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One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.

Nigerian Proverb

There is a consistent and, seemingly, coordinated effort by elites to attack America's poor. You know them when you see them. Those lucky cats you see sleeping on the benches at bus stops. Or the greedy country store owner who is being shipped away to prison for three years because he helped some poor food stamp beneficiaries. And recently Georgia Congressman, and Senate hopeful, Jack Kingston tore into those selfish little slackers who, he argued, need to start pulling their weight: public school students who receive free or subsidized lunch.

The Congressman's words, from the Huffington Post:

"But one of the things I’ve talked to the secretary of agriculture about: Why don’t you have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch? Or maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria -- and yes, I understand that that would be an administrative problem, and I understand that it would probably lose you money. But think what we would gain as a society in getting people -- getting the myth out of their head that there is such a thing as a free lunch," he said.
Now when I attended elementary school I did have KP duty, or kitchen patrol, though the responsibility didn't just lie with those of us who received a free lunch from the state. Everybody had to participate. But when I got older, and the stigma around free lunch entered my consciousness, I became embarrassed about it; because the kids who received a free lunch from their parents looked down on and ridiculed those of us who received a free lunch from Uncle Sam. On occasion I would even skip lunch or wait until the line had thinned to avoid the prying, hypocritical eyes of my privileged classmates. Thus, I can only imagine what sort of harassment and embarrassment students like myself would have endured had this lunatic plan by this troglodyte from Georgia been implemented.

The Kingston Plan isn't unique. CNN host, and former Georgia Congressman, Newt Gingrich advocated for a similar scheme during his disastrous presidential run two years ago. Perhaps this unlettered mindset infects Georgia Republicans only. I doubt it though, because Kingston's attack on poor students is part of a broader strategy to dehumanize and debase poor folk. But it isn't just adults they are going after. These god-fearing Christians are attacking children, who had no say in their economic situations. To deny them a free lunch, or to force them to clean like slaves doing a shuck and jive, is truly reprehensible. But so too is the implicit attack on poor parenting found in such proposals. Kingston was asserting, essentially, that poor kids don't have responsible parents to teach them responsibility, a claim that is absolute rubbish.

One Friday night, when I was 10 years old, my tired mother came home from her job as an Applebee's server. Anyone who knows anything about the service industry knows that servers spend a vast majority of their time on their feet, hustling back and forth between the floor and the kitchen. Mommy—as I called her then and now, even at the age of 28—asked if I had completed my homework. I lied, by responding yes, because I felt stupid for not being able to do long division. Mommy knew this, as mothers do, and looked at my blank homework sheets with a roll of the eyes. But she didn't yell or curse, instead, she calmly sat me down and taught me long division in an hour and a half. The episode stuck with me, but it wasn't until later that I realized why. Some may ask: "What's the big deal? She did what she was supposed to do." But in the poor environment in which I grew up, some parents were not taking care of business, a fact also true in more well off families. And so when my mommy worked with me, despite being dead tired, it stayed in my mental rolodex because that was the point where I realized what responsible parenting was. It was at that moment where I saw how much this woman, a food stamp recipient and mother of free lunch recipients, loved me.

So go to hell Jack Kingston and Newt Gingrich, you fraudulent hypocrites who claim to believe in small government but have no problem wanting your version of big government to raise poor children. Poor parents, despite your myopic views, are more than capable of raising responsible and driven offspring. I would take it further and argue they have an even more difficult job because not only must they worry about putting food in the mouths of their children, they also have to instill the values of compassion and empathy. These are traits Kingston and his ilk clearly lack.

Follow @juanmthompson

Originally posted to jmt on Wed Dec 18, 2013 at 05:35 PM PST.

Also republished by Hunger in America.

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