Sometimes we choose our own fates, sometimes we're born into them. The American Dream is little more than overcoming fate, but that's not as easy as it sounds. Maybe it never was. Bad circumstances do not exist in a vacuum, but bring with them a mindset that allows us to deal with a situation and assimilates us into it. Being born poor is not like being poor in your twenties. It's not like the burst of poverty after you overextend your financial resources or take on additional fiscal reponsibilities.

Imagine never knowing anything else. Imagine being raised on potatoes (Top Ramen and other prepared foods are too expensive and unhealthy to eat every day). Imagine that all your friends, the ones you can relate to, will never go to college, never have a job that is anything but menial, never stop paying rent, never own a car purchased new. They'll be pregnant and/or married before they're 25, they'll know several alcoholic and abusive fathers, mothers, husbands or wives. They'll watch too much TV, their bodies will be tired and broken by 40, and they'll resign themselves to living a life of grief and pain and not much to offset it.

Living paycheck to paycheck, working 60 or more hours a week for minimum wage and not being able to picture yourself in a situation any better is no way to live. And people don't deserve it. They aren't unintelligent or untalented or merely lazy. They are confined. Confined by public schools that, lacking rich benefactors, can offer little more than a basic and flawed education. Confined by seeing none of their peers succeed. Confined by the inability to control their lives for more than a second, never having the chance to get back on their feet, being eternally at someone else's mercy as they become increasingly in debt and out of hope.

It's too bad everyone doesn't have to experience growing up in these circumstances, seeing the worst of life in America and being powerless to do anything more than hold their parents' hands or accept their beatings. People grow insensitive. They blame the poor for their poverty and blindly believe that with a little effort the unwashed masses could conquer all the demons they inherited.

Know this: flawed though the system may be, the system is the only way any of these people will have any opportunity to change their lives. The welfare system? Maybe. The college financial aid system? The public school infrastructure? Definitely. We understand that it is better to teach a man to fish. But when those with money, safe in their white homes and grey sedans, cheat on their taxes or their FAFSAs, they injure the system. The system doesn't work because no one supports it. And for a lot of people, the system is the only dream of a way out.

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