In 1981 I was invited to help my church develop a fundraiser for hunger relief. My family and I belonged to the United Methodist church. I really did not know much about the root causes of hunger when I proposed a run against hunger to my close women friends with whom I ran cross-country around Croton-on–Hudson, N.Y. Naturally these women thought a run to raise money to relieve hunger and to raise awareness was perfect for our community.
Asbury Methodist Church in Croton-on-Hudson has now sponsored the Harry Chapin Memorial Run Against Hunger for the last 33 years! A generation has come and gone but the race continues.
Back then I read many of the classic texts illuminating the root causes of hunger (Diet for a Small Planet, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, World Hunger: Ten Myths and Small is Beautiful). These four books opened my eyes to what creates hunger and poverty: unequal access to land and means of production through industrialization of agriculture. I also began to connect environmental degradation to the problems created by large scale operations. (Living on Earth)
I realized that my personal life was part of the problem or at least hitched to it. My husband and I lived a cushy life in a suburb of NYC. The money that supported our lifestyle emanated from a corporate world that keeps these inequities in place by concentrating power from wealth in fewer and fewer hands.
This caused a moral crisis in my life and set my life’s journey to discover the truth about my country’s incongruities between its ideals and actions.
The authors of these four books blew open the prejudicial beliefs about the “poor” – who are mostly working adults and white. Yet, now, just decades later, a small but vocal minority of citizens and legislators have paralyzed America into thinking there is something wrong about righting inequities and “floating everyone’s boat”. More kids are hungry, more families have no access to health care, and the middle class is poorer by $4,000 than in 1997. For all our wealth what good are we if we lose confidence in each other and a basic trust in the good acts of a democratic government on behalf of all its people?
Even the word entitlement has been corrupted, making seniors like me, who have worked hard all their lives, feel guilty about Social Security! The Baby Boomers are portrayed as a bolus of individuals born after WWII who are sucking the system of its wealth. These same Baby Boomers were the dreamers who moved the social justice agenda ahead during their 20’s and 30’s, and who gave their lives in Vietnam and who helped establish the environmental protection laws that now guard the last vestiges of our natural wealth.
These advances in the social experiment of democracy – the right of all persons to the equal opportunities to pursue happiness – these are now under assault by a contracted version of America which returns to survival of the fittest as its credo. If we sit back, it might become the law of the land.