Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Introducing Micro-Progress

"Micro-Progress" posts will be a recurring theme on this blog, highlighting local-level stories of progressive activism and progressive victories. Highlighting the "small" stories shows that every one of us can be an activist, and that we need not be intimidated by those who try to make politics a game for experts and famous people. 

Every day, thousands of Americans take steps to improve their own lives and the lives of their neighbors, even when doing so goes against political orthodoxy. Every day, thousands of Americans take small, important stands in their communities against a worn-out philosophy that places the profit and privilege of the powerful over the needs of people. 

Micro-Progress posts will attempt to tell these stories. 

Finally, we all need periodic reminding that local adds up to global, that micro-progress adds up to macro-progress. All the great progressive victories of American history were merely accumulations of the micro-victories of ordinary Americans. All of our great people's movements were merely collections of individual people who decided to begin taking responsibility and begin taking action.

So now, on to our first Micro-Progress story...

Over the holidays, I came across a tiny AP story in my hometown newspaper. The headline read, "Ohio Schools Keep Cafeterias Open For Holidays." Basically, a school district outside Cincinnati decided to leave its cafeterias open over Christmas break to provide hot lunches for needy students, and it was the first time the district had ever done that. That's it.

(photos by Ernest Coleman/The Enquirer)

In other words, some folks in the school district thought, "We have hungry kids in the community. We have food and a place to serve it. Let's make it happen."

I read the article and thought, "I bet the simplicity and compassion of this story would drive arch-conservatives nuts." Think about it, public money funding a public institution to feed poor children. That's "spreading the wealth around!" That's "redistribution!" That's socialism! Or communism! Or something.

Well, sure enough...

The Cincinnati Enquirer has a longer version of the story, and on the website readers can leave comments. Out of a total of five commenters, three people are angry about the schools feeding poor children, one person's comment was removed by the moderator, and one person is supportive of the program.  

One real charmer writes, ""If you can't feed, clothe and provide shelter for [your children] DON'T HAVE THEM." 

(In other words, "Sorry little girl. We can't feed you. Your mother shouldn't have given birth to you.")

Another champ, who goes by Diddy56, complains about, "too many handouts" and "people [abusing] the system."

Lunchlady82 writes, "Constant handouts only make people lazy. These people have no direction or goals. They just stumble through life and have no plan from one day to the next."

(In other words, "Sorry little girl. We can't open this can of apple sauce, because it will make you lazy. You need goals.")

In the future, Better Than Machines will revisit the topic of people who are barely getting by resenting those who aren't getting by--where that resentment comes from, how it's manifested, who it serves. But for now...

Here's a round of applause for the North College Hill School District, for doing the right thing with the resources they have, even if it goes against what we're told is politically acceptable. I'd call that Micro-Progress.    


Becky said...

Hear hear! It's such a simple action--good to hear about it.

Amy said...

That is such a great idea! Let's hope other school districts follow suit. And I also hope that those naysayers are in a decided minority--unreal! Especially in this day and age, when people who have always "taken care of themselves" are having to avail themselves of those services.

Phyllis said...

I am never surprised at the lack of charity in this country.

Since we're talking micro, I thought I'd mention Yunus. He's the micro-credit guy. He was on the radio the other day (but don't tell their website, I can't find anything on it...) speaking about how his work made more than just economic changes in people's lives. He said that in one place where he built pit latrines, the women said he had freed them from pain and slavery because men can go anywhere, but the women would have to hold it all day because it wasn't safe or clean for them to go wherever they were.

He was astounded at the simple and intimate needs these women described that made such a huge impact on their lives even though he'd never foreseen that in his attempt to address a sanitation issue.

There are children in this country who dread school--as most do--but for whom school is the only place they get fed. For these children, the winter holidays aren't a vacation, a celebration, or anything remotely like they are for that commentor or the rest of us. They are extra-long days of cold and want and even grave danger. You know. I'm really opposed to mandatory service plans because they inherently contradict the self-determination of our nation. But, more and more I think it may be the best thing we ever did for our culture and our cancerous selfishness.

Elizabeth said...

If someone really believes in the "don't have kids if you can't take care of them" argument, the following things need to be provided by the state (it would save us all money, right?)

1. abortion, at any time for any reason
2. contraceptives, starting at age 11 or 12 (many kids become sexually active as early as 5th grade)

Interestingly, it's these very things most Conservatives are adamantly against. (Abortion breaks my heart, but I'll save that for another day) But it would save us so much money!!!

But the great thing about America (or at least some of it) is that we believe that sometimes, even at a high cost, there is value in doing certain things in order to protect the lives and livelihood of the citizens of our country...and that, I believe, trickles down all the way to feeding a child who has an empty tummy.

The place the Conservatives have gone wrong--and it's extremely heartbreaking-- is making everything about money. "Lower taxes. Keep your own money. We won't waste it on all those people who don't deserve it." Really? That's what this is all about? About who "deserves" what?

The last thing this country needs right now is more policies to encourage the greed and materialism that is already rampant. And that is why I am so, so thankful that the Republicans lost.

Sara said...

Good to hear something positive for a change. Not sure how anyone can oppose feeding children.
I think more micro is the way to go.

X said...

Those negative postings are by people who cannot think outside their own self. It makes logical sense to be against handouts if they are only worried about their own well being. If they thought outside of that selfish bubble and cared for the greater good of humanity, then maybe their logic would change. Either become one with the universal isness, or isolate. And if you chose to isolate, then don’t comment on the universal isness because it doesn’t concern you.

Camp Papa said...

I don't recall, in Jesus's account of the Samaritan, where a worthiness check was performed on the beaten man beside the road. From the "conservative" perspective shouldn't he have checked to see if the wounded man had really brought it all on himself...maybe he hung out with the wrong kind of people.

A hungry child in a hungry child regardless of her parents' action, inaction, or irresponsibility. Are we going to improve the parents' behavior by starving the child?

If real education is "understanding the implications of what you claim to believe" then these critics are dumber than a sack of hair.

X said...

I'm dubbing Macro by Depeche Mode as the theme song to this blog entry.

Overflowing senses
Heightened awareness
I hear my blood flow
I feel its caress
Whispering cosmos
Talking right to me
Unlimited, endless
God breathing through me

See the microcosm
In macro vision
Our bodies moving
With pure precision
One universal celebration
One evolution
One creation

Thundering rhythm
Pounding within me
Driving me onwards
Forcing me to see
Clear and enlightening
Right there before me
Brilliantly shining
Intricate beauty

See the microcosm
In macro vision
Our bodies moving
With pure precision
One universal celebration
One evolution
One creation

Better Than Machines said...

Liz and Camp Papa, I think you guys are right on about the absurdity of the notion that we should determine who "deserves" to be treated with humanity by some sort of "worthiness test."

A quasi-religion has developed around promoting the interests of great wealth and it has spread all the way down the economic ladder so that now many working people are true believers. The tired old lines about handouts and waste are now used by struggling people to bash other struggling people. Like any other cultic system, dog-eat-dog conservatism offers logically connected ideas in some areas with a ring of truth and in some areas simply points to authorities that you are not allowed to question.

Sometimes the best way to expose the whole thing as a lie is to follow the line of thinking to its logical conclusions. I think at the bottom of that house of cards, we find simple greed and selfishness and the viciousness that goes along with them.

Chris, thanks for post's them song! Cool lyrics. I'm off to find it on YouTube.