Whether or not you believe in God, one day either He or history will ask of us what sort of people we were while we walked this earth. Were we men and women who cared about one another, or the type who stepped over the broken bodies of their brothers and sisters on their way to another nutritious meal, another rewarding experience or one more day in the park? Were we aware that 36,000 people die every single day from the lack of food in a world of plenty? Did we bother to help the 7 million people who die every year from diseases relating to their tainted water supplies? Or like Nero, did we fiddle while Rome burned, oblivious since it was not our house that was on fire?

While we are not all fabulously rich like the Emperor Nero, Americans live in an unbelievably bountiful land, a place where no one dies of starvation and our water supply does not kill us. We are a nation with the education, the technical know-how and a surplus of foodstuffs to help solve the Silent Slaughter of at least 20 million of our fellow human beings each and every year. These people do not die in the unspeakable violence of our many interminable wars and genocide campaigns, nor do they perish in catastrophic natural calamities like earthquakes and tsunamis. They die of famine, official neglect and horrible diseases, and the great majority of starvation victims are children under 5 years old.

Death from starvation is a prolonged and painful agony, cruel suffering and a continual plague upon our children that is completely preventable, the antidote being food. America is not the only nation with surplus food and available technical expertise. There are many. Emergency food rations can be shipped, water purification systems put in place and agricultural experts and teachers sent in to solve the long term problems of changing agricultural methods that were outmoded centuries ago. The illiterate and ignorant must be educated and welcomed to the 21st century by their more fortunate brothers and sisters. That would be you and I and all the others we can convince that this is the right and proper thing to do if we want to lay full claim to our humanity.

In nations hostile to having their citizens fed and educated, and there are too many such murderous regimes, the United Nations and the combined military might of developed nations may be needed to guarantee that no nation can thwart these missions of mercy and withhold the food or the knowledge sent to them. If we must have military services, let them fight for the lives of children rather than for pointless conquest. Let them defend the defenseless. An international commitment to this effort could produce results within a single generation. When President Lyndon Johnson issued food stamps in the 1960’s, hunger was immediately erased in America, in a matter of months.

But the world is not America, and misunderstanding, ill-will and mistrust must be conquered, and the difficulties of building sound infrastructures from scratch surmounted. Many places in this world still resemble the Bronze Age, with all the ignorance, superstition, disease and backwardness that implies. There are places subject to prolonged droughts or frequent killing floods, which are problems that have been solved successfully elsewhere. There are also many overcrowded locations that tax whatever resources are available, posing a more difficult problem, but nothing insurmountable to a race of beings that put a man the moon forty years ago, repair damaged hearts in routine procedures and have unraveled the genetic code of the most complex creatures on earth, humans.

It is the iron will to end the Silent Slaughter that is lacking, not the ability to do so. The new American president, Barack Obama, was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for no particular reason, so perhaps he can use the weight of being a Nobel Laureate to motivate the community of nations to act in concert with one another instead of against one another. Let him earn that accolade by leading the way, sending a New American Peace Corps to areas plagued by starvation and water-borne diseases. Treat it like the dire global emergency that it is, as if the world’s starving and diseased people were citizens of Montana or California.

Example alone will move mountains of indifference and hostility, and encourage other wealthy nations to join in the humanitarian efforts, nations that wish to be thought well of by their contemporaries and by history. Let President Obama use his global prestige and considerable power to call an emergency meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to address only the Silent Slaughter, leaving all other business aside, and call for the world to feed the hungry and care for the sick. 50,000 lives are lost every day to the preventable plagues of starvation and poisoned water.

Every year we do nothing about this emergency costs the world 20 million precious lives, every bit as important and dear as our own lives and those of our children. What kind of people are we? How will we answer that when our lives are over and others judge us by our actions, or lack of action? We won’t be around to defend ourselves, only the record of our deeds will speak for us. Let us be the generation that refused to step over the broken bodies of our brothers and sisters and stopped to help them, to feed them and to give them clean water and medical care, and taught them how to survive. Rome is burning. Let’s not fiddle around while the Silent Slaughter rages all around us. This is not a test, it is an actual emergency.

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