140 million poor people are not a disease. They are the result of political murder.

Standing in front of tens of thousands gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, on June 18, I was moved to say these words...


Standing in front of tens of thousands gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, on June 18, I was moved to say these words: “We come here from every corner of this country because there are 140 million unnecessarily poor and low-income people in this country.

“These numbers and the interwoven injustices that produce them are not just about debates between right, left and moderates. They represent a crisis of democracy and a shared failure to center the poor and the poor. But there is something else that is even more grotesque: the regressive policies that produce 140 million poor and not very wealthy people are not benign. These are forms of political murder.

As a pastor, some of the most difficult sermons I had to preach were about the funerals of murdered people. I buried people murdered by the police and praised young men who were shot in the street for just over $20. But any time you stand over the body of someone who was murdered, you know they died an unnatural death. God didn’t just “call them home.” Their lives were cut short by someone who decided they could play God and figure out when a life should end. Murder is a sin not only because it takes the life of another human; it is also an act of idolatry.

People attend a rally calling for attention to the living conditions of low-income people and urging policy makers to do more to support those on the bottom, in Washington, DC, June 18.
People attend a rally calling for attention to the living conditions of low-income people and urging policy makers to do more to support those on the bottom, in Washington, DC, June 18.

Liu Jie/Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

While murder has a legal definition and can be prosecuted under state and federal laws, murderers aren’t the only ones who commit the idolatrous act of deciding that someone else’s life has no purpose. ‘importance. In fact, far more people are killed each year by political violence than by murderers in America. According a study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, nearly 700 people die every day in America because of poverty. That’s more than those who die of cancer or heart disease. But unlike these diseases, poverty is largely a political choice. We know that policies such as the expanded child tax credit, which was passed as part of the US bailout, lifted 4 million American children out of poverty in 2021 before it was discontinued in 2022 after the Senate failed to extend it. This legislation didn’t just make life a little easier for some Americans. He saved lives.

When politicians use the power they have from being elected to kill life-saving legislation, what should we call it? The policy of violence may not meet the legal definition of murder, but it is more of a statement about the inadequacy of our laws than the seriousness of legislative neglect. If a doctor did nothing in his power to save a child’s life, he would be accused of malpractice. If an engineer failed to take the necessary steps to ensure that a bridge did not collapse under the weight of traffic, he would be charged with criminal negligence. But when politicians refuse to renew life-saving policies, they are called “moderates.” Something is wrong with our language.

This inability to even name the violence that causes the most needless death in our society suggests that we are captive to something we do not understand. In ancient scriptures, prophets spoke out in the public square against such social captivity. They held up a mirror, demanding that the nation see itself, and offered stark images to depict the political violence that was devouring people’s lives.

Then-presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during the Poor People's Moral Action Congress presidential forum in Washington, DC on June 17, 2019. Seated at left is political activist Bishop William Barber.
Then-presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during the Poor People’s Moral Action Congress presidential forum in Washington, DC on June 17, 2019. Seated at left is political activist Bishop William Barber.

“Your politicians are like ravenous wolves,” Ezekiel prophesied in ancient Israel, comparing the political violence of those who denied the poor their rights to carnivorous wild animals. Ezekiel gave the people a language to name an offense that the penal code did not recognize. And he did not allow the people to think that politicians alone were responsible for the political violence that plagued their society. “Your priests are like [the politicians]he said, “by whitewashing their sins.” Political violence never occurs without the cultural wrapper of religious nationalism to justify legally sanctioned inhumanity. The worst evils in human history have been committed with the blessing of court prophets, under the fiery cross of the Ku Klux Klan congregation, and wrapped in the flag of religious nationalists who believe themselves justified in their cruelty because they somehow uphold God’s good order.

America also had its prophets. After stepping away from the brutality of human bondage, Sojourner Truth heard the spirit’s call to travel across the United States and expose the nation’s sin. Like Ezekiel, she relied on vivid imagery to awaken people from a collective stupor in which possessing other human beings was not only seen as acceptable, but was also represented as the will of God. The role of the prophet has always been to expose political violence, and history has often conspired with prophets to make it easier for everyone to see and feel how decisions made by the powerful affect us all.

Over the past two years, poor and low-income people have been two to five times more likely to die from COVID. With the United Nations Network for Sustainable Development, Campaign of the Poor conducted a study earlier this year that found that these extreme disparities cannot simply be explained by vaccination status. They are linked to the political violence against poor and low-income people that is endemic in American public life.

Recently, the national academy of sciences said more than 330,000 lives could have been saved if we simply had a policy of universal health care for all when the pandemic hit. This fundamental commitment, first proposed in the United States by a Republican more than a century ago, is not beyond reach. Every other wealthy country in the world guarantees health care to its citizens, whether a Conservative or Liberal government is in power. That we don’t is an exception that exposes America’s political violence. Whatever the reasons given for doing so, our elected officials have chosen to let hundreds of thousands of Americans die. Yet we don’t have a name for this particular form of mass slaughter.

Los Angel sidewalk in front of the facility have been moved.
Los Angel sidewalk in front of the facility have been moved.

MediaNews Group via MediaNews Group via Getty Images

“Words make the worlds”, the philosopher says Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the absence of words can also prevent us from seeing the world in which some people live. On June 18, tens of thousands of Americans from every state in the union and of all races, creeds and cultures marched together down Pennsylvania Avenue with the Poor People’s Campaign to demand that the nation see their reality. For more than five hours, they told stories of losing loved ones to a lack of health care and mass incarceration, of losing housing to low wages and gentrification, and loss of communities due to ecological devastation and displacement. Standing before Congress in plain sight, they issued a collective indictment of America’s policy of violence.

In doing so, poor and low-income people were able to see clearly that, however powerful leaders may seem, many more of us suffer from political violence than there are people who support it. Even though on January 6 The congressional committee continued to expose the desperation of Trump’s seven-step plan to cancel the 2020 election as he and others felt they were losing power, the Assembly of the poor masses and low-wage workers published his seven step plan to build legitimate power by mid-term in November.

When we find a language to name political violence and listen to the people who suffer from it, we not only see the world as it is, we can also see our ability to change it. Perhaps the greatest violence of all is the lie they tell us, in the face of monstrous evil, that there is nothing we can do – that this is the way things are. When those who have experienced violence join hands and stand up to insist that their voice be heard, it reminds us that none of us have to take political violence for granted.

“We made the world we live in,” said James Baldwin, “and we have to make it again.” The job of all who oppose political violence is the job of rebuilding American democracy.



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Newsrust - US Top News: 140 million poor people are not a disease. They are the result of political murder.
140 million poor people are not a disease. They are the result of political murder.
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