Today, the first World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis urges us to “make every effort to create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance.” On this note, Friday I had the great fortune to hear celebrated civil rights leader Rev. Dr. William Barber and sharing my notes here. Following in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he’s building a national moral movement around a Poor People’s Campaign. It’s fighting to end systemic racism, poverty, militarism and ecological devastation that left unchecked will upend democracy and the world itself.
Right now, one out of two Americans are poor or low-income. With Trump in office, we’ve seen a rise of hate, greed, xenophobia, and the deconstruction of the administrative state. White supremacy and corporate greed are gaining power and influence. So-called tax reform will cut taxes for the rich and skyrocket the deficit. For each dollar we pay in taxes, 54 cents goes to the military. What makes us safer – healthcare or war? Congress gets free healthcare paid by the public while they take away healthcare from 13 million people. Although the wealthiest nation in world, we are the only industrialized country without universal health care. While we focus on Russia, Russia, Russia, why aren’t we talking about voter suppression? 22 states have increased voting restrictions.
This struggle is not new, the problem is not just Trump. Congress has no capacity to resist him. They disagree with his antics but not his regressive agenda. Christian nationalists are committing theological malpractice. Instead of having suspicion of wealth, domination and oppression that preys on the least of these, they are quiet on things God says the most about. In a state of attention violence and moral abdication – no one is talking about the poor.
Yet we don’t have to be in despair. We know what works. Activism is as American as apple pie. We need to reclaim our values. Love this nation enough to take a knee. Protest at sit ins. Register voters. The Poor People Campaign will sign up and train 1,000 people for civil disobedience at 25 state capitols and in the US Congress for 40 days during the Spring of 2018. The idea is to change the moral narrative, and build a just, sustainable and participatory society. It comes down to policy: public education, goods jobs and living wage, healthcare, housing, environmental protections, immigration reform, voting rights, and safety nets for poor. For America to live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all, silence is not an option. This is not Trump’s era, but our era to fight back and transform America.