I was walking down the street one day when I decided that it was time for my life to take off. I looked down and found my arms slowly flapping up and down. A homeless man saw me and began to sing, "Fly like an eagle."
The 99 Percent came to San Francisco’s financial district to call a halt to bank theft and corporate corruption perpetrated by the One Percent – the big bankers hoarding our nation’s wealth and corporate CEOs receiving enormous bonuses while the poor, unemployed, and homeless suffer in the midst of affluence.
The marchers joined hands on the Golden Gate Bridge, their upraised arms connected by pink ribbons. They faced the ocean, and stood silently mourning victims of U.S. wars. Then each person in the human chain proclaimed, one after another: “These are not our wars. The people demand peace!”
After the police beat an unarmed homeless man to death, a jury awarded $4,575,000 to his five-year-old daughter and father. Police officers kicked him, battered him with a baton and pepper-sprayed him. They kneed his organs and pounded his skull on the concrete, then refused to give him medical care.
Six police officers beat the homeless man to death. He died from brain injuries and broken bones in his head and ribs, and was shocked repeatedly by police tasers on his head and face. As he died, he cried out in pain-filled pleas: “I’m sorry. I can’t breathe. Help, Dad!”
The message of the demonstrators is populist and passionate: “We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.”
“Soup kitchens and hospitality, though wonderful, do not go far enough. There needs to be more advocacy which affects political and societal structures. We need a social movement which incorporates the most prophetic aspects of the Judeo/Christian tradition and other religious traditions to bring homelessness and poverty to an end.”
Surely, homeless people are entitled to our daily deeds of justice and compassion. Surely, they deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. When we respond to that holy call to kindness, we bring blessing into our lives and into the lives of all we touch.
Many service providers in Berkeley are reporting increasingly desperate levels of hunger and poverty. Survival for the growing numbers who are homeless or on the edge is very difficult. There is not enough of anything — food, housing, health care or safe places.
The war in Afghanistan is now the longest in U.S. history, yet it has been rendered largely invisible. A new AFSC art exhibit depicts the impact of this war on Afghan civilians caught in the crossfire. We are present in every shot fired, every missile launched, and every bomb dropped.
“It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.” Sam Cooke saw that change coming, and sang it, and wrote it down in indelible words for all of us to see. Nothing can ever erase his voice now. Nothing can stop that change from coming.