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A Bad Week for America's Invisible Men and Women, and for Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

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Recently, Congress decided that cutting $40 billion from the food stamps program would be a good idea. After all, that budget works out to a whole couple of bucks a day for a portion of the 40+ million Americans living below the poverty line. And those folks would probably go out and get a second or third minimum wage job that would still qualify them for food stamps if we simply put an end to their glamorous lifestyle of sharing a bag of Doritos with their family and calling it dinner. Right?

Oh, and Congress also decided that it would be a good idea to hold our nation's debt hostage and possibly ruin the global economy unless the United States makes it absolutely impossible for the Dinner-with-Doritos set, those 40+ million citizens mentioned above, to be granted any chance of health care. The logic in both cases is simple: kill off or make those poor folks completely invisible and we won't have to worry about them.

That brings us to the real political news this week, which means we have to start in 1952. In 1952, a black American named Ralph Ellison wrote a book entitled Invisible Man because he was a black American living in America in 1952. It is one of the most powerful books ever written about identity, political identity, personal identity and living in America when no one cares about you.

That book won the National Book Award in 1953 and was named by Modern Library and Time magazine as among the top 100 novels of the 20th Century. It's that good, and that profound, and that important, and that much part of the American fabric.

And this week, it was banned by North Carolina's Randolph County board of education because they determined in a 5-2 vote that it's a "hard read." Yes, banned for being a hard read. And maybe they're right. It's surely a much harder read today than it was before Congress decided last week that the men and women and children they deem invisible are better off dead.

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