Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
During the years I lived in Sri Lanka, when local people would strike up a conversation with me, they would usually begin by asking what country I’m from. When I told them “America,” almost invariably they would exclaim, with a sigh of admiration, “America—that’s a rich country!” Judging from the impressions conveyed by our forms of popular entertainment, their assessment of our standard of living might have seemed reasonable; but such judgments would have been flawed, based on a narrow reading of appearances. When we dig beneath the surface, we find that there is a dark underbelly to American life that rarely appears in our TV programs or movies, and remains hidden even in the mainstream media. This is the magnitude of poverty in our land. It’s a fact we don’t like to admit, for it amounts to a betrayal of our country’s promise and a negation of the dream that inspires people around the world. Yet to get back on track we have to face the truth and bring the full weight of our moral consciousness to the task of correcting our deviation from our professed ideals.