Wednesday, September 28, 2005

"Exposing the Truth About American Poverty Is a Good Thing"

Portlaoise, Ireland – Since arriving here in Ireland last Friday I've heard more than a few comments about Hurricane Katrina, the War in Iraq and the Bush Administration. My family and friends are not bashful about expressing their opinions.

Here are a few random thoughts based on what I’ve been hearing.

I continue to be impressed at the level of political literacy found here. Young people generally know more about American politics than their counterparts in the United States. Part of the reason is that people on this island read newspapers. It is not unusual for a family to pick up two or three newspapers on a Sunday morning.

When the war started in Iraq I was amazed at how many over here were willing “go give Bush the benefit of the doubt.” That has changed since my last visit in late 2004 with more people now expressing opposition to the American occupation of Iraq. (Of course there is a similar shift in attitudes in the United States).

What has surprised many in Ireland is the “American poverty” revealed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They saw those horrifying scenes from New Orleans. The illusion that America is the land of opportunity for everyone has been shattered.

"Exposing the truth about American Poverty is a good thing," is the way one farmer summarized his views.

The Irish people have great empathy for any people that are poor or oppressed. Of course they are not far removed from hard times themselves. When I grew up in the Forties and Fifties I saw the kind of poverty described in Frank McCourt’s memoir, Angela’s Ashes. Now they have a safety net that takes care of the most vulnerable in society.