After serving in the Georgia Legislature, in 1992, Cynthia McKinney won a
seat in the US House of Representatives. She was the first
African-American woman from Georgia in the US Congress. In 2005,
McKinney was a vocal critic of the government’s response to Hurricane
Katrina and was the first member of Congress to file articles of
impeachment against George W. Bush. In 2008, Cynthia McKinney won the
Green Party nomination for the US presidency.
|© Eduardo Munoz / Reuters |
It’s hard to imagine that the country that controls so much
nuclear firepower and drops so many bombs every day is unwilling to
educate its children and house its own people.
The poor have been with us since there was an “us.”
And, as much as I would like to see zero poverty in the United States, a
country that spends trillions on its domestic and international
security apparatuses, I know that the political will for such policies
is just not there today. This, despite the efforts of thousands of
people just like me all over the country to alleviate the unnecessary
suffering of the poor in the US. Instead, it has become clear from the
rhetoric of the 2016 Presidential campaigns, that it is easier to preen
oneself by boasting of increasing such security spending, and almost
never to decrease it. Not even Democratic Party Presidential candidate
Bernie Sanders discusses cutting back on military spending and cutting
weapons systems. Thus, we can have a Presidential election and not one
word is uttered about the criminalization of the poor and now the crisis
of homelessness that afflicts a growing number of cities on the west
coast of the US.
It is hard to estimate the number of homeless
people in the US, but one indicator is the number of school children who
do not have an address. According to the Child Trends Databank,
at the start of the 2013 – 2014 academic year, there were approximately
1.4 million children in the United States who reported to school and
did not have an address to give to school authorities. Child Trends
asserts that while reporting has improved and can provide some
background for the increased numbers, the sad fact is that the instance
of homelessness among children is increasing.
So, the most
vulnerable population in the US, that would normally be counted on to
provide a quality of life for the country’s inhabitants for generations
to come, are not being equipped by their country to serve their country.
Of course, the distribution of this pain is not shared: Black and
Latino children are disproportionately represented in the country’s
homeless children population, with Blacks taking the larger share. Also,
all of the insecurities associated with growing up under such
circumstances are heaped upon these children, making survival and
thriving extremely difficult for them.
From the predatory nature
of neoliberalism, which is a kind of capitalism (with all of its
inherent deficiencies) on steroids, this situation, while dire for all
concerned, is not surprising. Thomas Piketty provides the clearest
example yet of the long-term effects of capitalism: growing inequality.
Now, add to that, the neoliberal philosophy that the state has no
business trying to protect the interests of its citizens, yet exists to
extend the hegemony of those with wealth and power over more and more
segments of the population in more and more facets of their lives.
|© Lucas Jackson / Reuters |
Thus, in the neoliberal state, allowing the child–teacher
relationship to become mediated by the local Chamber of Commerce is
alright. The same goes for the doctor–patient relationship that is now
mediated in the US by powerful insurance companies who determine whether
their customers live or die by the premium they’ve purchased and paid
for. The student–teacher relationship is now mediated by banks so that
the learner’s ability to even function as a student depends on the “credit worthiness”
of the learner rather than his or her eagerness to learn and become an
important component in the functioning of American society.
true leaders in other countries prioritize an education for their
citizens and a future for their countries, US decision-makers are headed
in the opposite direction. And like lemmings, Americans unquestioningly
follow this sheer and utter madness. The Nation observes
that universities in the US are more attached to Wall Street than ever.
The blind faith of the US population in the rectitude of its
governmental decisions has been betrayed. Now, that faith should be
completely broken by the west coast crisis of homelessness. Should be,
but it probably won’t be.
From California to Washington State—from
the Mexican border to the Canadian border—mayors are grappling with a
homeless problem evocative of the Great Depression and “Hoover Towns” known during the presidency of Herbert Hoover as “Hoovervilles.” On December 10, 2015, mayors from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Eugene, Oregon held their first Summit in
Portland on the housing crisis engulfing their cities. They proclaimed
that they don’t understand enough about what is happening to their
citizens and in the country. They gathered because they are concerned
about the impact on their cities. They also recognized that many of the
homeless are veterans of the Administration’s current wars.
Ten years ago, Portland declared its ‘war’ against homelessness yet, in 2016, there are as many homeless as there were at the time of the declaration. A tech worker in San Francisco wrote a letter to the mayor complaining about having to come into visual contact with “homeless riff-raff.”
I doubt that that same tech worker even bothered to defend the right of
people to remain in their neighborhoods attacked by rapacious
developers who have veritably wiped out San Francisco’s Black community
and inner-city neighborhoods where people could find affordable housing.
The nuns of
the Fraternité Notre Dame who run the Mary of Nazareth Soup Kitchen are
an example. They tend to the needs of San Francisco’s homeless. But,
they, themselves are at risk of becoming homeless because the landlord
raised their rent by more than 50 percent while a developer lurks in the
background attempting to build more housing in the neighborhood, but is
opposed by residents because not enough of it is affordable. The San Francisco Weekly News calls the city’s homeless population the result of the city’s failed policies. Seattle declared a homelessness ‘State of Emergency’ in November of last year.
hard to imagine that the country that controls so much nuclear
firepower and that drops so many bombs on Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan,
and Pakistan every day including today is increasingly unwilling to
educate its children and house its citizens. While China has lifted 400 million of its people from dire poverty, the
seems on the path to consigning such a fate for its citizens.
Republican President Dwight David Eisenhower uttered these memorable
words: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket
fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and
are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms
is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers,
the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a
way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is
humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
The US government is
run by a group of predators who are making public policy that benefits
the few at the expense of the many. The sooner Americans and people in
the rest of the world realize this, the sooner we can create real change
inside the US that will radiate well beyond its borders.