What Color Shirts Will We Wear, Herr Beck?

August 30, 2010

I don’t remember the last time that I was ever really hungry and was not sure if my hunger would ever be satisfied. After a long bike ride of two or three hours I do certainly experience hunger. But I know that it will not last long. A meal is waiting somewhere. I will likely make it myself. There is even a kind of luxury in enjoying the hunger knowing that it will be sated. A rich mans aperitif, perhaps.

 But I can remember one occasion when I needed food and it did not appear for another ten hours. I was seventeen, at a Cadet Camp, where the evening stew had been made inedible by a stupid mistake. Our officers decided we could go without until breakfast. Even them my anger and disappointment at not having food was modified by the knowledge that when we awoke we would break out stores and eat again.

 Recalling that anger and temporary inconvenience is the only clue I have to what daily life is like for a large section of the world’s population, our brothers and sisters. Many of them right here in the U.S.A.; right here in my town.

 My town, which is in the middle of fields and fields of fruit and vegetables in a fertile river valley, has whole families that are hungry.

 Almost every week I am reminded in newspapers, or magazines, or online news feeds, that there is more than enough food for every single person on the planet. A simple question has a simple answer. What stands between the people and the food? It is greed, fueled by ignorance, fear and politics; the politics of racism and nationalism. And all these become so much more explosive when we throw on the gasoline of religious intolerance.

 Just as there are people; I have met some; who bluntly say that the poor deserve to be that way because they won’t work or wont shape up or somehow be like them, there are people who say that there will always be hungry people and that there is nothing to be done. It is almost like saying that it is their own fault that they find themselves in this predicament.

 I won’t go into the profound levels of ignorance and false pride from which these statements of pompous self righteousness derive, but I will say that they occur with disgusting frequency, and I fear it is rising. One only has to listen to the blare of hate radio masquerading as opinion to understand that we are being told to distrust everyone, that we are being manipulated in much the same way as the populations of some European countries were 75 and 20 years ago.

 When the radio demagogues start asking you to wear special clothing as you seek out this month’s scapegoat for purging you will know that this country has finally begun to flush itself down the toilet of history as another failure at a faster rate than many predicted.

 And the hungry will increase.

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