Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rights? Justice? Anyone?

For almost two weeks now I have been puzzling about a conversation at this month's Food System Alliance meeting. We go over and over and our goals, potential projects and markers. Someone asked if we wanted to beef up (sorry about that - it had nothing to do with meat or not) our language on food access. Don't people have a right to food.

Our facilitator leaped in and noted that we should avoid rights language, as we would alienate much of the agriculture community, where there's a feeling that people must earn their food. In other words, the question of rights was off the table. Now her response may reflect actual experience, but I was still appalled. Apparently things I take for granted - like UN statements on human rights - are not common currency in this greenish blue county?

Later in the meeting there was a question from the facilitator - did we want to include any statements about justice issues, using the j word, in our work. Perhaps we could have a conversation about this later was the dull response from the group. So I've come up against a place where values I take for granted are basically not shared, or if shared not asserted and acted upon, by this group of which I am a part.

I'm still thinking about it. And I'm thinking particularly about how much the church capitulates to the kind of the thinking I experienced in the FSA. Reading our Episcopal Church 2009 report on domestic poverty (asked to do so as part of the initiative on domestic poverty by the North American Association for the Diaconate) I realized how reactive, condescending and incapable of systems thinking the church is. Not that a hidebound yet amorphous institution can think, but the collective work of the church doesn't reveal much evidence that the bureaucratic leaders can either.

Uncommon values - that's where I find myself. I hope the deacon community can do better.

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