There are two Americas, just as there are two Maines. We live in a state and nation where wealth and position are venerated, while poor and homeless populations continue to suffer.

And it’s not hidden. It can be seen as the huge, ugly McMansions multiply and block out the sea here in Moody, as giant pleasure cruisers have idled in Portland Harbor, where posh, private yachts multiply. And it can be read in the pleas from the food distribution centers as hunger increases and supplies dwindle. (Nationally, 50 percent more food is being handed out than in the previous year.) People wandered homeless as long discussions wound on during winter months about where to site a shelter. (Sixty-four homeless people died in Portland last year, two of them freezing to death on the street.)

There’s nothing inherently wrong with success. There’s plenty wrong, though, when wealth and power bring only privileges and no obligations – when the poor go to jail for minor infractions while the privileged escape penalty for huge financial crimes.

The growing body of multi-billionaires, soon to be joined by trillionaires, in the midst of ballooning numbers of the poor, the homeless, the hungry, tells a sad tale. It is a narrative of ritualizing wealth and power above all else, while forgiving its many iniquities. As the rich are bailed out and get ever richer, things get worse for the often disdained unfortunates pushed ever farther down the economic ladder. A new report finds that over a three-year period, America’s 55 largest corporations paid no taxes on many billions of dollars in profits. For example, Federal Express paid zero taxes on $6.9 billion in profits. Yet it seems impossible to legislate even small tax increases upon the uber rich.

Now, as we begin to see some relief from the great pandemic, as a return to a former life seems possible, will we among the better off have learned anything from the experience? Will we remember that feeling of fear, of hopelessness, of loss of control, of jobs gone, of isolation, of food shortages, of innocent loved ones sick and dying all around us? Will we realize that for the have-nots those are the everyday realities of their lives? Will we understand that any kind of social or economic upheaval always inflicts its heaviest toll upon the already poor?

Can we in good conscience continue pretending to be living ethical lives while people freeze to death in the streets, while children and even babies go hungry? Or will we instead join together in a humane fight to end hunger and poverty and homelessness and all the other cruel deprivations that are the real worldly evils?

Will we demand that ending poverty be a clear mandate, and not merely a whim of charity? Will we insist that our leaders take on this task seriously if they wish our votes? Will they take (by fair taxation) from the rich and give (equal opportunity) to the poor, which is a biblical imperative? Isn’t it, for heaven’s sake, time to look poverty in the face and do the right thing, the decent thing.

History says the odds are slim. But that doesn’t mean we should give up hope. There are many good and decent people who I believe would join in such a righteous battle.

But, you might ask, how would such a revolutionary caring society get underway?

I still remember as a kid my Mom teaching me always to share and never to discriminate. Why don’t we just start there.


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