Wednesday, December 07, 2005

More Thoughts on Giving vs. Sharing

"Real Change" is a Seattle weekly paper sold by the homeless, focusing on social justice issues. Here is an editorial excerpt by executive director Timothy Harris from the last issue. He's specifically refering to Thanksgiving, but the issue is true of the holidays in general... and of the rest of the year for that matter.

What are we to make of Thanksgiving? For homeless folks there is a vast circuit of turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie to be navigated. The mailings and the billboards begin in September. "Your contribution will ensure that no one goes hungry on Thanksgiving Day."

As if that were the problem.

Last week...the House passed a budget proposal that slashed funding for poor people's programs. Medicaid. Food stamps. Support for childcare. Even child support enforcement has been targeted. The legislation was quickly passed, in time to recess for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since 2001, the number of poor in the United States has grown by 4 million. The number of people without health insurance has grown to over 45 million. Meanwhile, over 50 percent of all 2004 income went to the top fifth of households, with the biggest gains going to the top five percent and one percent.

This is the sort of radical inequality that undermines democracy itself.

Thanksgiving has a lot going for it. But the idea of being thankful needs to genuinely extend to concern for others. Social progress is nothing if not a continual enlargement fo the definition of who matters.

This was the radical message of Jesus Christ that those who have formed a political movement in his name seem to have missed. When we place the least among us first, we realize the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

These are extraordinarily mean times. The shortsighted and ruthless greed that drives national priorities seems to have no limits. It's easy to feel as if there is little to be done, to retreat into private concerns and individual priorities.

We must instead take up the challenge of our times. An authentic Thanksgiving celebration must embrace the issues of what can be done for others. How can we enlarge our definition of community?

Thanksgiving has a become a national celebration of charity. What we need is a holiday to celebrate the idea of justice.

For another profound perspective on the difference between charity and solidarity, check out Christy's post.

Also, Mike's post.


Blogger steph said...

Powerful idea Tonya - celebrating the idea of justice. Great article.

I find it so hard to think of the "one day" giving to the poor when the whole idea should be a daily kind of thinking perspective, action perspective.

It is like loving someone on one day of the year and then forgetting about it until 364 days later.

It doesn't make sense to me. Maybe because the one day concept isn't justice at all.

6:39 AM  
Anonymous Ellie said...

I agree with you, Tonya, sometimes I think we feel better when we do something on that one day, so it really is a somewhat selfish decison.
I like your idea of a day of to celebrate justice. Keep provoking us to think, it's good.

2:05 PM  

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