We have not the reverent feeling for the rainbow that a savage has, because we know how it is made. We have lost as much as we gained by prying into that matter.

–Mark Twain

Chapter 4. Our dear Mrs. Middleton the Strict sent us home with a regenerative task…

Our dear Mrs. Mid­dle­ton the Strict sent us home with a regen­er­a­tive task one fine spring after­noon, crisp with the trav­el­ing song of way­ward dan­de­lions and invin­ci­ble coun­try singers drunk on the booze left unde­liv­ered by the winds of tomorrow’s next sur­prise. Her thirty stu­dents were to ask each of our par­ents, and in those days, most kids our age could boast two by law and two by social proxy, which each was cast­ing their beloved bal­lot in Novem­ber next. And only then, after due dili­gence and care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of the civic exe­ge­sis (spunk) we had learned in class, we must decide which can­di­date for Pres­i­dent of our gifted nation we would sup­port if we were old enough to priv­i­lege the vote. As a nine year old 4th grader, and one of the more active agi­ta­tors in Mrs. Mid­dle­ton 4th grade class, I was pre­pared to exe­cute this tran­scen­dent home­work task with the high seri­ous­ness of at least a fifth grader, maybe except a sixth. In fact, I fig­ured I was already smarter than the most fifth graders, but being the elder sib­ling in my fam­ily, I had no one to com­pare myself except to the gag­gle of young­sters, all of us five boys, who never once glanced at a news­pa­per, much less opened a book they weren’t flogged mer­ci­lessly by Mother to get up in that room, son, and do your home­work or I’ll give you some­thing to cry about if not by hell or high water, and none of them made the same hefty marks I earned with­out fail. But one prob­lem stood between me and my task. The code of silence. My daddy and my momma were damned nearly unap­proach­able most of the day, even on week­ends. The only time we all seemed to be together as fam­ily was din­ner­time as we sat qui­etly mum on three sides of a stained ten-foot long wooden door Daddy had con­verted with spindly but strong wrought iron legs into a table spe­cial enough for us, but then that’s when the dreaded code of silence began in earnest. Rule num­ber one. No talk­ing at the din­ner table. Sea­sons flew by when table talk was allowed more often than oth­ers, but when this par­tic­u­lar assign­ment made table talk a red-blooded Amer­i­can neces­sity, the fam­ily was in absolute quiet mode. We said a bless­ing, or we didn’t, but we always asked to be excused from the table, unless we were still sit­ting there star­ing down some god awful gut-churning liver, or fried egg­plant casse­role, untouched, untouch­able as always, since the­last time we were tor­tured to eat what we dare not eat. All in silence. No com­plain­ing, No bick­er­ing. Yes tonight, President’s night, we had a fresh, tasty meal of lima beans and rice, iced tea to wash it down, and noth­ing but the ham hocks and a few home­work words to tus­sle for.

How many times have I heard, usu­ally right after some poverty sta­tis­tic has been uttered, “Oh, that’s so sad. It’s always the kids that suf­fer most.”

That’s a load! Unless you’re talk­ing about Africa. But in Amer­ica, home of the God Who Gave Us the soup kitchen, most poor kids don’t really suf­fer as much as their par­ents. Kids, even those who per­ceive their own low sta­tus, and chafe as a result, still accept life as it is because they really haven’t yet devel­oped the knowl­edge and skills envy requires to be truly mis­er­able. It’s only once poor kids grow up that their own prob­lems REALLY begin. Kids adapt. Invent fic­tional worlds, game every­thing in sight. If one doesn’t, then I’d guess those folks who patron­ize the poor child with con­de­scend­ing fluff might have found them­selves a truly suf­fer­ing child. What’s even more tragic is to flood a kid with gifts and plat­i­tudes with­out real prepa­ra­tion for the work­ing world of cut throat cap­i­tal­ism and smarmy elit­ist lib­er­al­ism where only the well-connected and the beau­ti­ful truly suc­ceed, quite sim­i­lar to the way crony cap­i­tal­ism works…

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