Drowning Children

drowningA well-documented Soapboxie analysis concluded that 874,000 Americans died from poverty in 2011. That’s 2,400 people daily, more than any of the other top killers. Since we could end poverty if we had the political will, those are preventable deaths.

The World Health Organization reports, “5.9 million children under the age of five died in 2015. More than half of these early child deaths are due to conditions that could be prevented or treated with access to simple, affordable interventions.” Daily, that’s more than 8,000 preventable deaths, many of which are American.

In light of those facts, imagine the following scenario.

A town with 10,000 working-age residents is located next to a rapidly flowing river.

Each day 8,000 children under the age of five float down that river on the way to rocky rapids downstream.

Upstream, on the edge of town, three large men are throwing those 8,000 children into the river.

The 3,400 adults in town who work in health, social assistance, and government jobs try to rescue the drowning children. On average they save 100 each day.

From time to time, a resident goes upstream and asks the men to stop throwing children into the river, but they refuse. When the resident tries to stop them, the three men force the resident to leave.

If ten residents, or roughly one percent of the town’s adult population, teamed up they could stop the men.

But when one or two residents try to organize that team, they fail. Arguments about leadership, power struggles, and resentments undermine unity.

And most residents either focus on rescuing the drowning children one-by-one or continue with their daily life, take care of themselves and their families, and ignore the children floating down the river.


That metaphor reflects the situation in the United States, which is the primary force in the global social system that kills 8,000 children each day.

If one million Americans, or roughly one percent of all adults, united in a sustained manner to push Washington to establish policies that are supported by a majority of Americans, we could steadily transform this nation into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of the Earth Community.

But activists are fragmented and most Americans are chasing the American Dream.

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