Excerpt from ‘How to Overthrow the Government’

By Arianna Huffington
Excerpt from How to Overthrow the Government
HarperCollins Publishers, 2001 (pp. 216-217)

… It’s another indicator of how out of touch our political leaders are that Bob Dole launched a lavish fund-raising drive to raise $100 million in government and private funds for a World War II memorial at a time when we have at least 270,000 homeless veterans. Close to $70 million has been raised so far. I defer to no one in my gratitude for the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for our freedom. But surely we dishonor the dead when we do not honor the living.Every time we do something, we forgo doing something else. Economists call it “opportunity cost.” Has anyone stopped to consider what $100 million could do for at-risk children? Or for that matter, what $100 million could do for homeless veterans? A $100 million revolving loan fund would make possible five thousand units of self-sustaining, long-term transitional housing, according to the organization LA Vets. And here’s a short list of other things we won’t be doing with the $100 million that will go to add another monument to a capital city crowded with them:

  • $100 million would make it possible for 110,000 people to receive drug rehabilitation treatment, be taught life skills, be placed in a job, and be reunited with their families-according to the Bowery Mission in New York.
  • $100 million would feed one million people through six new neighborhood centers and a fleet of vans- according to Love Is Feeding Everyone in Los Angeles.
  • $100 million would fund a thousand literacy programs serving 130,000 children-according to the Harlem Educational Activities Fund.
  • $100 million would allow 100,000 more children to receive mentoring for one year-according to Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
  • $100 million would activate 166 new sites to feed 18,000 children for a year-according to Kid Care in Houston.

And any of the above could be done in the name of World War II heroes.Across the river from where the World War II monument will stand, in the forgotten city of Anacostia, there are children whose voices are silenced by stray bullets, children who have to be evacuated from their school because water is pouring in from a leaky roof, children who go without books, pencils, and even teachers. How can we be deaf to the voices of fear, the voices that end in a moment-not in a place far from home but in a place ten minutes from where the monument is supposed to be built?

In The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon painted a dramatic picture of what happens when civic virtue and civic engagement atrophy. “Prosperity,” he wrote of Rome, “ripened the principle of decay…. As soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight.” Unless we build a critical mass of men and women engaged in saving our communities, we risk repeating history.

 

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