Diane St. Germain: We can be a nation that cares about all its people

For the Monitor
Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Why does it matter that the U.S. military spending and military presence around the world dwarfs that of all other nations combined? Why does it matter that the salaries of CEOs here in the United States are 300 to 5,000 times more than the median income of their employees? Why does it matter that spending on mass incarceration is increasing exponentially over spending on education? Why does it matter that federal policy denies climate science and that communities cannot say no to corporate projects that harm our environment and impact our health?

It matters because the people of this nation are hurting, struggling, giving up and dying. It matters because families from countries where U.S. involvement has triggered unstable, dangerous conditions are being torn apart as they seek asylum here in the United States. It matters because, for so many young people, raising a family without struggling is not viable. It matters because people who have worked all their adult years and earned an honest living are impoverished for becoming sick or disabled. It matters because all young people are being left a planet scourged by the effects of climate change.

The obscene wealth inequality in this nation, the militarization of our culture and proliferation of weapons, and the degradation of the environment – all made possible by corporate control of state legislatures, Congress and the election process – is a moral outrage.

In nations where CEO-to-worker ratios are reasonable and military spending is modulated, where job training and higher education are affordable, where health care is a right, and where environment comes before profits, people live with a sense of security and hope for the future. In nations where tax money is used to provide for the well-being of citizens, enriching the few by mass incarceration and perpetual war is a foreign concept.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized the need to lift the poor, the need for safe working conditions and job security, the need for opportunity for all. He recognized that the war economy had to be confronted. He tapped into the conscience of the nation, to raise awareness and bring people together to create a nation that cared about all of its people.

With the U.S. government waging open-ended war and heartlessly separating families, income inequality at an unfathomable level, thousands being incarcerated daily and stripped of their futures, people being fearful of violence because of their skin color, gender identity or religion, and people being denied affordable housing, health care and education, it is no wonder the work of Dr. King has been rekindled. It is no wonder that those reviving Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign are engaging, as did their predecessors, in nonviolent direct action to address the morally bankrupt policies that keep people poor and deprive them of hope.

News articles have been written about New Hampshire residents who have engaged with the Poor People’s Campaign in Concord in direct action and risked arrest to revive the work of Dr. King. The stories have described the integral process of committing to nonviolence, the lengthy training to carry out actions effectively and peacefully, recognizing that the police and other officials who may be involved in our arrests are our brothers and sisters with the same desire for a secure future for their own families.

But what this campaign is about is engaging everyone in the hard, unsettling conversations that need to be had. It’s about being willing to take risks to sustain that conversation until we become a nation that cares about all of its people. It’s about establishing a peace economy and addressing climate change as the greatest threat to survival of this nation and the planet. We cannot wait any longer.

(Diane St. Germain lives in Center Barnstead.)