My war is the mother-of-all wars, the root cause of pretty much every social ill we face here and abroad.
The War on Poverty is the name for legislation first introduced by Lyndon Johnson during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. This legislation was proposed by Johnson in response to the difficult economic conditions associated with a national poverty rate of around nineteen percent.
The War on Poverty speech led the United States Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act, a law that established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to administrate the local application of federal funds targeted against poverty.
And here’s the thing….
The path to the White House in 08, and the greater path back through the ruins of Bush & Co. neo-conservatism and back toward something that resembles the America my father shot at the Germans over is through the restoration of the traditional values of the Democratic Party. It is these very values that ARE the "traditional American family values" the right loves to preach yet fails so miserably to practice.
Twenty-three years earlier, on January 6, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt delivered a State of the Union Address to the 77th United States Congress in which he articulated four fundamental freedoms people "everywhere in the world" ought to enjoy:
Freedom of speech and expression.
Freedom of every person to worship in his own way.
Freedom from want.
Freedom from fear.
His inclusion of the latter two freedoms went beyond the traditional American Constitutional values protected by the First Amendment, and endorsed a right to economic security and an internationalist view of foreign policy that have come to be central tenets of modern American liberalism. Roosevelt’s internationalist view must be understood in the greater historical context of the rise of German and Japanese aggression and the inevitable entry of the US into World War II.
Here’s what he said in that address:
“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want--which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.”
It is that last bit that reaches out and grabs my attention with both hands; that this vision, “…is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.”
Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t that sound more inspiring than “Stay the course”?
When I say that the War on Poverty is the mother-of-all-wars I mean that the answer to gun violence isn’t gun control and the answer to the drug problem isn’t a “war on drugs” and the answer to the decline of America’s cities isn’t building more prisons and the answer to illegal immigration isn’t a big-ass fence and the answer to the instability of the Middle East isn’t the invasion of Iran.
If you fight a war on poverty you fight on all these fronts simultaneously. And you fight the only war capable of victories in each of these areas.
Address the mind-numbing hope-destroying dark chasm of poverty here and around the world then this vision of a better tomorrow becomes no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.
* Painting by Norman Rockwell, Freedom from Want (1943) The Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1943 (story illustration). Oil on canvas 45 3/4 x 35 1/2 in. The Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge (Massachusetts)