If I were an artist I would paint a picture in two parts. On the right I would have a large round table with three place settings–one for the father and one each for a son and a daughter. On this table I would place all kinds of good things to eat–meat, fish, fowl, cabbage, beans, broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower. I would have various kinds of potato–fried, baked, and mashed. For dessert I would have a choice of pastry, pie or ice cream or an assortment of fruit–peaches, pears, oranges, and bananas. For a beverage the two children would have Coke, Sprite, Orange Crush, or Mountain Dew; the father would have tea, coffee or cocoa.
On the other side of my picture I would have another table, with nine place settings, one for the mother and one for each of the eight children. At each place setting I would have a glass of water, a bowl of soup, and a crust of bread.
And I would call my work of art, “The American Family at Dinner.” You would come along and inspect my picture and read the caption and shake your head saying, “No! No! That’s a lie. From Maine to California there isn’t a single family in which that kind of wealth and that kind of poverty can be found. We have rich families and they share their riches. We have poor families and they share their poverty; but no matter where you look you won’t find a single family that combines that kind of wealth and that kind of poverty. That picture is a lie.”
And you would be right! The picture is a lie. But suppose I were to change the title and call my work of art, “The Human Family at Dinner.” I should be precisely on the mark. That is how the human family lives–part in poverty that beggars description and part in wealth that borders on the obscene.