Still I Kneel

19 October 2017

blog

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I kneel, in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and all those demonstrating support for the issue of ending the killing of black men, women and children while in police custody.

My family boasts generations of soldiers in the U.S. military services. My father, my uncle, and my brother served proudly in the Marine Corps, and helped make it possible for me to speak out and demonstrate for the kind of country they believed in, and for which they and others fought and continue fighting, and in which so many died.

Although I was never in military service I have fought for decades and am able to fight for a better country thanks to them and others, to speak out loudly when small minded men usurp the ideals in which I believe, and for which so many paid the ultimate price. It is obscene that today in many cases those small minds seek only personal gain and vainglory.

Therefore, still I kneel,

Until sanctimonious racists stop using, in the words of Sen. John McCain, half-baked, spurious nationalism to justify—my words—a white supremacist agenda;

I kneel until the promise of a democratic republic returns to the ideals of the commonweal upon which it was founded and common, human decency;

I kneel until every life is valued, but especially our police end the practice of killing black men, women and children;

I kneel until our leaders re-learn how to take responsibility and be accountable for their actions, inaction, and rhetoric;

I kneel until brown U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico receive the same respect and care as Anglo and multi-cultural communities in Texas;

I kneel until the national conversation that began with the unmasking of Harvey Weinstein continues and we come to terms with the 75% of women who have been abused, and 35% who have been sexually assaulted and/or raped;

I kneel until we take responsibility for our culture and speak out and talk with one another and most importantly, listen to one another’s concerns. This then is the challenge of our times.

Somehow we have bought into the age old custom of “bread and circus” that preceded the fall of the Roman empire. It should be obvious that we can no longer afford to be bought off so cheaply. Not if we want to survive as the country we yearn to believe celebrates the values of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Meanwhile, people in communities across the country will soon begin to feel the effects of the changing regulations and policies the departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and EPA are implementing under the auspices of a Trump administration.

And even as the Farm Bill 2018 process is close to breaking through the public’s awareness, USDA’s “reorganization process” promises more of the same—“less” government to allow profiteers more access to public resources with less accountability. Sadly, the GIPSA rule which so many food, farm and social justice advocates worked on—the late NFFC executive director and dear friend Kathy Ozer comes to mind—was recently trashed, and the U.S. House of Representatives voted by just 219 to 206 to cut $203 billion from vital anti-hunger and other human services programs.

I imagine Speaker Paul Ryan is beside himself now that the Farm Bill is up on his watch, inasmuch as he has pushed his Path to Prosperity since 2011 which relies heavily on cuts to SNAP, a $700 billion safety net program that seems just too tempting to vulture capitalists, largely under the guise of fraud prevention and similar bogus justifications.

What this means is that our advocates for food justice must be diligent and focused. If nothing else, we have learned that the Trump Doctrine is obfuscate and misdirect. Even as the issues for which I still kneel continue to engage the national attention we cannot and must not allow the administration to re-mold our food system into a focused mechanism for enriching corporate America.

The primary purpose of food is and should always be to feed and nourish people—not to enrich corporations.

Obviously, this does not mean that one does not deserve to make a decent profit. But it does mean that the needs of people must come before the greed of the small-minded men who currently run the country.

Today food and agriculture advocates require our support. It is one of the things each of us can do to participate in the struggle to take back our food system. Not all of us can be involved in the Farm Bill 2018 process, or even volunteer for the local Food Bank. But we can all send a few dollars to enable those who can devote time to the efforts.

I want to close with one more important reason to kneel, for each of us.

Perhaps the greatest threat to our country is the President’s attack on the free press, his never ending personal mantra complaining of “fake news.”

This is something that should send chills down the spines of everyone who lives in this country, as we have long been warned:

The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.  Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington (16 January 1787) Lipscomb & Bergh ed. 6:57.

A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.  Albert Camus

Grant me thirty years of equal division of inheritances and a free press, and I will provide you with a republic.  Alexis de Tocqueville

A free press needs to be a respected press.  Tom Stoppard

No one needs to tell me about the importance of the free press in a democratic society or about the essential role a newspaper can play in its community.  Robert F. Kennedy

Sometimes I think it a good idea to revisit what our forebearers had to say about freedom of speech. Although, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson John Adams also wrote:

When people talk of the Freedom of Writing, Speaking, or thinking, I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more. John Adams Letter to Thomas Jefferson (15 July 1817)

It would seem “free speech” is still a work in progress. Which just means that we must continue to work towards that ideal, que no?

I am not one who blindly follows the supposed wisdom of our “forefathers.” At this point in my life I have come to see how each of us is only human, with the foils and foibles of our humanness as well as the gifts of creation. I have come to believe that it is my responsibility to participate fully in life, and in the life of my community and country, to help create to the best of my abilities a society of which we can be proud.

I suspect that is also something that you want to consider.

So I will continue to kneel. Still. As long as I draw breath, as long as injustice for so many is the rule of the land, until justice becomes the norm, and our leaders once again are worthy of our ideals.

Please consider what you can do each and every day to help create a country in which we can believe once more, without reservation.

I also ask that you take a moment to contribute what you can today to CFJC as one more small step in your commitment to democracy, to keep this space open for all of us.

As always, please let us know what we can do to support the work you are doing to take back our food system, and our country.

 

Thank you, and all the best.

Armando-Sig

 

 

 

Armando Nieto
Executive Director

 

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CFJC promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice. Through advocacy, organizing and education, we collaborate with community-based efforts to create a sustainable food supply. We envision a food system in which all activities, from farm to table, are equitable, healthful, regenerative and community-driven.

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