by Joyce Rothermel
Earlier this year, Arthur Simon’s latest book was released, Silence Can Kill: Speaking Up to End Hunger and Make Our Economy Work for Everyone. E.J. Dionne, Jr. from the Washington Post describes it as, “A guidebook for changing the world and an urgent invitation to take on the task.”
In the book’s forward, Rick Steves, best-selling travel writer, PBS television host, and anti-hunger activist, writes, “Mother Teresa inspired me with her concern for the poor and downtrodden, but it was Art Simon who stirred me to action by asking ‘Why?’ Why, amid such unprecedented affluence, are there still hungry people in the United States? With his book Silence Can Kill, Art explains how we can be active in our citizenship – and how advocacy gives our compassion traction.”
Locally, I co-chair a chapter of Bread for the World. Each year we work to increase participation and motivate more of our Pittsburgh-region neighbors to be “active in our citizenship” and advocate with others throughout the country by meeting with our area Congressional members, writing letters, sending emails and making phone calls to them to improve our national public policy toward the goal of ending the scourge of hunger and food insecurity at home and abroad. Simon’s book inspires us to continue our efforts and motivates us to carry his message to an ever-increasing audience.
In the first half of Simon’s book, he envisions ending hunger in America as a moral imperative, but not a stand-alone goal. Hunger thrives on the economic, social, and racial extremes that are devouring the soul of our world and dividing us. On the other hand, Simon sees that ending hunger could now become the cause that unites us across partisan lines to make the U.S. economy include everyone. Because the goal of eradicating hunger is so morally right and achievable, pursuing it will enable us to understand more clearly the connections between hunger and our deeper problems.
The second half focuses on making our economy fair and inclusive, an alternative to our growing disparities. He also recognizes our ability to bring stronger leadership in helping end extreme hunger and poverty worldwide. For this he believes we can act on a compelling vision. Simon writes, “Suppose Congress adopted as a genuine commitment, the goal of ending hunger at home and doing our part toward ending it globally. That could become the centerpiece for helping us heal national wounds related to poverty, class, and race. It would give all of us a sense of hope and the satisfaction of being part of something good and great. As a significant byproduct, the U.S. would gain strength and luster globally as a nation to be honored for living up to its ideals. This could happen – if citizens build strong support among members of Congress from both political parties for doing so.”
To reach this goal, Simon says we must break our silence. Comparing the need to speak up to pre-World War II Germany, he then contrasts it by writing, “almost everyone who reads this book can speak up for justice without fear of government retaliation. We have no such excuse for remaining silent and contributing to the shortening and diminishing of lives.”
On the practical level, Simon offers 13 suggestions that readers can consider. They range from prayer, to educating ourselves, to contacting members of Congress, to visiting other countries, to becoming an active member of local advocacy groups, to being creative and finally, to “Persist: Know that you are engaged in a matter of national and global importance that touches the lives and needs of people no less human than you.”
I invite you to join our local Bread for the World Team. We meet every other month at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 616 N. Highland Avenue. Our next meeting is Sept. 9 at 10am in the Basfield Dining Room (across from the cafeteria). For more information, contact me at RothermelJoyce@gmail.com
(To purchase Silence Can Kill for $29 which includes shipping, go to http://www.bread.org/ store or call 800-822-7323.)
JOYCE ROTHERMEL IS THE CO-CHAIR OF THE SW PA BREAD FOR THE WORLD TEAM
Originally published Vol 49 No.7, September 2019