Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down

Day 22–July 25 (rest in Greensburg, PA, 0.0 miles)

I have never understood what it is that empowers some of us to always stand up for what is right, regardless of the consequences, while others stand idly by at the injustices of this world.

While I was at Target in Greensburg yesterday I met John and his young daughter Emily. As I talked with John about my journey and about my encounter with the Greensburg police, he impressed upon his daughter the value in standing up for yourself, even when it is isn’t easy. Emily just smiled but I suspect she will grow into a woman who stands firmly by her convictions.

Most people I spoke with about my tangle with the Greensburg police and subsequent charge of disorderly conduct agreed that what the police had done was wrong, and cheered me for standing up for myself. But there were some who felt that the police have the right to demand identification of innocent citizens they have no reason to suspect of a crime. Now whether the law is on the side of police is immaterial in my mind. It troubles me to think that anyone could think it is OK for those in positions of authority to abuse their power. If it is OK for the police to harass an innocent person, is it also OK for a senator to lie and accept bribes; a president to mislead the public for personal gain, or for a government to prop up businesses on the backs of workers? Yet millions in this country would hesitate to cry foul.

Numerous studies have found a connection between poverty and an increase in involvement in crime, lower levels of education, and reduced self-esteem thus locking people into a repeating cycle of poverty. I can understand how it might be hard to stand up for injustice when you have just worked a double shift and can think only of how to keep putting food on the table and a roof over your head.

Now perhaps I was born stubborn. But I was also raised in a family that taught me to do what is right; to stand up for myself; and always backed me up when I did so. And so I thank my parents for empowering me. But I am also thankful that I was born into a life that gave me the opportunity to stand firmly for what I believe in. So many children are raised in an environment where they are not made to feel valuable; taught that they cannot have the same hopes and dreams as those of means. And it is not hard to see how those raised to think they are lesser humans for being poor would grow to become adults who believe they are not worth more than minimum wage, that they have no value to society. Yes there are some in this world with rare and unique talents. But that is a twist of fate. Those who work hard to keep the wheels of society moving are no less valuable. Those who perform back-breaking work behind the scenes in the least desirable of professions–washing dishes and toilets; slaughtering meat and picking produce; cooking and serving our food; operating cash registers and selling our clothes and an endless array of material goods–are every bit as deserving of a safe and warm place to call home and good health.

It has been more than 70 years since President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed in his second inaugural address:  “I see millions denied education, recreation and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children. . . one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” Though we have come a long way from the poverty seen during the Great Depression, we are still a nation in which 1 in 3 struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

– By Jennifer E. Cooper