Nothing says the dignity of humanity; nothing says kindness; nothing says how a high level of public religiosity makes for a better society than literally ripping food out of hungry kids hands, and, in front of them, throwing it away:
Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts — a move that shocked and angered parents.
“It was pretty traumatic and humiliating,” said Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had her cafeteria lunch taken from her as she stood in line Tuesday at Uintah Elementary School, 1571 E. 1300 South.
Eleven years old!
I’m a dad, as y’all probably know. My kid is 13 now. He’s a total pain in the ass about food right now — won’t touch most stuff, including his school’s cafeteria fare. He takes food from home and we top him up when he gets home. But he used to get some stuff there. I remember topping up his account once or twice when I dropped him off — we’d either crossed over into the red or come too close to it. No one at his school would have dreamed of grabbing his bagel; we’d get a note asking for another five bucks for the system. That’s how you do it.
If anyone had stopped my son in the middle of the cafeteria line, grabbed his tray and dumped his lunch?
I can’t imagine what I’d have done and said. I can imagine what that experience would do to my child — to any kid. Public poor-shaming –turning some little kid, with no power, no agency, no ability to defend or deflect or do anything, into nothing more than your prop in some twisted morality play about the undeserving proles. I’m sorry about the run-on there. The rage and refracted sorrow/sympathy for the chidren some asshole(s) decided it was OK to hurt just overwhelms my ability to calm down my syntax. But you get the point: this is no way to teach an 11 year old anything. Or rather it’s just the right way to learn both that child and all her or his peers how to be the worst we can be.
One more thing: I’m slamming on Utah in the headline, because I’m sick of sitting here in godless Massachusetts listening to folks from the religiousist corners of our country tell us how we all need to emulate the values in which such places are alledgedly rich.
But I take this personally too. This isn’t just Utah. An action like this is the logical endpoint of a culture that frames all things as the battle of the individual against society. I like living in a social setting. I think the genius of American democracy in the abstract is that it provides a once-novel way of mediating between levels of association from village on up and the individual. So when I hear the words “American exceptionalism, I’d like them to have some other meaning than that we are exceptional in our capacity to be cruel to hungry children.
Image: Max Liebermann, Kindervolksküche, 1915