On Charity As a Form of Protest


From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.

Cesar Chavez

Particularly when you’re dealing with very high-ranking people, you know, you have to get their attention. They are used to, by their rank, of having their own way and doing their own thing and when it’s necessary to all work together on something, sometimes you have to hit the mule between the eyes with a two-by-four to get its attention.

Norman Schwarzkopf

When we give to a charitable cause, we often think only of those in need, of those to whom we are giving direct aid. It could be food, it could be medicine, it could be school supplies, or it could be dollars. Regardless of the particular form it takes, charity alleviates preventable suffering. In short, charity exposes a societal gap that is being filled by the act of giving. Given its full context, charity is a form ofprotest against inequity, and independent charity is the most grassroots form of that protest.

If the VA were effectively caring for veterans’ mental health, if our Congress were not failing to pass urgently needed legislation even on issues that the vast majority of their constituents agree on, if those we have given power by common agreement could be trusted to act with our best interests at heart, Moderate Majority wouldn’t need to exist. But we do, and for good reason.

Moderate Majority exists only because our government is failing the people who have served it.

It may seem revolutionary to look at charity this way – and it is. It goes against the social grain of reducing charity to a simple, uncomplicated act of kindness. But sooner or later, as we work to alleviate the suffering of the poor and destitute, we are confronted with the reality of the people who should be serving them – whose well-paid, often campaigned-for job it is to serve them – and with the reality of theugly reasons why they don’t. At that point, our choice is simple: we can either accept the world as it is, or we can work to change it.

With every veteran failed by the system that our donors make it possible for us to help, we affirm that we have the power to fix our own problems. But as we step up and protect those who have protected our freedom to protest, we cannot help but expose the failure of our current government to do the same. As time goes by, it is inevitable that more and more people will look to independent community groups like ours as the new face of legitimate democratic expression. How can out-of-touch institutions hope to maintain control when there are so many shining examples of the power of people working together to get things done? When it matters most, if no one else is there, we will be there for ourselves.

The ugly reality exposed by our work is this: We have voted the wrong people into power, and they have failed to take care of us when we need them.

It doesn’t have to stay that way. With every act that the American people take in their own interest, community by community, they delegitimize our bloated and spiritless political parties. Charity as protest is not the precursor to a revolution – it is the precursor to a political reformation.