“We have no other problems…”

I found this video via a blog somewhere (I’ve read several today and don’t remember where I ran across this link). It was a link/post in response to World AIDS Day.  It is a collection of photos taken with disposable cameras given to the children in the piece.  The following quote from one of the Shange family was simply incredible:

“When our parents died, life was very difficult.  We felt alone, like nobody was going to support us.  We had to change our lives.  Our only problem is food.  This is the only life we know.  We have no other problems.  The hardest problem is getting enough food to eat.”

–Shange family: 2 girls and 4 boys.  Dad died in 2001, Mom in 2003.  Mandla, age 14; Nothando, age 15; Siphiwe, age 19; Thulani, age 17; Sithembiso, age 10; Mahlatsi, age 8

I just wanted to post this. Check out the video and also check out what Oxfam is doing around the world.

http://www.oxfam.org.au/world-aids-day/gallery/

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Big Bailouts, Bigger Bucks | The Big Picture

The numbers are way to big to comprehend.  Barry Ritholtz attempts to put some perspective on the whole fiasco in the post below but it still completely blows my mind.

Big Bailouts, Bigger Bucks | The Big Picture

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on socialism…

One of the most persistent attacks waged by Republican pundits over the last few weeks of the campaign has been the assertion that an Obama administration would be a “socialist” administration.  Those with just a little perspective would recognize this as political hyperbole in the midst of a very heated campaign.  Attaching such a label to your political rival and having it stick leading up to the election can be quite useful in these United States of America.  However, the label caught on and began showing up in Facebook statuses regularly.

I read an interesting editorial in the current issue of the Christian Century commenting on the tax proposals of McCain vs. Obama.  It contains some very interesting stats:

Since the late 1970s the share of national income going to the top 1 percent of Americans has doubled and the share for the top 0.1 percent has tripled. More than 40 percent of total income goes to the wealthiest 10 percent—their biggest share of the nation’s pie in at least 65 years. The very wealthy have become enormously wealthy, while middle-class workers have seen their wages stagnate—barely keeping pace with inflation—and at the same time have had to deal with sharp increases in the costs of health care and education. (Italics mine)

In light of this trend, the dispute between McCain and Obama on taxes is minor: Obama wants to return the top marginal tax rate to 39 percent, where it was under Clinton, while McCain wants to keep it at 35 percent. Both men, in other words, would maintain the mildly progressive tax system that currently exists. The current system is actually much less progressive than it was in earlier decades—under Eisenhower the top tax rate was 91 percent, and under Nixon it was 70 percent. Those were hardly socialist administrations.

from The Christian Century, Nov. 18, 2008, American Pie

I have had discussions with numerous friends supportive of McCain who earn well under $100,000 per year but for some reason vote and argue for conservative policy as though they earn many times that amount.  That, I believe is a product of political manipulation and a refusal to actually dig a little deeper in the the policies being proposed.  It’s much easier to say, “my guy good, your guy socialist”; “my guy lower my taxes, your guy raise my taxes.”

The editorial closes with the following paragraph:


Though tax rates are not the only factor shaping economic conditions, they are an important measure of how the burdens of common life are being distributed. The warnings about socialism should be seen for what they are: a blunt effort to block any discussion of the ominous fact that the U.S. has become a nation of increasing inequality and, for many, of declining opportunity.

I believe this is a situation that we must address if we are going to work our way out of the economic malaise in which we find ourselves.   I think it points to a hard reality that all of us need to face.  It will not be resolved via partisan politics or manipulation of the electorate.  It’s time we all open our eyes to that reality and work for justice not only via our votes, but also in our communities, in our relationships* and with our own check-books…in proportion to what we can afford.

I think we also need, as a nation, to re-evaluate our definition of what is “sufficient” in terms of our lifestyles.

*I’m really over-reaching this particular blog post with this but it hit me while I was using the word “relationships” above.  Do any of you have an actual relationship with someone dependent of food stamps for their grocery purchases? I do not…  Why is that?  Did you know that food stamps provide only $1/person/meal?  Who can buy groceries on that?  Why is it that the user of food stamps is often the symbol of abuse of governmental entitlements?  Why are we not outraged that real people are HUNGRY in the United States of America?  …this is becoming a rant…I’ll shut up now… (the questions however are not necessarily rhetorical…go for it below…)


…just a community organizer…

Palin/Giuliani et. al. provided a fantastic illustration of how out of touch the Republican Party is with the poor and marginalized in our country.  To mock the work of community organizing was was almost funny if it wasn’t so sad.  You see the job of a community organizer is to bridge the gap between people who have no voice or power within the political landscape in which they find themselves.  Obama’s work on the southside of Chicago was to unify the voices of those out of work and devoid of influence or representation in the halls of the political machine.  What Palin and Giuliani smugly mocked and what a room full of middle to upper middle class white people laughed at last night were the efforts of a well-educated upper middle-class leader (Obama) to bring these “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” (see poem below) into the process of our great country. That is nothing to be mocked. That is what brave men and women have fought and died for through out the history of our great country. The American idea is not about how we can live secure on our little “island” detached from all the worries of the world. The American idea is to be a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world.  At least that’s what I thought it was supposed to be.  Remember the poem on the statue of liberty?

“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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The Necessary Revolution

I picked up Peter Senge’s new book the other day on a whim. I liked his book The Fifth Discipline very much and was intrigued by the title of the new book: The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World. I was floored by a sentence on page 6:

“…the simple fact that the wealth of the 200 richest people in the world exceeds the combined annual income of the world’s 2.5 billion poorest people should give anyone pause, as should the knowledge that almost half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day while the average American earns $130 per day.” (from The Necessary Revolution, page 6).

Contemplate that for a bit…

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