Editor's Desk - Addressing economic disparity

Chances are you’ve heard the infamous line reportedly declared by a French princess when she heard that the peasants were starving: “Let them eat cake!” The endurance of that statement in our popular culture is a testament to the difference in understanding between the wealthy, who had more cake than they knew what to do with, and the poor, who had no cake – much less anything else – to eat.

Sometimes starvation motivates the masses to violent ends, such as was the case in March and April of 1863 during the failed secession of the Confederacy. Women, beset by starving families that they alone were often left to care for, raided bread shops and their wagons to attempt to secure some kind of sustenance to feed their families. In Richmond, an April 2nd bread riot involved as many as 5,000 people vying for whatever food they could find.

In the 155 years since the Southern bread riots, many things have changed, including the establishment of the government-based social safety net that attempts to catch those at risk of falling into starvation. It doesn’t take an intensive look at our society, however, to see where that net is currently failing. As in the case of the “Let them eat cake” example, the wealthy are rarely willing to see the impact of increasingly limited resources on the non-wealthy – until it gets to a point that it can’t be ignored.

There are no easy answers to fixing the potentially dangerous economic disparity in our society at large, but there is hope to be found in communities such as ours. The more events that are held to raise funds and awareness for those most at-risk, the more the community is strengthened in its solidarity and its ability to effectively direct resources. We may be but one community of many, but the power to set an example is well within our means.

Lura Jackson