By Mark H. Levin
Jun 10, 2015
My daughter and I recently visited The McLeod Plantation, owned by the Charleston County, S.C., Parks and Recreation Department, newly opened to the public. It’s different: The narrative is told from the perspective of the slaves.
We stuck our heads through the open windows of slave cabins, probably 12 feet by 12 feet of living space, which sheltered as many as 10 inhabitants.
But space didn’t cause the primary torture. The plantation owners harbored little regard for families. They tore them apart, splitting parents and separating children, selling them nearby or states away. How terrifying and destructive!
Last week a friend called me about a tragedy occurring to a local family. A woman who had just started a job to feed her family was driving on Interstate 35 to work. A Kansas state trooper stopped her for something about her car. He discovered she was driving without a license because of an earlier problem. He arrested her and impounded her car, even though a friend said she’d come to pick up the car and save the expense. She lost her job.
Without a job and a car, she’d lose her place to live. Without a place to live social services would come and remove her children from her home and her custody. The result of driving without a license to get to work to support her children: lost job, housing, children and homeless on the street.
Fortunately, the man who called me was raising the money to resolve the problems. The woman is back out finding a job. Her fines are paid. She has her car and license back. The children will remain with her and they will not be homeless.
But, just like in slavery, no one at the state level cared about retaining her family intact. No one cared that the traffic stop would result in the breakup of her family and their homelessness, the loss of her employment and putting her out on the street. She’s not on welfare. She’s trying to return to the work force and protect her family.
The problem was solved with less than $2,000, which kept a taxpayer employed and a family together. But like the slave owner, no one in government cared about the family impact of their actions, or the societal deterioration that results. The state complains about family structures and people in poverty, but then turns around and adds to the problem.
Kansas is in the process of losing its soul. The slogan that “We do better deciding where to spend our own money” is not only increasing poverty, causing people to die by ignoring their medical needs, destroying families and schools and costing more money than if we put available systems in place to solve all of these problems.
This is not primarily a financial issue. We are dealing with the very soul of the society in which we live, and it is rapidly disintegrating.
Slave owners didn’t care about the families they separated. They were dealing with a financial question. Centuries later the U.S. continues to deal with the fallout of that ethical problem embedded in antebellum southern society.
Neither does the government of Kansas care about the destruction of families. The results will be similar. The destruction of the soul of Kansas is the problem, not the budget or the level of taxation.
Mark H. Levin is founding rabbi of Congregation Beth Torah, Overland Park.