The City of Troy, New York, "Where Henry Hudson Turned Around."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Monday's post, which frankly was done on the spur of the moment, has generated a lot of dialogue. Although not all the comments furthered the debate, many were quite interesting.

Here's some of our thoughts.

The link was posted because a photographer won an award for photos involving Troy. Of course, those scenes could have been played out in any city in the United States. One person asked: "How are these photos supposed to make me feel?" They are supposed to make you feel any way they make you feel. A viewer has no control over how or what they feel upon first glance. Not only can one viewer feel sadness while another viewer feels disgust, it is possible that the same viewer can feel an entire spectrum of emotions simultaneously, each one justified. That, in many ways, is more powerful than evoking a single emotion. Such is art. One the one hand, it's hard not to feel for the subjects. It must be a hard life, without any hope in the future. On the other hand, who doesn't feel disgusted by some of what's depicted? One photo shows two young ones with nebulizers. In another, the "adults" smoke in the presence of the children, despite one child having been hospitalized for asthma.

The photographs were powerful and the accompanying prose was blunt and disturbing.The photographs truly captured the cycle of poverty. We found ourselves frustrated that people live in such a way. There is also frustration that many of the subjects seem incapable or unwilling to make choices that, while not ending the cycle, could certainly lead to a better existence.

Despite what many may feel towards the adults depicted, the children are the great tragedy here. By the time those children can make independent decisions, the game is lost. How can years of such an existence be overcome? A few exceptions may escape the cycle, but not many. Imagine growing up in a world were many of the fathers are not only in prison, but such circumstances are nothing more than part of the everyday landscape.

Ironically, today we feel pity for the children in those photographs. Yet, in less than a decade we will feel other, less charitable emotions. There will come a point in time where we throw up our hands and say, "sorry you had a rough childhood but you are now an adult. Make better decisions. Contribute to society." We hope that even when we feel that way, some small part will remember what little chance they had when still young.

We offer no realistic ideas on how to fight poverty because we have none. We'll leave that to the experts. There have always been poor people and there always will. Perhaps we can reduce their number. Perhaps not. We do know that treating the poor with a modicum of respect and dignity, showing kindness and compassion, elevates us all. Treating them as somehow apart from humanity diminishes us.

Posting may be light over the next few weeks. We're trying to finish a novel. It's called Moby Dick, but the the print is really small and it's tough to read.

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