Thursday, July 7, 2011
© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
There are certain works of art which, simply by virtue of their name, implore one to examine them further. For us, two of them have always been Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill (what a great name), and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (not bad either).
There is a work about which we wondered for years, but never chose to examine until recently - Children of a Lesser God. Having been brought up in a world of monotheistic religions, we asked, “How could there be a lesser God, and who are these children so affected?” Of course, we know better than to take anything seriously, but it still got our attention. We finally decided to explore this work this month, but it was a personal experience which prompted us to do so – our encounter with Children of a Greater God.
We found the kids in Cary, a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh, apart from being the capital, is the heart of the Research Triangle. The “Triangle” not only contains Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University, but also serves as HQs for numerous high-tech companies. It is also the home of Bozo the Clown. Although settled in 1750, if asked during the 1960s where Cary was, few would have been able to respond.
The son of one of our friends ran in a track meet for private high school students. The event was held at the Cary Academy, the most prestigious private school in the region. Since the collective athletic prowess of the participants left much to be desired, we found ourselves taking note of other things. Upon entering the long, tree-lined, manicured entrance to the campus enveloped in lush vegetation, we got a sense that we were going to see something different.
The parkway carried us to a lot full of high-priced SUVs. The Academy buildings, in their bucolic setting, looked more like those of a private college than a grade school in the midst of a densely populated urban center. Once we entered the stands on the side of the stunning Tartan track, our attention turned to those seated around us.
There were roughly 150 of them (consisting mostly of parents and siblings of the athletes), of which 15 were African-American and 3 Asian. Despite the fact that North Carolina is generally regarded as the number 1 state in the nation in terms of percentage increase in Hispanics, no Hispanics were in sight, in any capacity. The onlookers were all fresh in appearance, healthy, clean-cut, and smartly dressed. No one was obese, and there no smell of fried chicken in the air. Although it is possible that someone had a rosebud or heart planted just above their navel or the crack in their butt, there was not a tattoo to be found.
All of the conversations around us were civil in tone, with many revolving around trips abroad. There was a noticeable lack of rowdiness and profanity, and the N word was either across the tracks, or on vacation. What was perhaps most revealing was that there was a throng of kids in the 4-6 year old range, who were permitted to roam the grounds unattended and expected to return to their parents unmolested.
While we explore lots of social policy issues on this blog, and how they relate to personal responsibility, we rarely address class issues. And socio-economic class is a big deal.
We’ve often wondered whether, if there were only one “socialist,” social policy implemented by our government, we’d be a better nation. That policy would consist of ensuring that all children get the same socio-economic start. After all, it’s not their fault who their parents are, and what their parents have, and where their parents live…. Now that’s a program we could support. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know. The parents would exploit it.)
But poverty and paucity of options run deep… and long, and at some point become institutionalized and inculcated in nature, despite the few aberrant worms who escape.
We looked up some stats on Cary, the town. The racial makeup is 71% Caucasian, 8% African-American, 13% Asian, and 7% Hispanic or Latino. With respect to education, 68% of the adults hold an associate degree or higher, and 61% possess a bachelor degree or higher. It has one of the lowest crime rates in the state for municipalities of its size, and it was judged the 4th safest of 327 large cities in the nation.
Although we wouldn’t want to live in Cary, due to its lack of filth and vice, perhaps calling those kids we met on the track that Friday afternoon “Children of a Greater God,” might not be that far a stretch. After all, the situation in which they find themselves is more than happenstance – isn’t it?
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