This is like a personal essay--a short one. It is inspired by the brilliant documentary, Bowling For Columbine. It raises issues of injustice in there that brought me to tears. I have written a poem about it but it isn't ready.


The death of Kayla Rolland, the six year old that was killed at the Buell Elementary School in Flint, Michigan brought me to tears. There were two injustices: the shooting and murder of this six year old girl; and the shooter, another six year old who was led down the wrong path. The six year old girl was just standing up for herself in a disagreement between herself and the little boy, the perpetrator. How funny it is to use that word regarding a six year old boy. The boy, apparently, had spit on her desk, nothing unusal between young elementary school kids. Kayla just stood up for herself, and when the young boy went home to his Uncle's house, he got one of his illegal firearms and shot Kayla dead. What a tragedy! But the other victim, as said by Michael Moore, is the six year old shooter. For his mum was working two jobs: up to seventy hours a week to make ends meet. And after all that work, she still ended up being evicted. This is part of the welfare to work program: which gives the poor minimum to low wage jobs to pay back their welfare money; and in order to receive health care and food stamps. She worked at least twenty miles away from where she lived, and was not able to look after her kids. She had no choice. This is slavery! Slavery is not extinct in this society. If you are going to make people work who are on welfare, give them decent jobs so they can put roofs over their heads--so they don't have to rely on relatives who are connected to drugs and have illegal weapons lying around their home. It makes me angry that this happened. I think that privatization of welfare is a horrible thing--if you're going to make people work for money that doesn't put a roof over your head and food on your table. Being a single mother is hard enough; fighting to survive is even harder. The mother in this case was black; but there are many whites on the system as well. Poverty is an illness in society that can't be solved with measures that are motivated by the "all mighty dollar". The company who was behind this program was a corporation in charge of building missiles. They are not the right company I think should be in charge of such an important project. If you're going to privatize the welfare system, compassion, not profit should be the motivating factor to make things better for people. In fact, I don't think that the government should privatize the welfare system at all. If you want people to work, and get off welfare, give them decent paying jobs, and/or training that leads to jobs that provide you with essential sustenance so that you're not wondering if you're going to have a home from one day to the next--or if you and your family are going to be able to eat today.

Poverty, is an illness, it is a cancer: and it claimed two victims--little Kayla and the shooter. I do not blame the shooter since he was only six and psychological experts do say that the brain develops more between the ages of six and eight. The Uncle of the shooter was charged with I think manslaughter. I could be wrong, but check out the numerous news articles on this tragic event. And to let you know more disturbing news, the Uncle waved a gun in front of an obviously frightened six year old who was definitely shown that the way to intimidate and scare people is to use a gun.

Being a visible minority, is hard. Struggling to survive is hard. Seeing your family torn apart is horrible--so is seeing an innocent six year old shot to death. Little Kayla and the boy responsible for her death are definitely both victims. I hope and pray that this documentary Bowling For Columbine makes a difference; I hope that the American government makes changes to the Welfare to Work program so that it doesn't operate as a system of slavery in the new millenium. We all deserve to have a chance to have a roof over our head and food to eat without wondering if that is all possible, or it an American dream? I'm Canadian, and though there is poverty here, at least there are some options: like welfare, which does allow you to work a bit; training programs that try to help you find work, unemployment insurance, if you can't work, or have run out of work, or if you or your husband needs to go on parental leave. There are some options; they are not perfect, but it is a start. Maybe the American government could learn a bit from us. I'm sure that many of you Americans know that we do not have privatized health care, so no one that is sick goes without care. Yes, there are some flaws, but they are solvable, and it is better then being faced with a big debt; or being turned away because you don't have your wallet.

Being a woman, and a member of a visible minority, I feel for both Kayla, and the boy who shot her dead. I would like to hope that Kayla did not die in vain. That people will look at the sociological and economic reasons behind the situation which led a six year old to shoot another six year old. I would like to think that people will take action and make changes so that this does not happen again. I really encourage people to watch Bowling For Columbine. If you do, please let me know your comments. Watching this documentary really made me think. As Americans, do you think that you can change the system, and make things better so that poverty is not such a high factor in regards to crime?

If you read this personal essay, please respond. It would work better if you have seen Bowling For Columbine. You can rent it at any videostore. If you haven't, I encourage you; but if you still want to comment, and know something about these issues, feel free to comment if you like.

For everyone who reads this, not only have a good day, but be kind to each other; put yourself in someone else's shoes and don't just see people as "not like you". I firmly believe like Oprah that society needs more empathy. That would be something that would be a step in alleviating the disease of poverty in society. Thank you for reading my personal essay, and I hope that people in their own way will just be kind to each other. I might be hoping for a lot; but is that really too much to ask? Think about it. Thank you for listening.

Words by Alison Clarke
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Written on 2006-08-19 at 08:30

Tags Poverty  Documentary  Essay 

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keith nunes
excellent alison. the word empathy sticks out for me. i think that is one of the major cornerstones of a civilised society and in ours (the world today) it is in short supply. i take my hat off to you for expressing yourself and more power to you for that. well said!