Independent’s Day is an occasional opinion column published on Wednesdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
As a society do we accept the responsibility to care for those less fortunate? As I sat in a packed room at the American Legion Auxiliary Unit in Vienna last Saturday, I asked myself this very question.
Social Action Linking Together (S-A-L-T.org) sponsored a “Richmond Legislative Wrap Up” which attempted to summarize the effects of their efforts on Virginia’s 2013 legislative session. The SALT organization, founded just over 10 years ago by John Horejsi, is a volunteer led organization focused squarely on the poor. Their website references the Conference of Catholic Bishops and “solidarity with those who suffer, working for peace and justice.”
Wow. This is hardly a political winner but SALT is no political organization. From the vantage point of my campaign last year, SALT was one of the few organizations that highlighted the working poor; those who work in the shadows of our 3rd wealthiest county in the nation.
With a website copyright dated for 2008, SALT is hardly a well oiled machine but knowing how to get people active and involved has to count for something. Nearly 13 political leaders accepted invitations and our Delegates Patrick Hope and Alfonso Lopez spoke to an audience of about 100 on a cold Saturday morning. Perhaps the most raucous applause was reserved for a 7th grade girl (pictured) named Rae Moar. Rae led her 7th grade class, her parents and a couple faculty members on an initiative to support the “backpack bill.”
What is the backpack bill? From my memory, it was a bill to provide school supplies to children who can’t afford them. Unfortunately, I can’t find one article about this online. But Rae apparently raised money for a lot of backpacks, received a well earned award, and spoke eloquently. Even 35th District Delegate Richard Saslaw felt comfortable stating, tongue-in-cheek, that Delegate Hope better watch out in about nine years.
What this 7th grader epitomized is the innocence of helping others, free from the conscience of political philosophy. Rae just wanted to do something good for some other people and she succeeded. On the issues that matter like hunger, healthcare, homelessness, immigration, and child poverty, should politics matter?
Delegate Hope kicked off his remarks mentioning the three year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He considers this legislation, “…Far and away the best piece of social justice legislation signed in decades.” Hopefully he feels this for the 500,000 people in Virginia who will have access to healthcare rather than for the political points it scores for his side of the aisle. Regarding immigration, Delegate Lopez stated that, “What we’ve seen in the Commonwealth of Virginia for the last 11 years has been incredibly ugly,” in regards to legislation he viewed as vilifying Latinos.
When there are apolitical answers to our challenges with immigration, do we have to consider the politics before we take positive action?
Perhaps in government we do have to consider the politics. People in elected office especially have to consider both the domestic and international ramifications of their decisions. But we don’t. The poor and the needy represent wounds in our community that can be healed by us regular people. The non-partisan, non-government, non-flashy – again, check out their website – SALT organization proves that community action can make a difference but their “members” are not enough.
When it comes to the silent suffering of our neighbors, we can do more than just adding SALT to the wound. We can add us.
“We ask you to become more informed and active citizens, using your voices and votes to speak for the voiceless, to defend the poor and the vulnerable, and to advance the common good.” — From Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, 1986.
Jason Howell, a former accountant and motivational speaker, ran as an independent candidate for U.S. Congress in 2012.