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Letters to the Editor

‘Poverty is the worst form of violence’

Glen Garcia September 20th, 2011

What a novel excuse for being selfish, miserly, complacent and sedentary. Cite Bible passages and pretend you’re superior to all the “evil” liberals out there who are out to increase your taxes.

Then, you can assuage your own guilt about the fact that your fat face is buried in fast food and takeout seven nights a week by claiming that the big J-Man upstairs wasn’t talking about public assistance, just private charity.

Regarding the Aug. 31 letter “Welfare recipients denied work ‘blessing,’” K.A. Straughn must not be familiar with the Jewish concept of Tzedakah, which translates to “justice,” not “charity,” as it is often mistranslated. Tzedakah is a biblical and rabbinic concept that obligates Jews to pursue social and economic justice for everyone, not just through private acts, but through the actions of the community as a whole. A popular rabbinic teaching states that when one meets a beggar, they should know that God is standing by the beggar’s side. The idea is that our time on earth is but a loan from the deity, and we owe it to ourselves — and each other — to spread our good fortune to everyone.

This is not to say that Straughn’s arguments are utterly without merit: Obviously, it’s better to work if you are able, and nobody that I have ever known was eager to go on public assistance. But things happen to even the best of us. People lose their jobs, get behind on their mortgages, lose their livelihoods and can’t find work, and when that happens, I prefer the teachings of Hillel and Akiba to those of John Calvin.

Neither is this an idea limited to Judaism. Mahatma Gandhi once said that poverty is the worst form of violence. Now there’s a question for our time: How do we, a supposedly civilized nation, tolerate the continuation of institutionalized violence that we call “poverty” upon the minds, bodies and hearts of the so-called “least” among us? If we can afford to spend billions of dollars of our tax monies to maintain costly and brutal wars overseas in order to maintain our own hegemony in the world, why can we not give a little of those monies over to seeing that people don’t starve to death in the streets? If thinking like this makes me unchristian to some, so be it.

—Glen Garcia

Oklahoma Gazette provides an open forum for the discussion of all points of view in its Letters to the Editor section. The Gazette reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity. Letters can be mailed, faxed, emailed to or sent online at, but include a city of residence and contact number for verification.

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09.22.2011 at 07:17 Reply

K.A. Straughn wrote their response to say that the government cannot force such charity.  I'd be willing to concede that they might be right, that doing so is unconstitutional.  However, they go on to imply that in absence of forced government charity an equivalent bounty of personal charity will emerge.  This is a woefully ignorant thought.  I dare say if you stopped making people pay for a myriad of social programs you'll see a spike in selfish purchases.  Regardless of what K.A. Straughn thinks, mankind’s first inclination is always to take care of themselves first.

Also, there is NO way this letter makes you un-Christian.  Actually I think this is one of the best written and well meaning letters I've ever seen in the Gazette, and I hope you write more often.