2006.02.22 I want justice

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

I’ve been thinking about the starving children in Africa a lot. I don’t know exactly where I picked up the phrase “starving children in Africa,” because it’s one of those sayings oft-used by mothers to get their children to eat their squash, but it’s one I constantly invoke. My own mother wasn’t a “starving children in Africa” person. She was more of a “eat your potatoes or I’ll knock you into next week” person.

Maybe it was the texture or the smell or the stupidity I’ve struggled with all my life, but potatoes were off-limits to my stomach my first 10 years of existence. Mom and I would wage horrific war at dinner time over my eating them, which usually resulted in me either feeling sick from having eaten the potatoes or feeling sick from having not eaten the potatoes—or anything else—after being  excused from the dinner table.

During these skirmishes, as I desperately sought out ways to avoid eating the potatoes, one half-turn around the world, there was doubtlessly a child my age desperately seeking out ways not to die of starvation, or AIDS, or malaria, or hippopotamus. Of course, I had no concept of this at the time, and still probably have only a vague idea of the problems the starving children face today.

But a conversation I had with Ted and Ivy Hutchison last month for a feature article reinvigorated the idea of the starving children in my mind. The Hutchisons had gone to Zambia for their daughter’s wedding and told me they were dumbstruck by the poverty they encountered. Their vivid descriptions left me dumbstruck, too—more so than usual.

Outrage followed. I interviewed the Hutchisons just as the “Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays” fervor was dying down after New Year’s. As you remember, the conservative contingent was claiming their religion, their very way of living, was under assault, and the heathen pedantic liberal contingent was rebuffing them with big words. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch and Bill O’Reilly raked in bunches of money and chuckled for having incited a culture war over what amounts to nothing, as they do every Yuletide.

In the midst of the debate, nobody thought to ask the starving children in Africa for their take, which was “Help, we’re starving.”

Or inner-city American students at underfunded public schools for their take—“Help, we can’t read.”

Or Hurricane Katrina survivors for their take—“Help, we’re homeless.”

Or cancer patients who can’t afford treatment for their take—“Help, we’re dying.”

Or a 23-year-old smart aleck for his take—“Help, I can’t understand how a man in a $1000 suit can claim ‘Happy Holidays’ is an assault on our way of living when multitudes are suffering.”

Which translated into outrage. Outrage that oodles of money and oodles of time are dumped into these silly causes. Look at the cover of Time Magazine—there’s something’s wrong when the Third World has to rely on a dweeb—Bill Gates—and a rock singer—Bono—for relief.

Of course, it’s understandable, considering that most secular conservative institutions, like the Bush administration, are bought and paid for by tight-pocketed investor owned corporations.

And I won’t just harp on the conservatives. I thought that, on principle, the University of Michigan should’ve refused a $100 million donation they accepted last year to found a school of Judaic studies. I’m no anti-Semite, but I feel the $100 million could go to better causes, like making sure underprivileged kids have the opportunity to go to college in the first place.

I mean, there are more than a few impoverished school systems in the metro Detroit area that would benefit hugely from a slice of that $100 million. Heck, $100 million was enough to ensure every student in Kalamazoo the money for college tuition.

And just think what $100 million could do for the starving children in Africa.

Some might ask, “But Jeff, what are you doing for those poor kids?”

You have to remember that I’m not rich or smart, so I’m doing what I can—using the public forum to throw a fit about rich, smart people wasting their resources on frivolity.

After all, sometimes it’s not just the kids who need to be reminded that there are, indeed, starving children in Africa.

Ever the hypocrite, I will now eat Cheerios and read comics all afternoon.

– February 22, 2006
  • Play Practice
    DRAMA—Fayette schools, in conjunction with the Opera House Theater program, will present two plays Friday night at the Fayette Opera House. From the left is Autumn Black, Wyatt Mitchell, Elizabeth Myers, Jonah Perdue, Sam Myers (in the back) and Lauren Dale. Other cast members are Brynn Balmer, Mason Maginn, Ashtyn Dominique, Stephanie Munguia and Sierra Munguia. Jason Stuckey serves as the technician and Trinity Leady is the backstage manager. The plays will be performed during the day Friday for students and for the public at 7 p.m. Friday.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.rover
    CLEARING THE WAY—Road crossings in the area on the construction route of the Rover natural gas pipeline are marked with poles and flags as preliminary work nears. Ditches and field entry points are covered with thick planks in many areas to support equipment for tree clearing operations. Actual pipeline construction is progressing across Ohio toward a collecting station near Defiance. That segment of the project is expected to wrap up in July. The 42-inch line through Michigan and into Ontario is scheduled for completion in November. The line is projected to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.
  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

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