Americas Crisis of Values A Call

Americas Crisis of Values A Call


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Dives didn’t realize that his wealth was his opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated

him from his brother, Lazarus.… He never really saw him. He went to hell

because he allowed his brother to become invisible



America’s Crisis of Values

A Call for Transformation


By Marian Wright Edelman


Let’s not just transform those in need; we can also find ways to transform those in power. Unknown

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Mahatma Gandhi


Current national political rhetoric and tax and budget choices tell us that the rich should be pampered and the poor plundered; that poor children — even neglected, abused and sick children — should lose tens of billions of dollars in order to fund tax cuts of hundreds of billions of dollars for the richest Americans; and that our children should be left a staggering future debt as a few greedily grab every dollar they can today.

The $1.9 trillion in tax cuts, when fully in effect, will give the richest one percent of all tax payers $57 billion each year. This is enough to provide health coverage to all 9 million uninsured children or enough to end child poverty in America now. Incredibly, President Bush and many in Congress want to make these tax cuts permanent despite huge post-Katrina needs, two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the largest national budget and trade deficits and debt in national history. Every child in America currently faces a debt burden and birth tax of $27,661.

Current national rhetoric and priorities also tell us “our own might is our God.” President Bush’s 2007 military budget seeks $527.4 billion a year; $44 billion a month; $10.1 billion a week; $1.4 billion a day; and $60 million an hour. Just one month’s military expenditure is more than twice as much as is needed to provide all 9 million uninsured children health coverage. The President’s military budget includes more than $10.4 billion for Star Wars — the unproved (and not yet operational) Missile Defense System.

That is enough money to lift 2.6 million children from poverty — every single poor child in four hurricane-affected states: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas.

Is it really necessary for the U.S. to spend seven times more on the military than either China or Russia, the two next largest military spenders, and more than 40 times the expenditures of Iran and North Korea, the two remaining countries President Bush has labeled the “axis of evil,” when so many children are terrorized by sickness, poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, and food insecurity at home?

Dwight David Eisenhower warned repeatedly about the military industrial complex that has reached extreme new heights. He also reminded us in 1953 of the stark life tradeoffs in our national choices. He said: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

Children’s Defense Fund 5 Needed: A New Civil Rights Movement for Children — Our Poorest Group of Americans

It is time for a new civil rights movement to reset America’s moral and social compass and to restore hope, stability and a sense of future to Katrina and all children in our lost nation. Katrina’s children face specific emergency mental health, health and education needs right now, but they and all children need their families, communities and leaders to ensure them a healthy and safe foundation in the early years and a chance to reach productive self-sufficient adulthood. They need families able to work at living wages with health care. They need good schools. They need equitable, quality integrated systems of care that prepare them for the future.

It is a social catastrophe that 9 million children lack health and mental health coverage; that 80 percent of Katrina’s children live in states whose schools do not teach them to read at grade level by the 4th grade and that 60 percent of White and 80 percent of Black and Latino children nationally cannot read at grade level in 4th grade. And it is downright economically and socially foolish that the only universal child policy our rich nation will guarantee every child is a jail or detention cell after a child gets into trouble. States spend over three times as much on average per prisoner than per public school pupil. It is time to reverse these perverse child and nation destructive priorities.

Katrina’s children are America’s opportunity — once again — to hear and heed God’s call to protect the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the vulnerable. Children are the transforming agents in our fractured nation and world. Abraham, Moses, The Prophet Muhammad, Jesus and His Mother Mary, Confucius, Buddha, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Cesar Chavez, Chief Joseph, Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marie Curie, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Katrina survivor children all share one thing in common. They,

like each of us, entered the world as a baby — God’s gift of life, hope, love, immortality, and messenger to the future. Our Creator sent babies in an infinite variety of hues, sizes, shapes, places, talents and faiths — each sacred. Dare we longer mistreat, neglect, abuse, kill, and deny health care to a single one of them? Dare we value one over another or hold babies and children responsible for unwise adult choices over which children had no control? Dare the richest nation on earth — blessed to be a blessing — continue its unjust playing field for children and wantonly continue to widen the gap between the haves and the have nots?

“We All Have a Dream”

The kindergarten class of New Orleans West has a dream that can teach, lead and save us if we will let it. Their dream was Dr. King’s dream, and it is God’s dream for all the children of the nation and the world. Can we each make it our dream too?

I have a dream that all red people, black people and white people get together as one.

I have a dream that people will not fight anymore, that parents will not fight by their kids.

I have a dream that everyone from Texas and everyone from New Orleans stop shooting, that everyone could be friends.

I have a dream that everyone can be in school. I have a dream, that we can always be learning.

I Have A Dream

I have a dream that I can go back to my home, that I can go back to New Orleans.

I have a dream, a dream filled with hopes.

I hope my daddy is safe.

I hope we can have a clean New Orleans again, that New Orleans can go back to the way it was.

I hope that all the people will be safe and protected.

I Have A Dream

I have a dream that my mommy can get me and my sister and brother what we want.

I have a dream that everyone would share, that no one will fight over money.

I have a dream that everyone is nice to each other.

I have a dream, I have a dream

We All Have A Dream

In 1968, in his last Sunday sermon at Washington National Cathedral, Dr. King retold the parable of Dives and Lazarus and reminded us that “A man went to hell because he didn’t see the poor. His name was Dives. He was a rich man. And there was a man by the name of Lazarus who was a poor man, but not only was he poor, he was sick.… But he managed to get to the gate of Dives every day, wanting just to have the crumbs that would fall from his table. And Dives did nothing about it. Dives went to hell. Dives didn’t go to hell because he was rich,” Dr. King said, but because “Dives didn’t realize that his wealth was his opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother, Lazarus.… He never really saw him. He went to hell because he allowed his brother to become invisible and sought to be a conscientious objector in the war against poverty. And this could happen to America, the richest nation in the world,” he warned.

“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!”

Dr. King’s warning and question about America’s will to see and help its poorest and most vulnerable is the defining question of our time. How will we answer? How will you answer the question that Katrina’s and America’s 13 million poor children are asking? How will you use your voice, vote, organizational, professional and personal time to build the transforming movement our children need to live and learn and thrive and embrace the future with hope?

Marian Wright Edelman

President, Children’s Defense Fund

posted 7 April 2006

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson, III

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