For Food Security

Day Five: For Food Security

I feel more conflicted about this one than I have about my previous gratitude topics. Not that food security is not a marvelous blessing–it truly is, in every sense of the word. 

But I’m aware that all around me–in my community, across my nation, and around the world, there are many, many people who do not share this blessing.

To express public gratitude for it, in the knowledge of such widespread lack, almost feels like gloating. That’s not my intention at all. If I could, I’d extend this blessing to everyone in the world, so that no one anywhere has to go to bed hungry, or wonder where their next meal will come from.

Here in the USA, today is Thanksgiving. Everyone in the country is presumed to be eating their fill, then waddling into the next room to zone out in a “food coma” while watching American football games. However, despite the best efforts of community charities, not everyone will be able to do that. Statesman Jacques Diouf put it well:

Everyone alive should be acknowledged to have a basic human right to adequate, nutritious food. That this is ignored, pushed aside as inconvenient, left to the vaguaries of climate change, governmental style or unregulated capitalism, or even actively subverted so hunger can be used as a weapon is inexcusable. Yes, people have been doing it for millennia; it’s a crime against humanity every single time, in my opinion.

How can persons of conscience work to fight food insecurity? Acknowledging that we who can eat well are blessed, we can make charitable donations on both the local (link to find US agencies) and international (this link: UN) level to help fill immediate shortfalls.

But we also must advocate for longer-range goals: 

Creating systemic improvement is a large, difficult goal, fraught with practical difficulties, cultural pitfalls, and unintended results. It also is desperately necessary, as long as people anywhere are hungry.

Creating changes in public opinion is a way to begin. Funding empirical studies by unbiased researchers is a reasonable step forward. Involving all involved parties in design of solutions is a reasonable, respectful necessity that is likeliest to result in the best solutions. Many initiatives have already begun. We all must work together to bring the best ones to fruition.

IMAGES: The “Seven Days of Gratitude” design is my own creation, for well or ill. If for some reason You’d like to use it, please feel free to do so, but I request attribution and a link back to this post. The “Food security definition” quote by Pattie Baker is from Quozio, via Pinterest; her book Food for My Daughters is available from Amazon Smile and other fine booksellers. The Jacques Diouf quote is identified as sourced from Live58, though I couldn’t find it on their site; I did find it on the website for GRIID (the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy). The quote from Ray Offenheiser of Oxfam America is courtesy of The Huffington Post, via Pinterest. Many thanks to all!

For Religious Freedom

Day One: Grateful for Religious Freedom

On many calendars, this is the first day of the week, so I figure this is a good place to start my Seven Days of Gratitude project for the week of the US Thanksgiving holiday. Throughout my life, gratitude and thankfulness have repeatedly come up as important themes. I welcome this holiday each year as an opportunity to explore them once again.

My daughter recently started a “Gratitude Journal,” a daily recording of at least one thing each day for which she is thankful. Thinking about her project has given me my theme. As a practicing Christian, it is my belief that I have myriad blessings each day to celebrate with joy and thanksgiving to my God.

Massive among of those blessings, for me, it the United States Bill of Rights guarantee that I may practice my religious faith freely, without fear of persecution. It should be a source of great joy to everyone in the USA that this not only is guaranteed to me, but to everyone in my country, whatever tradition of faith–or however much absence of religious expression–they cherish.

Ironically, I think this is the single most important reason why so many people in the United States still say they believe in God (89%, according to a 2016 Gallup Poll. Compare that to most other industrialized nations, many of which have long histories of state religions). It seems to me that if you are free to believe in the God of your innermost spiritual being, you are more able to find reasons to believe in any God at all.

Or not. And that won’t get you thrown in prison either, thank . . . the Bill of Rights.

Our strength, yet again, lies in our diversity. That’s why I shudder when I hear people say “America is a Christian nation!” Many of the founders may indeed have been some variety of Christian (pretty broadly defined, though: consider how many were Deists, or how Thomas Jefferson felt free to create his own “good parts” version of the New Testament), but asserting any specific religion as “the” American religion would have been “fighting words” to them.

And rightly so. I believe that all of us in the United States should be deeply thankful for our guarantee of religious freedomand I believe that we must remember and defend it, any time we see the rights of any religious community under attack. Bad as that is, though, I think it’s even worse when the values of any particular religion are imposed upon others, especially by people acting in the name of some level of government. Any advocacy for either abuse should be “fighting words” for all true Americans.

IMAGES: The “Seven Days of Gratitude” design is my own creation, for well or ill. If for some reason You’d like to use it, please feel free to do so, but I request attribution and a link back to this post. The illustrated quote from Sir Patrick Stewart is courtesy of We F**king Love Atheism. Many thanks!

Respect

How do you celebrate Veterans Day? How should we? I think that varies with the individual or family, whether one is or is not a veteran, and sometimes which war hits closest to home for us.

A Veterans Day parade in Milwaukee, WI, complete with banners, flags and uniforms.

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with a good parade, honor ceremony, or display of the flag. In many places you can buy a remembrance poppy, evoking memories of World War I, and a tradition in English-speaking countries since the 1920s.

I sometimes feel that the trappings of patriotism–the outward signs, such as a flag pin on a lapel or a patriotic meme on a Facebook wall–get more focus than actual, substantive ways to support veterans and their families.

Last year I posted some thoughts on how to thank veterans that might be worth another look, if you’re so inclined. But it seems to me that we as a nation need to think long and hard about how we treat our active-duty military personnel and our veterans. It’s easy to wave a flag and say “Thank you,” and I’m sure many feel good to be publicly appreciated–but is that the supportiveness they truly need?

If we, as citizens and taxpayers think veterans should be better-served than they currently are, we first should educate ourselves about where the needs truly lie–then get active on a local, state, and national level. To me, that’s the best form of patriotism: the hands-on, trying-to-make-it-better kind. P.S. Did you vote for better government last Tuesday?

If we’re paying enlisted personnel a living wage, why do so many of them end up as prey to the predatory payday lenders whose businesses cluster near military bases?

Back in 2011, I wrote about dilapidated schools on military basesMany were still struggling to improve their facilities as recently as 2015, though academic scores were rising.

If we’re so grateful as a nation to our veterans, why don’t more employers make a point of hiring them

Why are there so many homeless veterans? Also, what can ordinary citizens do to help them? Why are social and mental-health services spread so thin that veterans too often fall through the gaps?

Why do so many veterans commit suicide? How can we stem this trend?

Looks elegant–but are we making it REAL? That’s an open question, I fear.

It seems clear to me that we still have many serious “system upgrades” to put in place, before any “thank you for your service” we say won’t be at risk of seeming kind of hollow, to all too many of our returned warriors.

No matter how sincerely we mean it.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Honor Our Military (based in Milwaukee, WI) for the photo from their 2014 Veterans Day Parade; to the Remembrance Day Pinterest page and Pin for the poppy-themed thought (photo sourced from Hubpages); and to Ultimate Medical Academy via Pinterest for the quote image about real heroes. Thanks are also due to Diply via Pinterest for the Mark Twain quote about patriotismFinally, I am grateful to the National Veterans Foundation for the “dog tags” Thank You image.

Forgetting is not an option

Remembering September 11, 2001

We saw the worst of humanity that day. But we also saw some of the best. I hope you’ll enjoy this tribute, with actual footage from that day at Ground Zero.

You also might appreciate this short National Geographic production about United Flight 93

Unfortunately, many 9/11 heroes are still “layin’ it all on the line.” A variety of respiratory illnesses and cancers have been linked to the pollution encountered by both survivors and first responders. But the trauma experienced that day has left many with PTSD and other mental health effects, as well. Last year, on the 15th anniversary, CBS News ran this item:

Clearly, not all sacrifices are made in a blaze of glory that ends quickly. The lingering effects of our collective trauma from that day still haven’t played out.

VIDEO: Many thanks to Allec Joshua Ibay on YouTube, for the “Everyday Heroes” musical tribute to the first responders at Ground Zero. The song that gives the video so much of its emotional power, please note, is by Dave Carroll, who is not credited on Ibay’s video (however, Ibay’s images are more focused on the events of 9/11/01 than the video Carroll posted). You can buy Carroll’s single or album on Amazon. Thanks also to The CBS Evening News and YouTube, for the video about first responders’ mental health. Additional thanks to CBS News for the image of the firefighter at Ground Zero.

Visual thoughts on disasters

This is one of those days when pictures shout louder than words ever could.

Damage from Hurricane Harvey could require years of cleanup. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Western states in flames (KHQ-NBC Q6)
I think I recognize this road in San Juan, from my trip there in July! Good luck, my friends!! (Alvin Baez/Reuters)
A final thought.

For your consideration: Prayers for the victims, local first responders, volunteers, and trained disaster responders are always helpful (if you believe in their power, which I do). But don’t stop there!

America’s Charities Disaster Recovery Fund-Hurricane Harvey 

Wildfire relief efforts in Washington state 

Charity Navigator Hurricane Irma

The American Red Cross

ASPCA Disaster Response

IMAGES: Many thanks to The Washington ExaminerAP Photos, and photographer David J. Phillip for the photo of Freddi Ochoa in his Houston, TX front yard. I also appreciate the vivid map from KHQ in in Spokane, WA, showing all the fires wreaking havoc in the Northwestern US on the day before I wrote this post. I especially thank ABC News, photographer Alvin Baez, and Reuters, for the horrifying photo from San Juan, PR. And I appreciate ShareQuotes4You and meetville.com for the Mollie Marti quote.

A powerful and effective voice

The Artdog Quote of the Week

 

Happy Labor Day.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Better World Quotes and Bruce Springsteen, for today’s affirmation of the value of labor unions.

Prepared

The Monday-morning quarterbacking has begun: even before it stops raining, people are second-guessing whether Houston and other Harvey-hit parts of Texas and the Gulf Coast were “prepared.”

Exactly how does one prepare for such an event?

It’s harder in some places than others. Houston is a sprawling metropolis of 6.5 million peoplelying no more than 125 feet above sea level, with an extensive network of bayous all through it and untold acres of impermeable pavement to concentrate the runoff. As I write this, the rain is slowing down, but Harvey is easily the wettest storm on record in the Lower 48.

Exactly 12 years ago: Hurricane Katrina flooded the I-10/I-610 interchange in northwest New Orleans and Metairie, LA. (Wikimedia/AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Niemi)

I’m sure I can’t be the only person who’s been getting an uneasy feeling of “déjà vu all over again” (thanks, Yogi!) when listening to or reading about Harvey’s devastation. We heard the same basic stories of inadequate infrastructure, inadequate shelter facilities, stretched-thin rescue services, and unequal impacts to richer and poorer communities (I’ll give you one guess who’s getting hit worse) during and after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and Hurricane Sandy in New York/New Jersey.

A washed-out bridge, and then some: Mantoloking, NJ, October 31, 2012, after Hurricane Sandy. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

CAN a city prepare adequately? While it’s politically difficult to justify expensive improvements to infrastructure or seemingly-needless restrictions on development in floodplains when conditions are calm, it is true that many cities could and should do more. For an idea about some of the ways to prepare, here’s a checklist for municipal planners, from the EPA (grab it while they’re still allowed to mention the words “climate change”!).

Massive storms, floods, droughts, fires, and other disasters may be touted in the headlines as 100-year, 50-year, or even 1,000-year events. But seriously: How many years in a row can we have “100-year” events before it begins to dawn on even the slowest among us that things are changing?

It turns out that it actually is possible to plan, build, and prepare for even rather extreme disasters, but it takes forethought. It takes community acceptance that it’s necessary.

It takes keeping our weather satellites in place. It takes governing officials who acknowledge the realities of our situation, and can’t be subverted by special interests who’d rather take a short-sighted opportunity to make a buck, or by those who think all regulations are bad.

To any who, like Grover Norquist, want to make government small enough to drown it in a bathtub, I’d like to remind you that it’s harder to make the case for that, when your bathtub’s been washed away in the latest “100-year” flood. Of course, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is on this year’s budget-cutting list. So maybe you should just kiss that bathtub goodbye.

IMAGES: I first found the YouTube video of interspersed “before” and “flooded” views of the Buffalo Bayou in Houston on BoingBoing (the article compiles several more before-and-after images that are quite startling). According to streetreporter, who posted it on YouTube, “The still images are from unknown people shared by a French twitter user. I only made the dissolve to show perspective, which is transformative.”

Many thanks to Wikimedia, for the 2005 photo of the Hurricane Katrina flooding at the I-10/I-610 interchange in northwest New Orleans and Metairie, LA, an AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Niemi. Equal thanks go to Slate and Mario Tama of Getty Images for the photo from Hurricane Sandy.

I also thank Abode Home Group’s “Restoration” page for the Fire/Flood/Storm composite image.