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Ignore the Young, Forget the Old

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A new report from "Capital Kids" reveals that the childhood poverty rate is worse in Washington, D.C., than in Mexico. We anticipate that the official poverty numbers being released this Wednesday will confirm that across the nation, children are paying the price for our political indifference to poverty in America. Demographers tell us that child poverty will almost certainly increase from its 22% level in 2010. As if 22% isn't already tragic enough.

This nasty debate, Medicare (Obama) vs. Vouchercare (Romney), is really a referendum on the nation's senior population. The stakes for poor senior citizens couldn't be higher.

I'm not at all naïve about the politics being played here, but I have never quite understood how a nation of advanced citizenship can so easily render invisible the weak and the vulnerable? In other words, "we got your back," unless you're too young to vote or too old to matter.

I get asked all the time when discussing the issue of poverty, why it is that the poor don't matter? We all know why: because the poor aren't "likely voters" and the poor aren't big campaign donors. It's really that simple. And that's sickening.

The fact-checkers had to work overtime at the recent political conventions to keep up with all the half-truths, distortions and outright lies being sold daily. There was one big lie we heard repeatedly from the stage at both conventions: that America is a magical place where anything is possible. Tell that to the children of America who are forced to surrender their life's choices before they ever know their life's chances. Tell that to seniors who might have believed that decades ago, but now face the reality of having to choose between medicine or food.

When children or seniors are continuously neglected or abused, somebody eventually shows up to arrest the perpetrators and take the victims away to a safe place. We continue to politically, economically, socially and culturally neglect children and seniors, but who arrests us? Who ushers the children and the aged to a safe place? No one. It's business as usual in America. If you're young, good luck. If you're old, good night.

So we just foreclose on our future and discard our past? Is that how we do it in America? U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Not so fast. True democracy focuses on the public interest; it defends the common good and protects its citizens -- especially the weak and the vulnerable. No democracy can survive without the powerful notions of compassion and public service.

"Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural, but it is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. Thus compassion that might be seen simply as generous goodwill is in fact criticism of the system, forces, and ideologies that produce the hurt," said scholar and theologian Walter Brueggemann.

It's time to take the hurt seriously.

Please note that Tavis and Dr. Cornel West will embark on "The Poverty Tour 2.0" sponsored in-part by HuffPost Live this Wednesday, September 12. For more information, visit: www.povertytour.smileyandwest.com or you can follow the conversation with the Twitter hashtag: #ThePovertyTour.

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