On the northwest side of Wichita, just as you are leaving the city is a site known by the natives as “Mount Wichita”. It has several “peaks” and on one side of the highway it is covered with grass, with pipes sticking out in various places to vent the gas. On the other side it is a “work in progress” as daily it continues to grow higher and wider as trash trucks make their way to the top of it and discard our “throw-aways.”.
We are a “throw-away culture” in America. Our landfills expand almost exponentially and our factories put out items that are meant to wear out in a few years so we will buy new ones. A sign of this is the offer of an extended warranty when we buy such things as dish washers and clothes washers. If the items were made as we know how to make them they would not need such warranties.
If our present equipment does not wear out soon enough, then advertisers are always there, on billboards, in newspapers and magazines, on TV and the internet, to convince us that we must have the newest and the latest gizmo—whether it be a new iPhone or a kitchen gadget. We feed this highly productive machine with the lives of people who are paid low or sub-minimum wages, part time, and with no benefits. They are essential to the production, either here or abroad, but they reap none of the benefits. When they wear out they have no healthcare available and so we discard them just like the products and services they help produce.
In increasing numbers these “throw-away people ” can be seen on the streets of our cities, under the bridges of our metropolitan areas. They are carrying everything they own on their backs. Their eyes are dulled by alcohol or drugs or just by loss of hope and the resulting despair. They trudge from one place to another in our cities because they have no real place to go—-to call home. Thus we let them hide from us on the streets and under bridges, because really seeing them makes us feel guilty—-we throw away more food in a day than they may have had to eat in a week. We try to feed them and care for them, but we don’t address the real reason they are there. Increasingly we let our government and our economy discard them by not addressing the problems in our government and economic system that keep them on the rubbish pile of our civilization. Problems such as much higher minimum wages, health care, education, etc. These people are “throw-aways“. We say that they are just trying to “use the system“, but in reality they are victims of a system that keeps them in poverty in so many different ways. Until we do something and address the ways that they are kept in poverty by our government and our economic system working in concert against them, they will remain “throw-aways.”
Pope Francis said it well in these words: “I can say, we can all say, that the main cause of poverty is an economic system that has canceled the person from the center and set money in its place; an economic system that excludes, always excludes: excludes children, the elderly, young people, the unemployed…and that creates the throw-away culture we live in. We are becoming accustomed to seeing people discarded.”
In Kansas we also have a state legislature and governor who work together with businesses to make sure these people stay where they are—-that they remain “throw-aways”. God forgive us! Christians have forgotten that it was to the “throw-aways” of his culture that Jesus ministered to on a daily basis.