A Top-Down Issue

IN JIM WALLIS' column ("Eyes on the Prize," May-June 2001) on poverty not being a Left-Right issue, he is saying things that most of us progressives have been saying all along. A few common threads emerge in his column. One is the breakdown of the family in context of poverty. Note the disintegration of the middle class. Factories close and jobs move outside the country while corporate executives' rates of compensation rise outside the bounds of company performance. Meanwhile, other folks work multiple jobs just to keep food and shelter. Recently, the director of a local shelter told me the majority of the clients he serves are the working poor.

Another thread is the need to understand the difference between poverty and justice. The old adage of giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish is fine to a point. Too often we find out that someone or some structure is prohibiting him from having the knowledge or physical resources to fish for food. I remember a true story of a seaside village where the people were barely subsiding. When asked why they didn't go out fishing, they indicated that they were not allowed to have boats.

So it seems clear to me that the problem is top-down rather that Left-Right. I'm so glad the dialogue is starting to open in that direction. The conservatives must stop yelling "commie" when questions arise as to why the poor have no food. The liberals must stop yelling "fascist" when questions of taking personal responsibility come up. It is my hope and prayer that we can continue this dialogue and work to effect real social change.

Tim Gray

San Jose, California


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