Acts of Charity in Times of War

Random Lengths News | December 1, 2004
Every holiday season, starting right before the turkey gets carved and ending sometime around the time the fat man miraculously slides down the chimney, the news media makes a great big deal out of feeding the poor. Celebrities, politicians and community leaders all want to have their pictures taken serving the hungry, the displaced, the needy or disabled. It’s a ritual as reliable as Christmas itself or as common as the bell ringers in front of the post office. We like to think of ourselves as compassionate, even—or perhaps especially— at a time when our government is still mired in a protracted war in Iraq and Afghanistan, spending billions of dollars a week on a kind of giving that is, shall we say, less than charitable.

I have a difficult time justifying this hypocrisy in my own mind, or even explaining it to a child who sees the wars as a nightly occurrence on the news, which then segues into a report on holiday festivities, shopping and charitable acts of kindness by people of fame and fortune. It’s not that I would wish people to become so cynical that they stop giving during the season, but that we realize that the needy are with us year round and that the expense of this war to date– somewhere over $200 billion–if spent wisely, could obliterate poverty in America as we know it today. That is if “Compassionate Conservatism” were actually compassionate or conservative and not just lockstep allegiance to the past failures of corporate greed.

While you are dreaming of sugar plum fairies and Nutcracker Suites this holiday, just remember some more Dickensian names—such as Enron or Halliburton—as the more contemporary forms of Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol.” George “Shrub” Bush Junior for all of his faith-based religiosity and his zeal to cut social welfare programs that would care for the needy (that he so despises) year-round is the heir apparent of Scrooge. Yet we will see him and the rest of the neocon phonies lighting the tree, praising God and passing the ammunition this Christmas, as more of our soldiers keep coming home in hidden caskets in a war of dubious cause. The problem is that Muslims, Jews and Christians are all praying that God is on their side; but they all can’t be right. Even more—what if they are all wrong?

The charitable organizations of the Harbor Area have a long-standing commitment to filling the “spending gap” of government funding for the needy. Most of them have long track records like Toberman’s, with over 100 years of service to this community. They all should be commended and recognized for their commitment to filling the needs of those in need 365 days a year, not just now. Most of these very same organizations have been hit hard by “compassionate conservatism,” right where it hurts the most–in the funding gap. This is why this year, and in the four years to come, you will see more of these groups coming to the private sector and to private citizens to raise funds. And support them we should, but question these government cuts we also must. For it is a sign of the decline of our nation, our state and our civilization when we fail to care for the least amongst us, and transfer vast portions of wealth to those with the most, via tax cuts to the wealthy.

Hard economic times and war causes a variety of domestic problems at home that should be addressed by, and have historically been solved with, the help of the Federal government. What we are seeing now is the turning back of the clock to a time and philosophy that brought our parents and grandparents the Great Depression. It is the turning of the back of government on its people; it is a great betrayal of the public trust and the abdication of the social contract.

I do not believe that we who live in the shadow of this great “economic engine”—as the global trade of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are referred to—where hundreds of billions of dollars of trade exchange hands each year, should have to suffer the injustices of poverty, hunger, disease or pollution like we were some third world nation incapable of addressing these social problems. I do not believe that within the shadow of this wealth there should be one single family who goes without the basic standards of shelter, food, education and healthcare. There should not be one single homeless person pushing a shopping cart, or eating out of garbage can that is not given the choice to come in out of the rain of indifference and the errors of compassionate conservatism. It is not that we as a people do not have the ability to care, for clearly most of us do. It is that we have had our public morality abducted by those who claim high moral values, but then act against the teachings of Christ or even basic humanity.

Random Lengths News

Founded in 1979 as a counterbalance to the conservative, corporate- owned daily paper, Random Lengths News draws on the rich history of the Los Angeles Harbor Area. The name harkens back to a description of the lumber that used to...
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