There are parallels for American society in the masterpiece novel “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens.
The marginalized French peasantry are depicted as oppressed, humiliated, and demoralized.
It was the intent of Dickens in this immortal classic to influence the wealthy in London in 1859.
Dickens, unbeknownst to him, has another task, to inspire the wealthy in contemporary America.
In his famous opening lines, Dickens has a message for America. All who have ears to hear must listen:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”
Champion of the Poor
During the 2016 presidential debates, the topic of poverty in America was glaringly missing from the conversations.
Charles Dickens was a champion of the poor because of his horrific childhood. He was forced to work in a factory, as so many other children were, to survive.
Dickens was forced to quit school. He worked ten-hour days at a local warehouse for six shillings a week. In the mid-1800s, a British shilling was a silver coin with the approximate size and value of a U.S. quarter. So, Dickens salary was roughly a U.S. $1.50 at that time.
In his novel, Dickens is warning the aristocracy with a metaphor of sowing and reaping. If the rich sow seeds of revolution through injustice, neglect, or contempt for the poor, they will reap a harvest of revolution.
The rich were portrayed as humiliating the poor. Meanwhile, the rich lived lavishly, excessively, and selfishly.
There is a universal message in this timeless masterpiece, and a poignant statement to contemporary America.
America has a history of generosity toward the marginalized. Poverty demands an impassioned commitment to treat the poor with dignity, empathy, and charity.
American Poverty: Facts and Statistics
According to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, many in America are hungry, and billions of pounds of food are wasted each year.
Feeding America details alarming recent poverty statistics in the United States that include the following:
- 1 million people (13.5 percent) were in poverty.
- 4 million (12.4 percent) of people ages 18-64 were in poverty.
- 5 million (19.7 percent) children under the age of 18 were in poverty.
- 2 million (8.8 percent) seniors 65 and older were in poverty.
- The overall poverty rate according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure is 14.3 percent, significantly higher than the official poverty rate of 13.5 percent.
- Under the Supplemental Poverty Measure, there are 45.7 million people living in poverty, 2.6 million more than are represented by the official poverty measure (43.1 million).
- 2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.
- 13 percent of households (15.8 million households) were food insecure.
- 5 percent of households (6.3 million households) experienced very low food security.
- Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 17 percent compared to 11 percent.
- Households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (17 percent), especially households with children headed by single women (30 percent) or single men (22 percent), Black non-Hispanic households (22 percent) and Hispanic households (19 percent).
- 4million seniors (over age 60), or 9 percent of all seniors were food insecure.
- Food insecurity exists in every county in America, ranging from a low of 4 percent in Loudoun County, VA to a high of 38 percent in Jefferson County, MS.
The timeless and universal message of Dickens in “The Tale of Two Cities” demands a call to action for America.
Poverty is a reality throughout the world and also right here in our homeland.
In America, where there is such incredible wealth, our poverty is a national scandal. The homeless, hungry, destitute, and hopeless cry out to the soul of America, and to the hearts of each of us.
The scandal of America’s poverty needs visionary leadership by all, particularly those in the highest levels of society.
It is unfathomable that there are so many destitute in America and that many children are hungry each day.
America must be a champion of the poor. We must enable all to benefit from the fruits of the harvest.
We must avoid the apathy that attempts to assuage our conscience. It is not acceptable that so many only have access to a few crumbs that fall from the lavish tables of the privileged.
America has an ordained mission of justice, dignity, and moral responsibility toward every member of society.
Our nation must live according to its call to be an ethical guardian. America must be dedicated to improving the lives of the poor. This will be a hallmark of our sincerity to reawakening the nation.
There is a Latin expression, “magnas inter opes inops’ which translates as “poor amid great riches.”
It is a reminder that the destitute in America are surrounded by inestimable wealth.
America must be mindful of our poor, and express honor to all who do everything in their power to assist them.
Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.