Thursday, November 23, 2006

"Food Insecurity": Another Denial of Human Suffering

Thanksgiving Day has arrived and our refrigerator is stuffed. My boyfriend is still snoozing in our warm home and, while I have not eaten any breakfast, I am “food secure”. I know that there are multiple boxes of cereal, eggs, apples, and plenty of other nutritious food to fill my stomach right downstairs. It is a safe feeling. It is a comforting feeling. Hunger, which I have never really experienced, must be the opposite. Fear. Panic. Terror. Pain.

By now, many of you have already read that George Bush has decided to use the term "food insecurity" instead of hunger to describe people who are hungry. As we know, words are powerful and George Bush does not have a good track record of using them accurately or effectively. Nor does he have a good track record of admitting the human suffering that has and continues to happen in his name. Let’s start with the definition of insecurity. When I looked "insecurity" up in Merriem-Webster’s on-line dictionary, here’s what I found:

1. not confident or sure.
2. not adequately guarded or sustained

Do you think it is accurate to describe individuals who are hungry as, “not confident or sure”. Does this accurately describe the type of fear and pain that hungry individuals must live with every day? I don’t know about you, but if I hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch and I wasn’t sure where my dinner was coming from, I think I would feel a little more than “not adequately guarded or sustained.”

Here is how the same dictionary defines "hunger".

1. a.
craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient b. an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food c. a weakened condition brought about by prolonged lack of food

Interesting that the word “urgent” is in the first definition. If a physical state is “urgent”, such as hunger, we would conclude that it is an emergency and not just something to worry about in our spare time.

George Bush, by using the term “food insecurity” instead of hunger to describe “hunger”, is taking the urgency out of this international crisis. George Bush, if nothing else, is good at denial. He avoids addressing any of the real crises in the world by distracting the country with false threats of terrorism. Americans have become so scared about their own safety because of the Bush administration’s efforts to distract us and/or keep us in a state of fear. What about the crimes that the US is committing every day against its own citizens by leaving them hungry, while we spend billions of dollars on a war that the majority of the country does not support? As the wealthiest country in the world, the fact that there are at least 35 million people who are “food insecure” should be a punishable crime. This is a statistic that I got directly from the USDA’s Economic Research Service website. This site is filled with alarming and real facts. There is no question (unlike Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction) that there are millions of people that are hungry in this nation of plenty. The United States has the resources to address this issue and eliminate hunger. Our government chooses to spend our tax dollars to fight wars in oil rich countries instead of feeding our own hungry citizens.

Hunger in the United States is only the tip of the iceberg. While the US prides itself on being the world police, we do not seem to be concerned about the “food security” of our global neighbors. According to the organization Bread for the World, 852 million people across the world are hungry. 16,000 children die from hunger related diseases every day. There’s more information and it only gets more depressing.

Here's an interesting train of thought. Maybe, if we are going to call hunger "food insecurity", we should call wealth "excessive money". I wonder how well that would go over with the wealthiest top 2% of the population? I have a feeling that corporations would put up a pretty big protest before their CEO's financial situation was described in government reports as "excessive money."

Let's call a spade a spade. You can change the language that describes hunger and the resulting malnourishment and disease that kills 16,000 children a day, but it doesn't mean that their pain doesn't exist. It's time to stop sugar coating the painful realities of our hungry neighbors with terminology that is easier on our ears. A little discomfort and guilt about the fact that there are people going hungry in our own communitie might drive people to take some real action towards this national and international crisis.


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