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Money for the Poor, Not War, and the Moral Redemption of Plant Based Diets

I sometimes don’t know what’s worse, republicans not caring, or the vast majority of democrats pretending to care, and not caring. They are far more alike, than unalike.

I was proud to recently march in Washington, DC, with our brothers and sisters from both CODEPINK, and the Poor People’s Campaign. CODEPINK is one of my favorite organizations, and the Poor People’s Campaign, which was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is right up there too. 

One of the central purposes of the demonstration was to bring attention to the gross inequities and injustices that continue to exist in the United States. According to the Poor People’s Campaign’s website, “We Assemble and March on June 18, 2022 because any nation that ignores nearly half of its citizens is in a moral, economic and political crisis. There were 140 million people who were poor or one emergency away from economic ruin before the pandemic. Since March 2020, while hundreds of thousands of people have died, millions are on the edge of hunger and eviction, and still without health care or living wages, billionaire wealth has grown by over $2 trillion.” Additionally, I have since learned of an eye opening study from the RAND corporation (non-partisan think tank) that the wealthiest 1% of Americans have taken $50 trillion from the bottom 90% of American workers over the past four decades. Wow. 

CODEPINK directly connects the US War Machine and its never ending “wars” to systemic racism, poverty, environmental destruction, economic failure, and the ongoing, and senseless killing of millions of innocent people. As per the CODEPINK website, “In the face of systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy/militarism, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism, we must engage in mass nonviolent moral direct action. We must declare that we won’t be silent anymore about the war on the poor by ensuring that the pentagon’s bloated budget is cut and redirected to our needs! To end wars and militarism, we need the peace movement to show up in DC for the Poor People’s Campaign on June 18th…The peace movement has a history of strength in numbers (and) solidarity begins with realizing if one of us wins, we all win. Our struggles are connected to one another and this is the moment to declare loudly that we will not let the ruling class destroy humanity with endless wars. Only the masses can deliver the people what they need.” 

I have to say on a side note that it was an honor to stand with CODEPINK, and to meet Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin. If you are unfamiliar, Jodie and Medea are co-founders of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, and they have both been fighting the good fight for many years. Jodie has been a visionary advocate for peace for several decades, and managed California Governor Jerry Brown’s presidential campaign in 1991. She has also traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran and Jordan on several occasions as a peace advocate, and has produced many films as well, including “People Speak”, based on the work of Howard Zinn, and the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Square.” Wow. Medea Benjamin has been rockin’ it for a long time too. The Los Angeles Times has called her “one of the high profile leaders of the peace movement”, and she was one of 1,000 exemplary women from 140 countries nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the millions of women who do the essential work of peace worldwide. Medea and CODEPINK landed on my radar in 2015, when they called out Henry Kissinger for his war crimes at a press conference, and a scowling John McCain called them “disgraceful” and “low life scum.” A badge of honor indeed! I remember thinking, who is CODEPINK, and Medea Benjamin? I Love these people. 🙂 
Click here to learn more about Henry Kissinger’s war crimes.
Click here for the 1+ minute video of Senator John McCain calling CODEPINK members “low life scum”. 

One of the highlights of the weekend’s activities was being able to participate in the CODEPINK organized “Peace Illumination” demonstration at the Martin Luther King Memorial. For whatever reasons, I had never been to the Martin Luther King Memorial and for that experience alone, it was a special night. I proudly held the first “N” as a group of us spelled out the message “MONEY FOR THE POOR, NOT WAR”, and it felt good to be with like minded people on a beautiful summer evening. 🙂 My feelings haven’t changed over the years regarding CODEPINK, and I can’t tell you how impressive it was to see them in action as they were hitting on all cylinders (through their dedication/hard work, organization of various programs/events, signage/prop creations, workshops, etc.) with their activism and support for the Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March. CODEPINK was awesome. 🙂

“An honest man in politics shines more there than he would elsewhere.” – Mark Twain

When will we learn that our judicial and political systems are broken and that our “leaders” can’t be trusted? When will the endless wars at home, and overseas end? The US is at it again, along with our obedient state (corporate) media, as they continue to demonize China, while refusing to negotiate with Russia (endless wars are big business for the wealthy few). Noam Chomsky recently pointed out that the US mainstream (corporate) media has been instructed to call the Ukraine War the “unprovoked war on Ukraine”. In fact, if you google it, you will find many results. Conversely, if you google “unprovoked war on Iraq”, you will find nothing. I just tried it again and I still found no hits for “unprovoked war on Iraq”. Interestingly, I did find a piece reporting that George W. Bush, during a speech he recently gave at his presidential center in Dallas, said that the Iraq war was “unjustified and brutal”. He quickly corrected himself and explained that he meant to describe Russian President’s Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine (a Freudian slip no doubt, but apparently the audience laughed and thought it was funny). You can’t make this stuff up. Both Putin and Bush are war criminals, and although Putin’s war was provoked but unjustified, Bush’s war on Iraq (which according to CODEPINK, killed an estimated 2.4 million people and cost between $8-21 trillion), was completely unprovoked and unjustified (they lied, and knew they were lying). Click here to learn more about how US presidents (and their cronies) are never held accountable, no matter how heinous and catastrophic their war crimes and other offenses may be. 

In addition to the ongoing US saber rattling, Yale University has reported that if the United States had Medicare for All during the pandemic, 330,000 lives would have been saved. The same researchers had previously reported that if adopted, Medicare for All would save nearly 70,000 lives, and $450 billion per year as well. Unfortunately, despite most Americans wanting universal healthcare for decades (between 40-90 Americans are either underinsured, or have no health insurance), President Joe Biden, in his infinite wisdom, has said that he will veto any Medicare for All legislation that came across his desk.

“The food we eat masks so much cruelty. The fact that we can sit down and eat a piece of chicken without thinking about the horrendous conditions under which chickens are industrially bred in this country is a sign of the dangers of capitalism, how capitalism has colonized our minds. The fact that we look no further than the commodity itself, the fact that we refuse to understand the relationships that underlie the commodities that we use on a daily basis.” – Angela Davis

We know that Close to 80% of all chronic diseases are caused by diet and lifestyle factors, and that a low fat, whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet is the only diet (and way) proven to reverse heart disease, early stage prostate cancer, and type 2 diabetes.  In addition, a healthy plant based diet can also reduce the chances of moderate to severe symptoms of COVID-19 by 73%!  Since Medicare for All in the US may not happen in my lifetime, a workaround that would save millions of lives would be to educate everyone on the powers of plant based nutrition, while also figuring out a way to provide healthy, affordable plant-based food to low income and other food insecure areas of the United States (1 in 4 US households were food insecure in 2020). In other words, the more people who understand, and convert to healthy plant-based diets, the more lives we can save, and the less reliance we will have on our broken healthcare (sick-care) system. This is where wonderful organizations like CODEPINK and the Poor People’s Campaign can take things to another level, and play a decisive role in addressing one of the biggest social justice issues of our lifetime, our broken food system. Dr. T. Colin Campbell has estimated that if everyone in the US were to adopt a whole food plant-based diet, the US could save $2.5 trillion per year on healthcare costs alone. Can you imagine what could be done with that kind of financial windfall? Goodbye food insecurity, and homelessness! The Standard American Diet (SAD), and all that it implies, is indeed the elephant in the room. 

“As we talked of freedom and justice one day for all, we sat down to steaks. I am eating misery, I thought, as I took the first bite. And spit it out.” – Alice Walker

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that most people in the social justice movements either don’t want to consider where the food on the plate comes from, or they simply don’t care (for a variety of reasons). One of the biggest challenges will be to get more of these individuals and their organizations onboard with the idea that our food system is destroying the lives of millions of sentient beings and our only planet, at a faster rate than fossil fuels. I couldn’t help but wonder on my bus ride home, how many fellow protesters would soon be sitting down and biting into the “misery” of some type of animal product, while believing that their actions were pure that day in fighting the good fight. 

Incidentally, a few years ago, I found myself protesting with Fridays for Future (FFF, a youth led climate strike movement), and as I was trying to explain to some of the younger demonstrators how animal agriculture was the most destructive industry facing our planet, I was suddenly yelled at by a 30-something year old FFF organizer, who screamed, “This is not the time, or place to talk about veganism!” She was probably stressed out and having a bad day, but she is not alone in her blindness, or her refusal to acknowledge the research. There are way too many people in the climate movement (and other social justice movements), who dismiss outright the direct link between Big Ag, and the destruction of people’s lives, animals, peace, and Mother Earth.
Click here to learn more from Dr. Sailesh Rao.

“You can’t call yourself an environmentalist, and eat meat. Period.” – Howard Lyman

I recently read that one person is likely dying from hunger every 48 seconds in drought-ravaged East Africa (Click here for more information from Oxfam International). As per the Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “Every day, 40,000 children die in the world for lack of food. We, who overeat in the West, who are feeding grains to animals to make meat, are eating the flesh of these children.” In addition, our food system is not only the leading cause of human illness, it is also a leading cause of the climate crisis, habitat destruction, wildlife extinction, water pollution and water scarcity. One of the titles for the march in DC was “Poor People’s Campaign – A National Call for Moral Revival”. Despite the great work of the Poor People’s Campaign, I hope that they will consider renaming their events, at least until they place plant based diets at the center of their message. Over 78 billion land animals were slaughtered worldwide for food in 2018, and most of these animals were raised in animal factories, which maximize agribusiness profits at the expense of the animals, social justice, public health, and the environment. How can we have a “Moral Revival” while mostly ignoring a food system that causes unimaginable suffering and misery to countless sentient beings? How can we have a moral revival, while dismissing the same food system that is responsible for close to 80% of all chronic diseases, and is also destroying our only planet at a faster rate than fossil fuels? 

I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail that “we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.”

It has been my experience that it is not just the wealthiest privileged groups who refuse to look in the mirror and consider the implications of the food on their plates, but also the rest of us who are lucky enough to not go to bed hungry.  

Until next time…

Click here for the CODEPINK website.
Click here to learn more about CODEPINK.
Click here to learn more about CODEPINK’s Cut the Pentagon program. 
Click here to learn more about why China is not our enemy.
Click here for pictures of CODEPINK events. 
Click here for the Poor People’s Campaign website.
Click here to learn more about the transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest few.
Click here for a link to Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
Click here to learn more about income inequality in the US.
Click here to learn more about the trends in income from the RAND Corporation. 
Click here to learn more about the number of lives that could have been saved with universal health care during COVID.
Click here to learn more about the number of lives, and money that can be saved with Medicare for All.
Click here to learn more about George W. Bush’s Freudian slip. 
Click here for a link to the Healthy Living is the Best Revenge Study. 
Click here to learn more about how plant-based diets can reduce the chances of developing moderate to severe symptoms of COVID-19 by 73%. 
Click here to learn more about how a healthy plant-based diet can extend your life by 12-14 years. 
Click here to learn more about how avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth.
Click here to learn more about animal suffering and the dark underbelly of animal agriculture from the excellent film Dominion.
Click here to learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh. 
Click here for a jaw dropping piece from Chris Hedges titled Fascists in Our Midst.

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