On January 2nd, 2003, The President of the United States said "I have no heart for somebody who starves his own folks." He was speaking of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, but knowing what we know now, he could have been speaking about himself.
Appointed to the White House by friends of his father who just happened to have a majority on the Supreme Court in December of 2000, Bush took the reigns of power speaking of a new 'compassionate conservatism.' But nothing even resembled compassion in the wake of social program gutting and the more recent refusal by the Republicans to give a boost to the poorest of the poor during the voting for the much ballyhooed stimulus program. Give the poor more food stamps so they can eat? You must be crazy.
Social workers, those who run homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and organizations nationwide all agree on one thing. After Bush took office, the number of hungry people in the U.S. skyrocketed to numbers that rival the days of Herbert Hoover. Numbers that some put at forty million Americans going to sleep at night hungry during the horror show of those fateful eight years. But the number has gone even higher since Bush left office with some reporting that one in six Americans goes to bed hungry.
One in six. That's about 55 million people in the United States that do not have enough to eat at any given time. Most of them children.
All across the nation, America's dirty little secret is that because of the new budget cuts to programs such as LIHEAP, Food Stamps, Health and Human Services, the CDC, the Dept. of Education, as well as eliminating the seed money for the Communities Block Grants, more Americans than ever, in record numbers, are going to be joining the ranks of the poor, the homeless, and the hungry this coming year. Factor in also the insertion of the big insurance companies into programs like Medicaid and Medicare, whose sole purpose is to save the government money by denying needed care to the poor and what we have wrought is a disaster beyond imagining.
We don't talk about it much in this country. It's an embarrassment I know. How shameful it must feel to awake every morning, pop the toast in and drink some coffee, knowing full well in the back of your mind that an American child is going to school with no breakfast, and may not even eat at all that day because of cuts to school breakfast and lunch programs. I wonder how that hungry child feels when the lunch bell rings and he or she gets to sit and watch everyone else eat, but they must curtail their hunger. How awful it must feel to most of us when we pass that homeless person or family on the street, and due to our conditioning, we look away from their pain and devastation.
Americans don't like to visit this issue. It makes us uncomfortable to know that while we who have plenty get to eat and sleep in a bed at night, millions upon millions of our fellow citizens will not have anywhere to go, or food or proper clothing. And so we only talk about the homeless and the hungry during Thanksgiving or Christmas. Sweeping it under the rug the rest of the year, we don't scream out loud about budget cuts for domestic programs, cuts that will place in direct harm, the very same American children that Bush's and now Obama's new war machine is supposed to be protecting. We feed that machine. And feed it and feed it until it is gorged and fattened like a pig feasting on the remains of the dead, which is of course what it actually does.
But we ignore the plight of our fellow humans, believing that the government is taking care of them somehow, ignoring the fact that food banks are overwhelmed, homeless shelters have no more room, and that in the richest, most powerful nation ever known to man, there are millions of forgotten citizens who need our help right now. Not tomorrow or the next day, but right now.
You're already saying to yourself, "I've heard all of this before. What am I supposed to do about it?" The answer is twofold. First, since our government has decided that it's best to let Americans starve to death, or freeze to death, or press the notion into people's heads that it's the Christian thing to do in letting them 'pull themselves up by the boot straps', then we all must take the moral high ground ourselves.
There are those in this nation that call themselves Christians, run mega churches, have television shows, call themselves saints, but only pay lip service to helping the poor, and in fact, there are the far right 'Christian' fanatics who even preach against it.
To refute these charlatans and hucksters, and to show who we truly are as a people, let's all actually put our words into action. All it would take to stop this hunger in America problem would be for every single one of us to make a commitment to bring a food item or two to our local food banks every week. A can of soup, some Spam, a can of corn or other vegetable. A box of crackers. Anything that is non-perishable. If we all did this, and encouraged others to do it, there would be no empty shelves at the food banks, no turning away of hungry families. You can find your local food bank under 'Social Services' in your phone book in most cases.
The second thing we can all do, is to out email the far right, and let every Senator, every House Representative, every state Governor and legislator, every candidate for public office know that we are America, and we will no longer tolerate the turning of our country into a third world banana republic. Tell them we demand the restoration of our domestic programs, because we are Americans, and we do not countenance the attempt to starve a portion of our own people. This issue is not a right vs. left table discussion. This is an issue of right and wrong, period.
In times of national crisis, we Americans have always pulled together and solved every bad situation. This is another national crisis, even though the government likes to pretend it doesn't exist, we all know the truth. And so, we, us, the people must do what our elected officials refuse to do. Feed our own people first. We can feed the rest of the world once we have fed every American.
By doing this, we can regain some of our true morality, our self respect, and hopefully no longer read about the starving children in this, the greatest nation on earth. Don't wait until tomorrow, people are hungry right now. Drop off something on your way to work, your way home, and do it again once or twice every week. Your action could truly mean the difference between life and death to another American.
Not only will your fellow Americans be eternally grateful, but whichever deity you believe in will surely smile down upon you, and if you believe in Karma, you know what they say about that.