Showing posts with label poverty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poverty. Show all posts

Monday, January 15, 2018


Icon of MLK by Tobias Haller

From Martin Luther King's speech at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, four days before he was assassinated nearly a half century ago. Reposted from eight years ago.

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.

The hour has come for everybody, for all institutions of the public sector and the private sector to work to get rid of racism. And now if we are to do it we must honestly admit certain things and get rid of certain myths that have constantly been disseminated all over our nation.

One is the myth of time. It is the notion that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice. And there are those who often sincerely say to the Negro and his allies in the white community, "Why don’t you slow up? Stop pushing things so fast. Only time can solve the problem. And if you will just be nice and patient and continue to pray, in a hundred or two hundred years the problem will work itself out."

There is an answer to that myth. It is that time is neutral. It can be used wither constructively or destructively. And I am sorry to say this morning that I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme rightists of our nation—the people on the wrong side—have used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "Wait on time."


There is another thing closely related to racism that I would like to mention as another challenge. We are challenged to rid our nation and the world of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, poverty spreads its nagging, prehensile tentacles into hamlets and villages all over our world. Two-thirds of the people of the world go to bed hungry tonight. They are ill-housed; they are ill-nourished; they are shabbily clad. I’ve seen it in Latin America; I’ve seen it in Africa; I’ve seen this poverty in Asia. 

Not only do we see poverty abroad, I would remind you that in our own nation there are about forty million people who are poverty-stricken. I have seen them here and there. I have seen them in the ghettos of the North; I have seen them in the rural areas of the South; I have seen them in Appalachia. I have just been in the process of touring many areas of our country and I must confess that in some situations I have literally found myself crying.

And this can happen to America, the richest nation in the world—and nothing’s wrong with that—this is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.

In a few weeks some of us are coming to Washington to see if the will is still alive or if it is alive in this nation. We are coming to Washington in a Poor People’s Campaign. Yes, we are going to bring the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. We are going to bring those who have known long years of hurt and neglect. We are going to bring those who have come to feel that life is a long and desolate corridor with no exit signs. We are going to bring children and adults and old people, people who have never seen a doctor or a dentist in their lives.

Let me close by saying that we have difficult days ahead in the struggle for justice and peace, but I will not yield to a politic of despair. I’m going to maintain hope as we come to Washington in this campaign. The cards are stacked against us. This time we will really confront a Goliath. God grant that we will be that David of truth set out against the Goliath of injustice, the Goliath of neglect, the Goliath of refusing to deal with the problems, and go on with the determination to make America the truly great America that it is called to be.

Icon by Tobias Haller.

Text of the speech from Stanford University.

Friday, April 26, 2013


My dear friend Margaret wrote the following letter to her senators and representative:

My name is Margaret. I am the Episcopal priest serving the Cheyenne River Reservation. It is a difficult job, at best, but I have never felt more fully alive than when serving the good people of South Dakota.

Here is my concern: The "Sequester" cuts have cut to the bone here on the Reservation. Our Social Services workers will be working without a direct office supervisor, and will be expected to absorb the work load of their supervisor when she is laid off beginning May 1. They already each have over 150 clients. I have heard one serves more than 260 clients --adding more is going to make a difficult job impossible.

But more importantly, the clients themselves have been cut off --they have received no monies since the beginning of March. They are coming to my door asking for heating fuel, food, clothes, diapers. Children are at risk. There are no Tribal programs that can assist these folks, they are mostly disabled, elderly with grandchildren in the home, or are desperate for work. Last night, after a funeral, I delivered left over food to people's homes. Funeral food to a family of six of baloney sandwiches, biscuits, two apples, two oranges and some chocolate cake.

I cannot afford to feed all the people who come to my door asking for help. I have emptied my own freezer, my own cupboard in order to help these desperate folks.

I would like to invite you and any one else who is interested to come and stay here for ten days. Just ten days. I would like you to open my door and hear the stories, see the faces, see the desperation and despair. I would like you to feed the people from my freezer --and when it is empty explain to them why it is they have to go hungry and cold.

I would like you to attend the funeral I would probably do sometime in that 10 days and see the faithfulness, the generosity, the generational grief. I would like you to come with me on home visits and see the extreme poverty out of which that faithfulness and generosity and grief springs.

In the last six months, I have done 40 funerals --six infants, two teen suicides, and many, many folks under the age 40.

And food, shelter and heat are not the only problems here --the Indian Health Services were also part of the Sequester cuts. And the cuts are affecting the Head Start programs.

Have you all become so twisted up in your political lives that you have forgotten the people you have been called to serve?

I think so.

Look, it's really easy --have no cap on Social Security payments --everyone pays, all the way up. Including you. Don't make me pay 25% and more on taxes while the ultra-rich pay 15%. Don't give yourself healthcare benefits and raises and then deny them to others.

Don't punish the children and the elderly and the poor and the disabled by cutting the programs that at least keep them alive at poverty levels.  Oh, and by the way, don't sacrifice the environment for monetary gain --that will kill us all.

I'll say it again: Don't exempt yourselves from the burden the poor must bear every day.

I can only say I am shocked and depressed by my own government. Do better than this. The people you are supposed to serve deserve better.

Shocked and depressed,
The Rev. Margaret Watson
For you members of Congress who apparently believe that the inconvenience of delayed flights is the most serious consequence of the Sequester,  may I remind you of your oath upon assuming your offices?
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
The very first words of the Constitution are as follows:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (My emphasis)
When Native American citizens of  the richest country in the world live as Margaret describes the situation of her parishioners, something is very wrong.  In the best of times, her people number among the poorest.  In bad times such as these, their plight is desperate.

My prayer for you is that the words from the song of the prophet Ezekiel become the reality for you that will move you to exercise your power to end the Sequester and relieve the suffering people in these United States of America.
A new heart I will give you
and a new spirit put within you.
I will take the stone heart from your chest
and give you a heart of flesh.
I will help you walk in my laws
and cherish my commandments and do them.
You shall be my people,
and I will be your God.

(Ezekiel 36:26-28)

Friday, September 7, 2012


The delegates at the DNC look like the people in the country.

What kind of people do you want to run your country? The folks who organized the RNC or the folks who organized the DNC? If the winner is the party who put on the best convention, then there is no contest. The Democrats orchestrated a near-perfect convention.  The purpose of a political convention today is no longer about choosing candidates for president and vice-president, because that's all settled beforehand.  The hope of the Democratic leadership is to fire up the delegates to the convention, the activists and the not-so-active voters watching at home and in gatherings around the country, both Democrats, independents, and stray Republicans to vote and to work to get out the vote which the Republicans are so very anxious to suppress in the battleground states.  The atmosphere at the DNC was electric.  The crowd was fired up. The convention was a huge success.

Because of Isaac, what I saw of the RNC was mostly on videos, and it was Dullsville.  I did not last 5 minutes with any of the major speeches, though I did watch Clint Eastwood to the bitter end of his conversation with the empty chair.  I'm not sure why, but I couldn't seem to click the stop button.  Note to Paul Ryan: Lying speeches can be boring.  The Republican delegates, along with a good many Republicans at large do not have warm, fuzzy feelings about Romney, but they liked some of what he and the other speakers said.  The delegates even applauded Ryan's lies.  The Dem delegates seemed to love Obama, which does make a difference in the enthusiasm of the crowd at the convention and that of the viewers at home. Disclosure: I am biased.

The delegates at the RNC look like the crowd at the country club.

While I am rather cynical about politics here in the US, seeing much of the talk from both parties for the BS that it is, I do believe this election is important and that the team that is elected will make a difference, for good or for ill.  Both parties neglected the matter of increasing poverty in the country, but to suggest an equivalency in the policies of Democrats and Republicans stretches credibility beyond the limit. The dog-eat-dog Darwinian policies of the present Republican Party are shocking and scandalous.  The corporate culture will continue to run the country no matter which party is in charge in the office of the president and the legislature, but let's not pretend that the coming election will affect the poor in the same way. Even marginal attention to the plight of the poor will have an impact, and which party is more likely to address the problem? Note that Sr Simone Campbell, the voice of conscience at the DNC, mentioned the Ryan/Romney budget at the beginning of her speech.

The disappearing middle class is a crisis that if not addressed will increase the numbers of those living in poverty, and we'll end up as a banana republic, with a society that consists of the very rich and the very poor and quite a small middle class. Although I'm disappointed that the Democrats did not highlight the problem of poverty in the country as I would have liked, I believe this election will make a difference to the poor, even if only in a moderate way.

DNC photo from Time.
RNC picture from The Huffington Post.
Sign from Prior Aelred's Facebook page.