Social Justice

A Case For Charity

So on the way home from work this afternoon, there were two people on two different corners asking for help.  The first one was your basic down-on-their-luck looking person, with a sign that was basically illegible. The second guy though had a great sign, “I need a beer” was all it said. Now that is a concept I can get behind (although I am currently on day 6 of no beer while I try to get my cholesterol and triglycerides under control, again).

I don’t bring these encounters up lightly. I take the homeless problem seriously. Especially among my fellow veterans. But today, I couldn’t help these folks. I have basically stopped carrying cash.  Not that I’m afraid of getting mugged, but because an ATM card is just too convenient. There really isn’t any reason to carry cash. Or is there?

This reminded me of an encounter Wifey® and I had outside a local store a week or two ago. As we were leaving the store a young man with his family, significant other, and two small children were asking passers-bys for help.  The gentleman was wearing a clean Subway restaurant shirt and hat leaving to believe that he had a job. Of course, Subway, and similar fast food jobs are usually part-time minimum wages deals. And we all know that a single person, let alone a family can’t live off of minimum wage. I guess it’s obvious I support the $15 an hour minimum wage initiative.

As usual, neither of us had any cash and told them we couldn’t help them. But as we were pulling out of the parking lot I realized I did have a credit card for that store. I could have taken them into the store and bought them at least something that would satisfy at least part of their need. I will admit that I was almost in tears because I failed to help another fellow.

And that leads me to another story (yeah I know, shut up already).

Many years ago, when I did call myself a “Christian”, which I no longer do, this happened at the church we attended.

It was while I was setting up for a Wednesday evening Bible study/reflection time (I was on the soundboard as usual) when a down-on-his-luck gentleman approached me asking for money.  Well, this time I did have some cash on me. I gave him all I had, a whopping $5. After the guy left one of the members of the church, a deacon no less, said to me “Why did you give that bum money? You know all he’s going to do is buy beer with it!” My reply and one I still use to this day when I asked the same question was “Well, what the hell did you think I was going to do with the money?” Basically, I gave the guy my beer money, but I knew I had some more beer at home.

And if I had any beer at home today, I would have given the guy with the beer sign a beer or two. Share and share alike!

I’m sure some folks reading this (there is somebody reading this right?) will disagree with my view on helping folks that are not as fortunate as themselves. And while, as I said, do not call myself a Christian, I believe the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels (and I don’t think they are exact quotes, or if the human Jesus even said anything close to the words) are a good guideline for behavior towards our fellow humanity. Especially in regards to what is usually termed the “least of these”. To me, that means anyone on the fringe or outskirts of society. From what I’ve read of the New Testament, they tend to use the terms widow, orphan, poor, and occasionally refugee. In today’s world that would mean (to me at least) the homeless, the LGBT people who have been rejected, the refugees that have come to live with us (in or from ANY country, of ANY race, creed, color etc.), the indigenous peoples and ALL the other people of color, women, I could go on. But that’s another post.

My dear-ol-mother used to try to stop me from helping folks when I was younger.  Her favorite phrase was “Charity starts at home”. But then the question becomes; “define HOME”.  Going back to the Bible, even Jesus was asked a similar question, “Who is my neighbor?”, his response was the parable of the Good Samaritan. If you don’t know that parable click here to read it.  Of note on that parable is the Jesus Seminar released a book several years ago Sayings of Jesus” where they examine the sayings attributed to Jesus in the four Gospels. This parable was one of the few that all the participants agreed was a very probable saying from Jesus. (OK, I promise no more Bible references. I’m not a Bible scholar.)

No matter your belief system, I bet in some “holy” book you will find a varient of the “Take care of the ‘least of these'” command. I know you will find it in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qu’ran because I’ve read all three.

So what are your thoughts on helping today’s “least of these”? I’m not just talking money. It could be time spent with people in the hospital or an assisted living facility. Or visiting people in jail. Helping at a homeless shelter, a food bank, the list goes on. I admit, that I fall very short in this area. I try but fail. So for me, it’s usually a monetary donation. But when I was underemployed, it was time.

So do you do anything to help? Even if you don’t (no judgment here), leave a comment on your views on this subject. I welcome any open and thoughtful discourse. However, I do reserve the right to delete any derogatory comments.

Peace,
B

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Saint Columbus? Not A Chance

Christopher Columbus, the explorer, the great navigator, the man who “paved” the way to the new world, governor of Hispaniola, cruel dictator.  And not the first European to sail to what is now America. The Vikings beat him by years. He was just the first to go back and bring news of a “New Land” even though he still thought he had made it to Asia.

Growing up in Miami, with Christopher Columbus High School right down the street, we were taught what a great man he was. There was never any mention of how he decimated the native Taino people of Hispaniola.

From his Wikipedia article:

Columbus’s soldiers killed and enslaved with impunity at every landing. When Columbus fell ill in 1495, “what little restraint he had maintained over his men disappeared as he went through a lengthy period of recuperation. The troops went wild, stealing, killing, raping, and torturing natives, trying to force them to divulge the whereabouts of the imagined treasure-houses of gold.” According to Las Casas, 50,000 natives perished during this period. Upon his recovery, Columbus organized his troops’ efforts, forming a squadron of several hundred heavily armed men and more than twenty attack dogs. The men tore across the land, killing thousands of sick and unarmed natives. Soldiers would use their captives for sword practice, attempting to decapitate them or cut them in half with a single blow.

Columbus was bent on nothing more than a quest for gold, land and power. He was not an explorer, he was a conqueror. Who claimed he did it all in the “Name of God”. What a load of crap.

And worst of all he opened the door for the rest of the European nations to cross the sea and colonize the New World. The atrocities that have been visited upon the natives of the Americas have been brutal. Between disease (which I think even if the white man only came to trade, the disease they carried would have killed many of the natives. Not as many as history tells us, but still some) and the basic murder of the people and rape of the land, the white man’s legacy, my legacy, is shameful.

We look at the “evil” people of history, Hitler, Stalin, Caligula etc.. and say that’s not us. But if you look, really look, at the near, if not complete, genocide the white man brought upon the Indigenous Peoples of the western world, it is us.

And of course, the colonization of Africa was no better. Again the so-called “Civilized” man needs to bring the “savages” (and by savage I mean someone who doesn’t believe like I do) under control. No different from Rome trying to wipe the Picts off the map (but they didn’t succeed, we were much too different than anyone they had faced before, they could figure us out).

The white man and his “privilege” continue today. Just look at the percentage that a person of color (Black, Native American, any Refugee) has of at the least, of going to jail, at the worse being killed, by an authority figure and you’ll understand.

My “Internet Friend” Kaitlain Curtiss is half Native American (Potawatomi) and a very strong Christian (I am neither). Her insights have led me to become more interested in the indignities that Native Americans face on a daily basis. I say “become more interested” because I have absolutely no Native American in my DNA. Despite the fact that one of my sisters would tell me we were part (insert tribe here – it changed every time). And she couldn’t even get the tribe names right, one time it was Blackfoot (not the correct Blackfeet). I could have understood the Cherokee, mom was from the Carolinas and dad just a bit north in Pennsylvania (but that would probably have been part of the Iroquios Confederacy). I would strongly recommend you follow her a learn a little more about what it’s like growing up as a Native American.  You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.  I also would recommend Indian Country Today on Twitter (don’t know if they have a Facebook presence).

So that was a lot of words to basically say, let’s get rid of “Columbus Day” and rename it “Indigenous Peoples Day” or “Native American Peoples Day” (mainly because if it wasn’t for spellcheck I would get Indigenous wrong every time).

Peace,
B