I’m very glad I was active with the Jewish Defense League in the early ’70s, when Cheri Honkala was a child. Jason Cherkis’ informative article, “Are We There Yet?” (10/29), about Honkala’s leading her tired and hungry anti-poverty marchers from D.C. to New York City, indicates her good-faith, but probably doomed, effort to effect social change.
If you want to get people’s attention by staging a protest, the JDL experience suggests that you must disrupt, in a nonviolent way, society’s daily routines. (The general public believed that the JDL was just one group. This wasn’t so. I was active with the late Dr. Perl in D.C., hassling embassies and their diplomats. Meir Kahane’s JDL was an altogether different group. I never met Rabbi Kahane.)
Here are some ways I would have my 120 marchers generate attention about rampant poverty amidst general plenty. In groups of no more than five or 10, 1 would:
1. Have homeless people sit in at the national and regional offices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, demanding adequate housing.
2. Although Mitch Snyder rejected my idea, I still believe there is room for some of the 1,400 homeless people who live at the CCNV shelter to protest at the U.S. Department of Labor, just one block away. Demand work and/or job training. And say that the D.C. Department of Employment Services is either incompetent and/or corrupt, and would the Labor Department kindly decertify that “state agency”? (The 1935 Social Security Act, as amended, gives it the right to do this.)
3. Hungry because your food stamps won’t stretch? In November 1997, President Clinton signed an executive order mandating that unsold federal cafeteria food be given to organizations feeding the poor. Why not give the food to some poor people themselves? Have small groups of hungry people go to their closest federal office building 10 minutes before breakfast or lunch ends, asking for a meal. Have them eat, then depart with a full belly, returning again the next day to be fed for free. If they get no food, but see chow available, have them sit in until they’re arrested.
4. I’m willing to be arrested in a group, going to either the local Fresh Fields or to the Georgetown “social” Safeway and throwing every package of meat we can onto the floor until the cops come and haul us away. Why? It takes 16 pounds of soy and other grains to produce one pound of beefburger. And as the November-December 1999 Worldwatch magazine tells us, while people generate about 67 million tons of human waste a year, livestock produce about 1.37 billion tons. Clearly, our country is suffocating in bullshit.
(Contrary to popular belief, Adolf Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian. His personal chef, Dione Lucas, stated that Der Fuehrer’s favorite dish was roast squab in her 1964 book, The Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook.)