November 05, 2012
The $6 Billion Question
Here are some reflections on the eve of election day. People have argued, debates have occurred, pundits have postulated, and the proxies have predicted the "inevitable" effects of the "other side" winning. Similar to young men during the first week of a new dating relationship, candidates have promised to change our lives in countless miraculous and, more than likely, unattainable ways.
Here is one change that would be miraculous and should be attainable: that we have an honest conversation in this country about our societal values. No, I am not talking about those values about which we have heard so much – the values each side righteously claims as their own and indignantly asserts the other side lacks. I am talking about a real test of values: do we value winning or do we value people?
This question came to me this week when the press reported the money spent on federal elections exceeded $6 billion dollars. To put this number in context, this past week we witnessed the devastation by Sandy on the East Coast. Poignant among the many heartbreaking stories was the suffering by homeless children in New Jersey and New York served by the Catholic organization, Covenant House International, whose shelters sustained significant damage. (Full disclosure - I used to volunteer with Covenant House and their current president is a graduate of The Catholic University of America). On a global level, the State Department budget to combat human trafficking and the enslavement of 20 million people throughout the world is a mere $21 million. By some estimates, that $6 billion amount would rebuild half of earthquake stricken Haiti.
Can we imagine what $6 billion could do for victims of disaster, homeless children, or victims of human trafficking? Yet, in the name of values we have spent it elsewhere. All candidates talk about "American values." Wouldn't it be great if our election process actually reflected them?
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