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November 23rd, 2009
Freethought San Marcos: Reflections on Thanksgiving in America 2009

Freethought San Marcos: A column
by LAMAR W. HANKINS

In America, most of us have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, though there are still plenty of people without enough food and shelter, especially since the great recession hit just over a year ago. Actually, the Great Recession has been going on much longer for those of us on Main Street and Side Street and Back Street. It was only when Wall Street started hurting that the politicians got concerned enough to respond to their needs. The needs of Main Street, Side Street, and Back Street have yet to be met, except for getting rid of a few clunkers for cash to stimulate moribund automobile and truck sales.

Congress has virtually ignored the high rate of unemployment, which exceeds 15%, if those job-seekers who have become discouraged from ever finding a job are included in the official unemployment figures. If the Works Progress Administration worked during the Great Depression, why wouldn’t it work during this Great Recession?

On Nov. 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that one in six households in the U.S. was “food insecure” last year. Among these 49 million Americans are 17 million children. This is the highest level of food insecurity since the reports began in 1995. The Food Research and Action Center describes the meaning of food security and insecurity in America this way:

“The government uses two main terms to describe the levels of hunger problems we typically face in the United States. Food security is a term used to describe what our nation should be seeking for all its people – assured access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life, with no need for recourse to emergency food sources or other extraordinary coping behaviors to meet basic food needs. In a nation as affluent as ours this is a readily achievable goal. Food insecurity refers to the lack of access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times due to lack of financial resources.”

The Agriculture department report noted “that most (US) families in which food is scarce contain at least one adult with a full-time job, suggesting that the problem lies at least partly in wages, not just an absence of work.” Last year, almost 5 million US households had to use private pantries and food banks to supplement the food they could afford to buy.

In the rest of the world, malnutrition, chronic hunger, famine, and death are greater concerns than food insecurity. In the world, ten children die of hunger every minute–one every six seconds–according to the United Nations World Food Programme, which adds that, “For the first time in humanity, over 1 billion people are chronically hungry.”

And America goes merrily along for over eight years now spending about $265 million per day in Afghanistan, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Associated Press figures reveal that the War in Iraq has cost American taxpayers about $400 million per day for the last six years. All of this is happening while about one-seventh of the world population is hungry or starving to death.

The United Nations has estimated the cost of ending world hunger at about $195 billion a year, less than $535 million per day–about $130 million less per day than the cost of prosecuting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These figures do not include the secondary costs of the wars for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, nor do they account for the money needed to take care of the physically and mentally wounded veterans and their families in the US and among our allies.

Looking at these data should make for a less than joyous Thanksgiving for those who are not callous and indifferent to the suffering in the world, much of it caused by our government’s actions and the actions of the mega-corporations intent on exacting profit out of the lives of the least powerful people in the world. These data suggest that America seems to value military action–no matter its cost–more highly than human life.

As most Americans sit down with friends and loved ones for Thanksgiving dinner this week, thanking god for our good fortune seems hollow, self-centered, and crass, an exercise in arrogant pride. A Thanksgiving Blessing more in keeping with our reality might read like the following:

A Universal Blessing for America’s Thanksgiving Dinners

For the blessings of the earth that gladden our lives, we give thanks.

Blessings are not shared equally. May we find within ourselves hearts of generosity and sharing.

For works of our hands and hearts and minds that connect us to the peoples of the world, we give thanks.

If we have health of mind and body, which allows us to celebrate life, we give thanks.

Health is not enjoyed universally; may we find within ourselves hearts of compassion and healing for those in need of comfort and assistance.

For freedom of heart and mind and body, we give thanks.

Such freedom is not everywhere honored.

May we develop within us such truth and courage that our actions will support the blossoming of freedom everywhere.

May we be better stewards of the gifts of life, and may we develop a generous spirit toward all the world’s people, unconnected to greed, envy, pride, acquisitiveness, and anger.

Food is not everywhere in abundance. May we strive to right this wrong.

For the food we are fortunate to enjoy and share this Thanksgiving, we are thankful. Amen.

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3 thoughts on “Freethought San Marcos: Reflections on Thanksgiving in America 2009

  1. Thanks, Lamar. You are on track as always.

    I know you did not mean that America should be the single country to provide relief to the world’s hungry. Americans could certainly end hunger in America. America could also ease hunger abroad if we had not followed Bush into Iraq.

    Like millions of other Americans, I was foolish enough to believe the Bush administration’s rotten evidence (I did not know it was rotten) that took us into Iraq. The Iraq misadventure has cost thousands of American lives & tens of thousands of Iraqi lives. It has cost us untold billions of dollars. And it cost us the gains we had made for Afganistan. If we would end our horribly failed war on drugs we would save billions of dollars, the lives of innocents in many countries, and at the same time we would put a major hit on the world of drug cartels by legalizing, managing, & taxing drugs as we do alcohol. Our politicians don’t have the courage to lead.

    As to the situation in Afganistan (and the billions we are spending there), I don’t know the right solution – all solutions I’ve heard sound bad – and Obama is in a lose-lose position on Afganistan.

    There was some potential to save money as part of health care reform, but lobby power has made sure that money will continue to flow to where it shouldn’t.

    We need money to fight hunger and to help hungry people better their situations. The money we need is locked up in Afganistan, Iraq, and the drug war. We’re wasting millions on a failed health care system. The greedy came into power on Wall St. (I once worked there, btw) replacing the expectation of reasonable profits with ridiculous excess. Seems like the leaders of the big financial institutions now rule the world. They sure as heck do not care about hunger.

  2. “The Agriculture department report noted “that most (US) families in which food is scarce contain at least one adult with a full-time job, suggesting that the problem lies at least partly in wages, not just an absence of work.” Last year, almost 5 million US households had to use private pantries and food banks to supplement the food they could afford to buy.”

    How about if we think globally and act locally? We could start by improving our schools and improving job prospects in San Marcos. I know we have taken steps in both areas, but there is still much work to be done and now is not the time to stop and congratulate ourselves. We have a huge percentage of our population living below the poverty level and a disturbingly low number graduating with a realistic shot at going to college.

    As for more immediately addressable concerns, the Hays County Food Bank helps a lot of our poorer citizens and is regularly scrambling to keep up with increased demand. I am reiterating my call for the mayor and city council to donate their compensation to the food bank and I am upping the ante. I will opt out of my 401k and donate $500 per month to the food bank, if even one council member donates his/her monthly compensation.

  3. Thanks for your comments Charlie. I like Ted’s suggestion about focusing on helping the San Marcos Area Food Bank. I served on its board for several years in the 1990s, including the period when its present building was constructed. While my family gave a few canned goods recently, we aren’t doing enough. Your comments have made me think about splitting my charitable giving between the international projects I support and the Food Bank. I hope others will consider supporting the local Food Bank, as well.

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