I grew up in a white, middle class family in a predominantly white, suburban Midwest town. Almost every evening, my family gathered to eat together. We said grace over a meal my mother prepared, purchased with money that my father earned through his steady work as an attorney. My siblings and I were fortunate to receive an outstanding education in excellent public schools while enjoying activities like soccer, music, and church groups. I attended the University of Iowa, funded mostly through my parents’ savings.
My childhood abundance and security was the result of a strange mixture of virtue and evil. On the one hand, my parents practiced discipline, frugality, generosity, and affection. These virtues made our home rich in every sense, and I’m forever grateful for their model.
On the other hand, systemic evils supported and sustained our lifestyle. Centuries of white supremacy and racism ensured my white family would benefit from laws and systems that favored white people at the expense of people of color. My parents’ investments relied on a growing U.S. economy and rising stock prices, all of which depended on billions of dollars spent on war and violence. Finally, our lifestyle cast a shadow on the natural environment, contributing to ecological devastation.
I wish it were easier to separate the virtuous from the evil. But this is my story. And it is the story of America.
This is why I’m now part of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. As a relaunch of the Civil Rights Era movement, we hope to expose and undo the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation. We lift up the voices and deepen the leadership of those most affected by the fundamentally flawed ways we have ordered our society and our economy. And through non-violent direct action, we will call on our elected officials to enact justice and peace.
We need the Poor People’s Campaign. Forty million Americans live in poverty as wages for working people are not keeping up with the rising costs of living. One-hundred million more Americans live perilously close to poverty, just one unfortunate event or health diagnosis away. But our federal government spends only $. 15 of every dollar on anti-poverty programs while spending $. 53 of every dollar on our military.
It’s no better here in Iowa where we continue to cut state funding for programs crucial to those in poverty, like social services and public education. Even in Iowa City, where we consider ourselves progressive on poverty, we have constructed one of the most economically segregated cities anywhere in the country.
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All of these factors affect people of color at disproportionate levels. And I’m out of space to enumerate how our shortsighted politics adversely affect our land, water, and other living beings.
My life has been and continues to be privileged. But everything is wrong. And it’s time for change.
The Poor People’s Campaign is a new, unsettling force for liberation. We are prepared to do everything we can — nonviolently — to build a better world. Join us!
• David Borger Germann is an Iowa City pastor and activist. He will join a rally to launch the Poor People’s Campaign today at 2 p.m. at the Iowa State Capitol.