Friday, April 12, 2002

Famine in Connecticut . . . Where Is the Outrage?

In an alarming world of children suicide bombers, priests who prey, and Bob Traficant’s hair, the nation asks as one, “what does Anna Quindlen have to say?”

Well, she was in Connecticut yesterday talking about hunger . . . in Fairfield County . . . in Greenwich, even!

"It seems to me I have a mandate, being a feminist, in not only being certain that women become partners in law firms and hold high political office but that they also have safe homes and their kids have enough to eat."

Aside from the pompous claim of a “mandate” to be anything but self-absorbed, Quindlen says hunger on the Connecticut Gold Coast is a quiet epidemic. Could it be that Ms Quindlen is finally fed up with bulimia . . . the scourge of debutantes from Westport to Darien? It is true that many wealthy woman waste away in stoic silence just so they can squeeze into the latest Escada. And how bold of her to come to the belly of the beast to make her stand.

But alas, this is Anna Quindlen. And she’s come to the wealthiest state in the Union to talk about poverty and hunger. Never mind that even hunger activists will tell you that the burning nutritional issue among the poor in the United States is not hunger but morbid obesity.

The cause of all this stomach grumbling is affordable housing she says. Now here she may have a point. I don’t doubt that there are some social climbers who when forced to choose between life-giving sustenance and living in a choice part of Greenwich would gladly give up food. But that’s their problem, not anyone else’s.

Quindlen is right about the housing thing. Greenwich is the sort of place where if you are paying under $3,000 a month, you’re living in affordable housing. In fact, “affordable housing” is as alien a concept in Greenwich as “luxury townhome community” is in Ramallah.

On the other hand, there is a whole city filled with affordable housing about 15 miles away in Bridgeport. But see, no one like Quindlen would ever think of stepping foot in Bridgeport much less go house hunting for bargains. And besides, there are all those fat poor people.

Quindlen calls for “government action” and frets that President Bush’s calls for civic volunteerism will only serve as an obstacle to the urgently needed “action.” What action could she mean? Public housing projects al la Pruitt-Igoe or Southwark Towers perhaps? How about vouchers? Ahhh . . . no. Maybe repealing some of the politically mandated building codes that put housing beyond the reach of low income workers? (There was a time when cities had single room apartments with a hotplate for a kitchen and a shared bathroom down the hall. Beats living on the streets. But today such housing is illegal.) Puuleeze!

That fact is, Ms Quindlen is concerned about problems, not solutions. Problems allow her to furrow her brow and pontificate. That’s her job. Solutions would require actually thinking and working. The best problems are those without any obvious solutions. Even better are problems that aren’t even obvious problems: starvation in Stamford, illiteracy in preschool, di-hydrogen monoxide in drinking water.

And the best part about speaking out against famine in Connecticut . . . free lunch.

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