THE BELL IS TOLLING


Each man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” John Donne

The sign read, “It hurts to be hungry”, and it was carried by a man walking the “804,” part of the Oregon Coastal Trail system, north of Yachats.  With him were several others, including two women in long skirts, with backpacks, not looking at all like hikers.

It was cold and windy on the Oregon Coast, as it usually is in February, and what was a pleasant walk along what I think is the most beautiful coast in the US was a difficult hike for these people, who were hungry.  They walked by the memorial to two young high school students from Eugene, who 2 years ago, almost to the day, were on the rocks in the ocean when a “sneaker wave” caught them, and threw them into the ocean.  With incredibly rough seas, slippery steep, sharp rocks, they could not be helped by their 4 companions.  In three minutes, they were dead.  I stared at the rocks for awhile, wondering how probably 4 minutes earlier, the boys had no clue that in 240 seconds, they would no longer exist.

We saw the hikers about 6 miles up the coast the next day, one of them hitchhiking from a bridge, the other two on the other side.  We figured they were hitchhiking one at a time, since their size and their equipment would have made it impossible to fit into most vehicles.  We were only going to Waldport, two miles further, where we walked the beach south a couple of miles.

When we left Waldport, the group was sitting on a bench near a fast food restaurant on the south side of town.  I don’t know where they were going.  I do suspect they were sleeping outdoors, maybe with a tent, probably not with one.  And they were eating, although probably not a great deal.  They did not look like hikers or even people trying to lose weight, which they needed to do, by hiking.  They looked like the homeless in America.  They looked like those who sleep in the parks in downtown Tucson, or those who sleep under bridges in Eugene, Oregon.  Many are homeless veterans, who served the country during the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan while the 99.5% of us who didn’t were either protesting the war in vain or else assuaged our guilt with yellow ribbons.  Some of the yellow ribbons had a cross inside, which really galled me, as it invoked the idea of a Crusade.

Mind you, I have no love lost for how many Muslims treat women and Christians who live in their land.  Read Sabatina James, or go on her Website, and you hear horror stories of forced marriages, Todesstrafe, which is a death sentence on young women who become westernized, some converting to Christianity, rapes, beatings, acid thrown into the face, stabbings.  Most of this occurring in Europe is from Islamists, not Christians.  Europe has a problem with integration of these people into society, and I think eventually the problem will cross the ocean, and we will have it, too.

But right now we have homeless, hungry people in America, and they aren’t all drunks or lazy slobs.  Many lost their jobs when the rich folks on Wall Street wrecked the economy and got paid large bonuses for doing it.  Many lost their homes which they never should have had, but we don’t educate people very well in dealing with numbers, math, economic circumstances, debt or critical thinking.

Many are bankrupt because they didn’t have health insurance to cover major medical bills, the largest cause of bankruptcy, but we sure held the Democrats responsible for the Affordable Care Act, which turned the House over to the Republicans, who now are grappling with the Tea Party, which is a minority, but seems to think it is their right to obstruct any sort of laws they don’t like.  Were it the Democrats doing this, the Republicans would be howling.  Right now, the Republicans are trying to figure out how to deal with the likes of Rand Paul, who was about as rude as one can be to the Secretary of State, and then showed his ignorance by proffering a theory that there were arms shipments from Libya to Syria.  Ms. Clinton’s body language as well as her verbal language during that exchange defines the word “incredulous,” for those who want to brush up on their English.

The greatest country in the history of the world can’t deal with homelessness and hunger.  We have the means, we have people who can think, develop complex systems, and we have volunteers to do this.  We lack the will, and a few are hung up on the deficit, which Mr. Obama inherited from Mr. Bush, back when Mr. Cheney said “Deficits don’t matter,” which seems to have been conveniently forgotten,  A third of the deficit came from the wars that were off budget and unnecessary.  Probably another sixth, if not more, came from the loss of tax revenues from the crashed economy.  If the stock market plummets, capital gains taxes disappear; indeed, capital losses decrease taxes.  If interest rates fall to zero, one gets a lot fewer 1099 forms in the mail, because there are none for interest payments of fewer than $10 in a year.  Last I checked, the economy crashed mostly before 20 January 2009.  If the sequester continues, we may see it crash again.

Instead of dealing with hunger in the US, we spend time still investigating Benghazi, even though we never did anything to Condoleeza Rice, who ignored the famous 6 August 2001 memo about imminent attacks in the US.  We ignore what is going on in Egypt, Mali, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, all time bombs ready to explode.  Many Americans couldn’t find any of these countries on a map.  We don’t take a stand on what is happening to women in Muslim countries, which is absolutely appalling.

I’m guilty, too.  I rationalize my way out of it and write stuff that few read and changes nothing.   I rationalize by saying “I can’t fix this problem,”  “I can’t save the world,” or I turn my head, when somebody wants money by saying “I’ll wash your car’s windshield,” which happened the other day in Eugene.  But the next time I’m in Market of Choice, I will buy a $10 coupon that goes to stop hunger in Lane County.  And maybe I will do that every time I am in there.  Darned if I know how I will deal with the homeless; mostly, I am more concerned about homeless animals, since not one of them had any say whatsoever in their plight.  And I have done something about that problem.

But I am human, and I remember what John Donne wrote.  Much as I despise much of what my species does, there is a certain poignancy about seeing a sign that says “It really hurts to be hungry,” not far from a 5 star hotel on the Oregon Coast.  I can rationalize all I want, but the sign and the people existed.  Time for me to stop writing and stop rationalizing.  I’m not sure what I will do, but it is time to do something.

I’m hungry for change.  These people need change to deal with their hunger, not money change, but a country change.

Near where the boys drowned, 2011.

Near where the boys drowned, 2011.

Waldport, Oregon

Waldport, Oregon

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