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Celebrating Gluttony While Children Starve

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It was another typical Thanksgiving, wasn't it?

The family gathered. They hugged. They talked. They annoyed each other. They argued. They drank too much. And, of course, they ate too much. They stuffed themselves fuller than your grandma stuffed the turkey. It's the biggest meal of the year. Gotta have that extra helping of mashed potatoes. Extra gravy. Don't bother saving room for the desserts - we'll just find a way to force those down on top of everything else.

After the meal, everyone complained about how full they felt, as they patted their extended stomachs and loosened their waistbands. Some took naps to sleep off the overstuffed feeling.

And they were proud of it. After all, this is what Thanksgiving is all about, isn't it?

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It's a grand American tradition. This harvest holiday of thanks has become a celebration of gluttony and excess.

Meantime, right here in the United States, 11.2 percent of households (including 13 million children) suffer from hunger or the risk of hunger due to poverty. Many of these families must routinely skip meals, sometimes for a full day, sometimes for much longer. The lucky ones are able to get food assistance to keep themselves alive.

These people don't have so much to be grateful for on Thanksgiving. And, as long as they remain invisible to the rest of us and our leaders, they'll continue to suffer as we go for that second slice of pie.

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Cities do their best to keep the homeless off the streets. The poor families who do have roofs over their heads are usually segregated to neighborhoods where the rest of us fear to tread. So the poor are, for the most part, an abstract concept. We hear about them from time to time, but the words represent something far, far away from the world in which the rest of us live.

Out of sight, out of mind.

We give our occasional donations to churches and charities, and we feel that we've done our part. And it helps. It's better than nothing. But those children are still dying. Our government needs to do more.

When he was a student at Harvard Business School, a young George W. Bush told one of his professors that "poor people are poor because they're lazy." It's their own fault.

Tell that those 13 million babies.

It couldn't possibly have to do with government policies that favor the corporation over the individual, could it?

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It couldn't possibly have to do with an administration that gives tax breaks to the rich while running up huge spending deficits that the rest of us and our grandchildren will have to pay for, could it?

It couldn't possibly have to do with huge companies, like Wal-Mart, that pay their hourly workers poverty-level wages and price the company health benefits so high that thousands of their employees must rely on public assistance, could it?

Well, yes, by George, it could.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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