thirty biblical reasons to vote democratic in 2020: #10 Oppression of the poor

Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the foreigner, or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.” –Zechariah 7:10 (NIV)

This is a two part verse, so let’s look at oppression first. Zechariah speaks of four specific members of the population who are weak, and should be treated tenderly: widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor.

Widows were particularly vulnerable in ancient mideastern society, and throughout the Bible there is concern for caring for them. Widows in modern America are not universally poor, but many are. So let’s look at the president’s payroll tax cut which was an Executive Order in August. He calls it an aid to those who are struggling during the pandemic, but really it only applies to those who are working. And the bottom line is that the payroll tax funds Social Security and Medicare, which almost every widow I know depends on. In 2016, he ran on the promise that he would not change Social Security. Yet just a few days ago, he said that if he wins in November, he will make that payroll tax go away. It’s a complicated issue; if you want to read more try this article from Forbes.

During the current president’s administration, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps) and Medicaid will be cut 1.2 trillion dollars over the next ten years, and the eligibility rules were rewritten to lower the number of people who qualify.  One in five children in the U.S. live in poverty (about 15 million or 21% of all kids), Put another way, the U.S. has the 11th highest child poverty rate of 42 industrialized countries. You can find a wealth of statistics on child poverty in this article in The Nation or the website National Center for Children in Poverty.

And the Wall? To keep immigrants out? This wall to keep immigrants out is estimated to cost 21 to 70 billion dollars. Our country was built on immigrants. Unless you are descended from a Native American, you are descended from an immigrant. Do our immigration laws need to be updated and modernized? Absolutely. Do we build a wall to keep immigrants out? Never. Do we separate children of immigrants from their parents? Never. Do we keep immigrants in holding cells until they can be sent back? Never. Do we send back those who have lived here for years and are valuable to our society? Never. It pains me to even think that I have to write these things…

The second part of this verse — Do not plot evil against each other — seems like a fundamental precept of civilization, doesn’t it?

In simple terms it means don’t stir up trouble. Don’t be an instigator. Don’t foment division. Don’t encourage chaos. Don’t sow hatred.

As I’m writing this on August 31, this week there have been protests in Boston and Washington D.C. There have been riots in Portland and Kenosha. Americans are fighting each other in the streets; rarely has there been this level of political, racial, and economic animosity toward each other. The president has been asked not to travel to Kenosha, but he’s going anyway. Just to stir up trouble. To keep our eyes on the violence, rather than try to heal it.

He has pitted Americans against one another in such an incendiary fashion as to make it almost impossible for us to talk to each other civilly.

Just one more example–he implies that the Democrats will ruin the suburbs by building more low income housing there. Is he talking about housing for the poor? Housing for immigrants? Housing for the fatherless? For widows? Or is this more incendiary talk to plot evil against each other?

We are all God’s children.

Photo from Daily verses

His political vision is division.

And it is causing a crisis in our democracy.

Salmagundi*

As I was making tabouleh (or tabouli) today for dinner, chopping cucumbers, tomatoes, a green pepper, green onions, parsley, and mint, my mind wandered back to the first time I was introduced to this delicious salad. I was about ten years old; it was a summer family picnic and Aunt Ethel had brought some stuff in a bowl that didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen before. Mom asked me to carry it in and put it on the table. I whispered to her, “Do I have to try this?” She smiled and shook her head. Much to my embarrassment, Aunt Ethel heard. Or maybe she just knew it wasn’t typical fare in our family. She smiled and said, “It’s your Uncle Abe’s favorite dish. He’d be glad to have it all for himself.”

Old folks at the cottage

A few months ago, I wrote a post with this photo in it. I labeled it Old Folks at the Cottage. My grandmother Carrie is on the left. See her sister on the far right next to her little boy? Her name is Ethel and sometime in the 1920s she married her own Syrian refugee, my Uncle Abe.

A large man with a white crewcut and wire-rimmed glasses, I remember him always wearing a suit — even to summer family picnics. He had a soft voice and a melodic accent, and he would stand in our living room and hold out his arms. We kids would race toward him and he would catch us and throw us up in the air. His deep-throated he-he-he would make us laugh even more. As a kid, I didn’t think much about his history, but I’d heard the stories: his parents sent him over on a boat around 1904 as a ten-year-old with ten cents in his pocket and instructions to find a relative in New York City.

As a grown up, I looked back on that and wondered what could have been happening in Syria to make parents put their ten-year-old son on a boat and send him off to another world, probably to never see him again…

So I looked it up. In 1904, the Ottoman Empire was crumbling fast. The Turks were conscripting young Syrian Christian boys for the army. And Armenian and Greek Christians were being killed at an alarming rate. Wikipedia even uses the word Genocide.

Abe eventually made his way to Southwestern Pennsylvania, where he found work in a mine. There he met my Uncle Leslie, who introduced him to his pretty, shy sister, Ethel. Not all the family was happy. Marrying an immigrant wasn’t common practice in the hills of Greene County. Though there were plenty of immigrants working in the coal mines, they were mostly Italian and Slovak. Certainly not Arabs…even Christian Arabs. (Leslie eventually married his own immigrant wife, Mary — whose naturalization papers from Italy I have — and who was one of the women who lived here at the cottage.)

I’ve finished making the Tabouleh for tonight’s dinner. (Recipe follows.) But I’m not finished thinking about how much our American culture has been shaped by immigrants. In fact, according to the U.S. Census of 2010, 2.9 million Americans identify themselves as solely Native American.  The population of this country is approximately 320 million. That makes about 317 million of us who are descended from immigrants. We are a country of those who left. Has it been so long ago that we have forgotten?

Think on this: What would it take for you to leave your place, on foot, with your family, with no clear idea of where you are going or if you will be safe. It would have to be pretty bad, eh? Who are we, as a nation, that we cannot bring these immigrants/refugees to this country, feed them, clothe them, give them shelter, dignity, and a life free from constant war or poverty?

After the VietNam War, the U.S. took in 2 million Vietnamese refugees. When it became evident that there were thousands of “boat people” being rejected by other countries…

…President Jimmy Carter responded by ordering the 7th Fleet to seek out vessels in distress in the South China Sea. His Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, told Congress in July 1979 that: We are a nation of refugees. Most of us can trace our presence here to the turmoil or oppression of another time and another place. Our nation has been immeasurably enriched by this continuing process. We will not turn our backs on our traditions. We must meet the commitments we have made to other nations and to those who are suffering. In doing so, we will also be renewing our commitments to our ideals. 

I am praying things will change; hoping talks of walls and closed borders will go the way of the dinosaur; hoping that we remember those ideals. A verse from the bible keeps going around in my brain. Jesus wept.

Look back at your family tree. My grandma Carrie was a card-carrying member of the DAR (I don’t admit that too often) yet still, I’ve had plenty of immigrants in my extended family. Welsh miners, Mennonite preachers, Syrian boys, Italian girls, Irish farmers, Czech steel workers, French Huguenots, Spanish son-in-laws… Even the English and Scottish ancestors came from, well, England and Scotland — there’s not a Native American in our branches, that I can find.

Here’s the delicious recipe for Tabouleh. While you are chopping vegetables for it, think of the wonderful mixture it is. And how it is better with more variety. Colorful and tangy, every bite is different.

IMG_7221

Tabouli (serves 6-8)

1 cup bulgur wheat, couscous, or quinoa, cooked (Bulgur is traditional.)
1 t. salt
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. olive oil
1-2 cloves crushed garlic
Cook the grains as directed. While warm mix in the next 4 ingredients (through garlic) and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

1/2 c. chopped scallions
1/2 c. chopped mint
1/2 c. chopped parsley
When the grains and dressing are cool add the above herbs. You can vary the amounts, depending on what you have on hand and how much you like them. Some tabouli is very green and herb-rich. Other tabouli has less.

The following ingredients are optional according to what you have in the fridge, or how you like it:
1/2 c. cooked garbanzo beans
1/2 c. shredded carrots
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 c. chopped cucumbers or summer squash
1 diced green pepper

I think the more vegetables added, the better. But it’s  delicious with just tomatoes and cucumbers..

You can garnish tabouli with kalamata olives and feta cheese, but it isn’t necessary.

*Salmagundi –In English culture the term does not refer to a single recipe, but describes the grand presentation of a large plated salad comprising many disparate ingredients. These can be arranged in layers or geometrical designs on a plate or mixed. The ingredients are then drizzled with a dressing. The dish aims to produce wide range of flavours and colours and textures on a single plate. (From Wikipedia)

garden treasure