While visiting Atlanta over the past couple of days I talked with an immigrant cabbie from Nigeria. During our conversation we talked about the number of homeless people sleeping on the street around the Georgia Capitol. He told me he immigrated to America from his home so he could enjoy the fruits of America. I asked him if the money being made from oil has trickled down to the Nigerian people, and he told me that poverty and political corruption continued to rule his home. He then said to me, “America is the richest country in the world; there should be no one sleeping on the street.”
I saw people sleeping anywhere they could have a little quiet and space. Men and women slept under highway overpasses, on the sidewalk and in alleys next to garbage and filth. Business people in suits walked past the poor as though they were invisible, paying no mind to the agony in their circumstances.
As I walked, I encountered a couple of men who pleaded with me for spare change. I stopped a man to ask for directions and, after explaining to me where I should go, he looked at me and said, “Sir, could you please spare a couple of bucks so I can get something to eat?” As I reached into my pocket for a dollar or two he told me about how he lost his job and that he is sober, does not do drugs and he is just trying to stay alive.
After I handed him the cash he walked with me down the street talking to me telling me how hard it is to survive when so many people do not care. As I continued to walk and take pictures of the very nice Capital area of Atlanta, I was met by man after man begging for money. They all looked rough, but not one was threatening and none was drunk or stoned. One man said to me, “Can you please help me? I need food, I am trying to stay alive.”
Yesterday the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to cut food stamps by $2 Billion dollars. I have watched the news and I have listened to Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders use Christian bible verses to justify their belief that poor people are inherently criminals who are stealing from the American tax payers. Though it was eventually derailed because of the Farm Bill, the Boehner-led GOP voted overwhelmingly to cut the food stamp program and make it harder for people to qualify for the needed program.
This is not the first time politicians such as Paul Ryan have voted to cut services that help keep America’s most vulnerable afloat. Whether it is a vote to end the Affordable Care Act or to end food stamps for struggling families or cutbacks in preschool educational programs like Head Start, the Republican Party has voted to hurt the 50 million people who live hand to mouth each and every day and they do it with Old Testament verses and a smile on their face.
As I walked around downtown Atlanta I saw a great deal of wealth and opulence. I also saw too many people existing day to day without hope, happiness or love.
The poor of America are looked down upon by many who call America home, with trumped-up rhetorical speeches and phony Christian views. The GOP members of the House of Representatives never quoted Jesus of Nazareth when stating why they were voting to cut food stamps from the American poor. They only quote parts of the Old Testament that they have cherry-picked to prove to themselves they are doing ‘God’s work’.
Cutting services in the form of food stamps or affordable housing for the millions of poor of Americans is not how America became great; the country became great by acts of courage and honor by many people who saw all Americans as valuable members of this society.
The GOP have shown the American people what they care about and what is important to them — and it is time for the people to show the leaders of the Republican Party what is truly important.
I could not refuse the pleas for assistance from the people I met during my walk around Atlanta. Now, as I see men in $1000 dollar suits voting on cutting $4.50 from the daily lives of the poor I have come to realize the richest land in the world should not have politicians elected to office if they do not have the compassion to protect the most vulnerable of society.