The Politics of Hunger

Don’t worry, I’m not planning on making this post some partisan ideological monologue – in fact that’s precisely what I’m writing to discourage.

When I first got involved in the hunger movement, I naively thought I’d picked a nice, safe arena to work in…not too political, not anything anyone would be against, an important issue that anyone could be supportive of, right? Wrong. I quickly learned that things weren’t so simple.

Unfortunately, there have been splits within hunger relief organizations, there are constant debates between whether we should feed people here or there, and food, it turns out, is an incredibly political subject. This is true whether you’re talking about the politics of who supports what measures or you’re talking about which governments allow food aid and how, or you’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of agricultural subsidies and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

It’s not that I don’t care about politics. I believe strongly in our right and responsibility to vote, the importance of researching issues and being activists for causes we believe in, and being aware on both a local and global scale of what is going on in the legislation and political aspects of hunger and the other issues that affect our lives. But lately I’ve been fed up (no pun intended, sorry – one day I’ll run out of handy food-related phrases) with all the political bashing I’ve seen around this topic. In my opinion it’s getting us nowhere fast.

If the issue is getting people fed, or in this case, not stopping current aid – let’s talk about that, educate about that, and stop the ad hominem attacks on individuals and political parties. I can’t believe that no Democrat wants to balance the budget or that no Republican wants to see poor people get fed. The specific means each group is likely to want to use to reach those goals is very different, yes, but I believe there can be cooperation to reach these shared goals.

I realize I could sound like one of those idealistic college students that just hasn’t lived in the real world long enough to know that people don’t do that, but that’s not quite true. I happen to know there was a day not too many decades back when Senators and Representatives actually ate lunch together and worked towards common goals. I happen to know that former Senators George McGovern and Bob Dole, who belong to the Democrat and Republican parties, respectively, wrote a book together called Ending Hunger Now. And I know that I personally have had the chance to rub shoulders with a number of people who like me, care about hunger, and may be at the complete opposite end of the political spectrum from me on most fronts. I’ve laughed with them, learned from them, and worked with them, and they with me.

To me, if our goal really is to end world hunger, this type of collaboration is key. You don’t win points with people by calling them immoral or stupid and getting others to do the same. There are a number of things we can agree on, I think. Foreign aid is good for foreign security. Foreign aid currently is less than 1% of the Federal Budget. We want to manage our national debt wisely and reduce it so that our children (that means people like me for some of you) don’t have an unbearable burden. We want to support initiatives that are sustainable and don’t hurt our own farmers, but also don’t undermine the ability of another country to provide for itself in the future. We care about hungry people. And we are willing to do what it takes to see the world become a better place, even when that means making tough decisions politically that we believe are right and best.

So call your Senators. Write letters to your Representatives. Fast for the plight of the hungry. But start out thinking the best of these people. Look for ways you can win them over to your point of view, or support them if they already share yours. Imagine for a moment that perhaps they care about the same things you do. Consider what they’re doing right. Tell yourself the cause is for everyone to participate in. Fight your battles with a smile on your face and gracious determination. And never give up.

Read the rest of the posts in this series:


This entry was posted on Sunday, April 3rd, 2011 at 1:54 am and is filed under Important Causes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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