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How wide that other divide?


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I think by now most of us who watch TV have likely seen the ads for The ONE Campaign- the black and white montage of famous and or important people explaining that the because the world hunger situation and the AIDS epidemic are so desperate aid organizations are working together as one and speaking with one voice to attempt to truly put an end to starvation and to the worldwide AIDS epidemic.

One of the first things I couldn’t help but think was how strange or unattractive these people, mostly movie stars, happened to look. That, of course, made me feel a bit guilty- while they’re talking about starvation and AIDS I am thinking Benicio Del Toro looks creepier than usual. That is shortly followed by thinking, “eh, alright they’re gonna ask for money- and I feel like I should do something. I’ll think it is important, but I probably won’t do anything- maybe I’d go to the website and just give a few dollars- whatever.” But the ad ends with (I think) Tom Hanks saying “we’re not asking for your money, we’re asking for your voice.”

They don’t want my money? Well, ok- I’ll check out the website. And actually, this is kind of a cool ad campaign aimed at having Americans voice that they care, that they want change. The name ONE has a lot of different meanings- dealing with it being the ONE big campaign of many organizations acting as one. But what stands out is its argument that the US Federal Government should spend an additional 1% of its budget every year toward providing basic assistance, and that doing so “would transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation of the poorest countries.”
OK, now I get it- it’s the hippie left and the “liberal holywood elite” that are saying the same thing as always- we should save the world and with more government spending, with more tax dollars going to other countries- more foreign aid, etc. and we can save the world.

Except it isn’t the same old hippie left and liberal elite.

The group that at first seems full of movie stars and musicians is somewhat diverse and contains a broader political range than just the far left, the moderate left, or even the center. Was it surprising to see Pat Robertson in the same commercial speaking for the same organization as Ellen DeGeneres?
Yes. Yes it was.
But it was also good.
These very Christian and very secular aid groups are getting together and very right wing and very left wing people are getting together in support. The secular left is a-ok with tax dollars going to a faith based charity when that faith based charity is giving grains and teaching agriculture to Africans- and the religious right is just fine with tax dollars going to a secular medical charity when that charity is building hospitals, training doctors and giving vaccinations.

It was good to see that maybe the divide between the activist left and the equally activist right isn’t as large as some people tend to claim.
As my roommate asked the other day- when did refusing to help people become a Christian value? I think that so much of the socially conservative right wing in America is not as conservative as we make them out to be. How many people would be opposed to spending one percent of the federal budget towards additional aid to help educate, feed and inoculate people around the world living on less than a dollar a day?

How many people are willing to wear those white wristbands that say: YES, US government; please go spend the money I’m giving you to help people?
Those that are now economically ambivalent but vote for conservatives because they oppose gay marriage- would they after wearing a wristband, after thinking of the plight of others, after heeding the counsel of Billy Graham and Pat Robertson (and especially the one they seek to represent) after giving of themselves to help others and encouraging their government to do the same- would they vote against some one who opposes gay marriage because he/she also opposes international aid?

I certainly hope so. Because it’s important.

So go check out ONE- sign their petition/pledge if you feel so inclined.

They don’t want your money, just your voice. But visiting made me think… if I am to demand that my government, that the United States allocate an additional 1% ought I do the same thing?

Yes, I give 10% of what I make plus some fast offerings- but those are things I already committed to do because of something I believe in. If I also believe in this- then why should I not do something to make a difference? King Benjamin counseled to give if we have and not suffer the beggar to put up his petition in vain- why do I only think of that when some one asks for cash on the street- but not when millions are dying throughout the world from preventable disease and starvation?

So… I need to do something different. When I budget to give ten percent back to God, I want to also budget to give a specified one percent back to my brothers and sisters. Hopefully I will give more than that in multiple ways- but I want to be a part of making a difference- even symbolically. Why not just make 10 louder? Because these go up to 11.


11 Responses to “How wide that other divide?”

  1. Blogger Mike 

    OK, that was certainly longer than was needed-
    I hope this didn’t come off as too self-righteous. I don’t want to be like- hey look at how great I am. I just wanted to point to how I hope things like this can bridge some divides. I also wanted to express concern that something so simple for us to address in many ways gets totally ignored. We can’t fix everything, we can’t give all we have- but we certainly can give something.

  2. Blogger D-Train 

    Well, I'll go ahead and pitch my voice of cynicism into the mix.

    I do think stuff like that can help bridge divides and, most importantly, actually affect lives in a positive way. But I also think that "refusing to help people" is essential to what the right's all about in general, and what the Christian world in America is about specifically.

    I deserve to burn. So I'll preface the rest of my comment with that.

    The little stuff just doesn't matter that much. What matters are meatballs. Groups like this can become a little meatball by aggregating individuals. But groups like this are also irrelevant compared to the biggest meatball: the state.

    And that's where the Christian right comes in. They don't really want the meatball. They might want to advocate "1%" right now, but not when the spending bill gets put to the Congress. 20 billion dollars for Africans? Right. They're penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to international aid. And I might point out that the only way that aid matters anyway is if it's huge and concerted.

    Me, I'm pound wise and penny foolish, as long as the pounds are someone else's.

    Deserve to burn.

  3. Blogger Arwyn 

    Like D-Train, I'll preface my comment:

    Helping people is good.

    I haven't seen these commercials (mainly because I don't watch TV -- I waste my time in other ways, though), so I can't feel the warm fuzzies that come from a desire to help people based on an ad campaign in black and white on my television set.

    And if this campaign will help people -- or, will convince the federal government to do so -- all power to them.

    But my cynical side has to wonder...if the federal government gives one percent of its budget to this cause, how are they going to do it? Would the money go to these charities, who would then turn it around and use it to help the people who need it? Would it be added to the amount of money we give to other nations to help their people? Would it go to research?

    The website says it would be "directed to honest governments, private charities and faith-based organizations." Honest governments? Now there's an oxymoron.

    One of my more conservative traits is that I simply don't trust an organization as big as the federal government to use that money in the most effective way -- to give it to the charities who will be able to help the most.

    I don't mean to be overly-cynical, though. I'm sure that if their goal is accomplished, they'll do some good. Maybe even a lot of good. Which means it probably can't hurt to add your voice to the petition. And might even help. But it's worth keeping the practicality of it in mind.

    And I like your idea of donating a little extra money better. Of being more charitable in your own life. Sure, it may not be a meatball -- but a few dollars somewhere do help someone, and giving is good for the soul.

    Plus, that's probably more worthy than adding a white one to the rainbow of wristbands-for-causes that everyone wears these days.

  4. Blogger Mike 

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Blogger Mike 

    Is the cynicism warranted? yup.
    Both D-Train’s that the right isn't really going to change
    and Arwyn's that this money won't really help things.

    But I'd still love it if white were the new yellow, so much so that Pat Robertson keeps wearing his on the 700 club.
    I don't think that the religious right is ever going to be all about lining up with the left economically- with either raising taxes or lowering defense spending in order to allow for aid.

    But I'm not quite as cynical as D-Train here. Whether or not Robertsen is actually a good guy, or a totally huge jerk making a fortune off of people's desire to help- a lot of these people on the religious right (though at times close minded) really are trying to be good people and really do a whole lot to try and help out. They "adopt" children in Africa, they host exchange students, they have fundraisers at their churches for tsunami victims, for famine victims, etc. They start charities like bread for the world or world vision. A lot of these people (on the political right) really are walking the talk the best they know how- certainly a whole lot better than I am.
    And I think that they would be just as correct in saying the left isn't really about helping people and is selfish- or that most of the left just wants the government to throw money at problems rather than actually getting involved or giving their own money.

    I think both that characterization of the left and the way you and I typically characterize the right are flawed- which is why I have some small hope that the divide isn't so wide. Yeah, amongst some of the most activist it is huge. Those who are extremely activist in social issues unrelated to economics will likely never get along. Those who are extremely activist in making government smaller probably won't be in favor of government doing things to help people.
    But aside from them? There are a whole lot of people aside from them.

    So, when votes come in on how much of Bush’s promised AIDS funding will be distributed next year (I’m assuming Bush will of course still be good to his word and will request a great big lump sum later since current budgets fall short of the promise) I’ll still fire off an email to everyone representing me. (knowing Inhofe and Cole will write nice form letters back explaining they have mixed feelings and want to help but there is only so much money- while Coburn will either ignore me or report me to the FBI as a terrorist)

    And honestly, when I do give my one percent, it likely won’t be to one of the groups working with/as ONE. I’ll probably buy a family a small animal for Christmas. Hopefully soon my one percent will buy at least a cow (someday it would be nice to have it buy an ark, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.)

  6. Blogger D-Train 

    That's one thing I did forget to mention. Lots of these Christian groups do things for others that are unbelievable in the personal effort that they put forward. Again, I deserve to burn because I don't.

    It's frustrating to see that much work put forward when it just won't amount to anything. Aid works when it's real nation building. Aid is individually helpful (which is worthwhile), but it will keep being needed because there's almost no infrastructure development in it at all.

  7. Blogger Pris 

    "The sun beams down on a brand new day
    No more welfare tax t' pay
    Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light.
    Jobless millions whisked away.
    At last we have more room to play.
    All systems go to kill the poor tonight!"

    (Quoted in sarcasm, as Biafra sings it.)

    I think you're right, Mike, that the the divide on the end goal--it seems a bit foolish and malicious to say that we shouldn't help out others if we can. The problem comes, it seems, in how we are going to do it. Arwyn points out one difference (trust of government), but there are more.

    Specifically when talking about the "religious right" and "secular left", there are serious differences. Like birth control (which would help limit the spread of AIDS). (Sorry for the massive oversimplification on my part, but what are you going to do?)

    Not to mention that, even if America decided to give 1%, there would be great battles about how and where it would be given. (I read somewhere that 50% of what we give now is given to middle eastern contries, primarily Israel. Don't know if this is accurate, but still.)

    The question for me, then, is: is it better to give some (but not enough) instead of nothing? It's a difficult question, to say the least.

  8. Blogger Arwyn 

    I'd not seen Heifer International before, Mike. That is one cool charity. I want to buy an ark, if only for the guinea pigs.

    2 GUINEA PIGS can help Peruvian families add protein to their diets and earn income.

    That's awesome.

    Er. And the helping people is good, too. Very good.

  9. Blogger Mike 

    The question for me, then, is: is it "better to give some (but not enough) instead of nothing? It's a difficult question, to say the least."

    No doubt about it. I think the mantra of think globally act locally really is a good one- and one I ought to follow but don't. If everybody did a little bit to make their community better and the world better it would be a whole freakin lot better. So I guess, just do what you can.
    I agree that the decisions on how and where the money should be spent are problematic. Thing is these groups are starting to get a long better. Aid work is trying to create infrastructure on an individual level. Sure D-Train, your training brings you to believe that without nation building it is worthless- and I think that largely that is true. BUT- groups like heifer, the peace corps, etc that teach better farming techniques, that try and provide lasting resources, etc. They don't even the playing field or do what nation building does- but that isn't the goal. The goal is to first provide for people and second provide the means and the training for them to continue to progress out of poverty. Will they be rich? No. Will they be poor compared to us? Yes. But can they have happier lives free of starvation and disease? Well- maybe.

    Arwyn- the guinea pigs kind of gets me too- I can't imagine eating them... but I guess some people do

  10. Anonymous Susan M 

    I just saw the ad on VH1, and I have to say, they sure shot it in a very unflattering way. Don't know if it's the lighting or what, but they all look creepy, not just Benicio del Whatsit.

  11. Blogger Mike 

    yeah, most everyone looks creepy there. I found out that it is pretty much just VH1 and MTV that are playing the commercial- which I guess means that even if you watch lots of TV you don't necessarily see it. I just see it while watching pimp my ride or the Bruce Springsteen storytellers. (Did any one else see either of the new storytellers concerts? I was happy VH1 was bringing the show back- but I don't like the changes they have made.)

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