The Lesson

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In Toni Cade Bambara's "The Lesson" inequality in the distribution of income and wealth and persistent poverty continue to jeopardize equal opportunity and democracy in the United States. "The Lesson" is a first person narrative of a little girl named Sylvia. The setting of the story is of a summer day trip organized by their busy bee neighbor Miss Moore. Miss Moore's intent is to show a group of eight children about the nature of money and how it is distributed across American society. Because the story focuses on the children, it makes it easier to see how social and economic disadvantages are perpetuated and have lasting effects. Akin to the story, the United States is the richest country in the world, and wealth is a significant, if not vital, source of power. Social status and self-respect are closely connected with wealth and property, and so to maintain power, Americans are encouraged to strive for more. "Imagine for a minute what kind of society it is in which some people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family of six or seven" (The Lesson 653) When the horror that was Katrina unfolded in front of us all on television, depraved indifference seemed to be a perfect description of the regime that didn't want to interrupt its vacation or restaurant dinners. Last September, President Bush stood in New Orleans, where the lights had just come on for the first time since Katrina struck, and promised one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen. Then he left, and the lights went out again. Apologists for the administration will doubtless claim that blame for the lack of progress rests not with Mr. Bush, but with the inherent inefficiency of government bureaucracies. That's the great thing about being an antigovernment conservative; even when you fail at the task of governing, you can claim vindication for your ideology. But bureaucracies don't have to be this inefficient. The failure to get moving on reconstruction reflects...
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