nation’s worst nightmare.