Only a Pawn in Their Game

There are some interesting things going on in our country these days. I guess, though, it might always be “interesting.” While reading this article I was struck by the well explained paradox that is the South and also the base of the Republican party, and, in the end, the paradox of people. Without getting into more details, the author is pointing out that one of the stronger Republican states is also one of the most dependent on Federal aid for the every day citizen. And, with that, by voting for any of the candidates in the GOP, they are thereby voting to have the very aid they depend on, put in jeopardy.

But that is not what I want to talk about.

As a history major, I am sad to say the story of Medgar Evers (mentioned in the article above) is not one that I was familiar with until today. His life and assassination inspired the Bob Dylan song, “Only a Pawn in Their Game” and this led me to remember this incomparable song written after September 11, 2001. The thread is clear: citizens killing and being killed are just pawns in a system. As poems. We are metaphors.

We are all metaphors for a larger game that we have no control over, or so those in power hope. BGI makes me think a lot about power, and how, although it is the most interesting and inspiring communities I have ever been a part of, it still feels small, and the idea of us actually changing the world seems somehow totally plausible yet incredibly naive. I still feel “stuck” in a system that runs deeper and holds stronger than I could ever imagine.

I did not grow up in the Civil Rights era and I will never claim to understand what it was like for any side at that time. I only have my experiences and research to inform my opinion. That being said, just like then, we have a lot to continue to fight for, right here and right now. Our rights are being threatened. The citizens of this country are suffering because of the food that we are told is okay to eat. We are told that corporations are the same as people. The discussion about women’s health is about politics, not women. Money has more votes than people. It’s all become a game.

Our food system is feeding us food that is not food. I am angry that I no longer feel safe eating the cornbread I grew up on and the biscuits my mom makes with love. Little has changed in regard to social justice and economic equality. As Eric Schlosser eloquently expresses,

As upper-middle-class and well-educated people increasingly reject fast food, the industry has responded much like the tobacco industry once did when that demographic group decided to quit smoking. The fast-food chains, like the tobacco companies, are now aggressively targeting African-Americans, Latinos, and the poor. America’s low-income communities now boast the highest proportion of fast-food restaurants—as well as the highest obesity rates and the highest rates of diabetes. Two vastly different food cultures now coexist in the United States. While some Americans eat free-range chicken and organic produce, exercise regularly, and improve their health, most are consuming inexpensive processed foods, drinking large amounts of soda, and reducing their life expectancy. The contrast between the thin, fit, and well-to-do and the illness-ridden, poor, and obese has no historical precedent. The wealthy used to be corpulent, while the poor starved.

What brings me hope is that, as Schlosser expresses, our future is not inevitable. As large as the issues appear, and as powerful as the status quo feels, we can and must still fight for what is right. What do I mean by “right”?

I mean living in a society that honors our demands:

  • to know where our food is coming from,
  • to truly understand the affects our environment and our food have on our overall health,
  • to have access to healthcare
  • to speak our minds without threat of censorship,
  • to access a life that inspires us within.

This pawn isn’t ready to allow its opponent to declare checkmate yet.

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