I feel the need to get this out of the way up front.
This is a picture of a cat.
Since late 2005 or early 2006, this kitty has been a sign that has accompanied some damn fool thing or another that I had written. He's appeared in military uniform, in a hovercar, with Kos's name on a tattoo on his ass, behind bars, in front of John McCain's green backdrop, and as Satan. He has appeared on t-shirts, coffee cups, and thongs to raise money for Democratic House and Senate candidates. This kitty has, in fact, hung in a frame on the wall of at least one Democratic House candidate.
But he is not just a kitty. No. A kitty is just flesh and blood and fur and can be ignored or destroyed. But as a symbol... as a symbol, a kitty can be incorruptible, everlasting.
The fact is, the kitty HAS been a symbol, for a long time. Longer even than I have been alive. Here he is, in the late 1800s or early 1900s:
That picture of a cat would appear only in certain specific locations. Namely, they appeared in front of houses occupied by particularly kind women. Women who might offer a sandwich or a drink of water to a passing stranger, or offer some small amount of money in exchange for chores around the house. When a hobo met such a kind woman, they drew a very familiar picture of a cat with chalk or coal.
There was an upsurge in hobos riding the rails during the early 20th Century, into the Great Depression. Often these were homeless men, going from town to town in search of work and in search of food. The increase of hobos was an indication of the desperate times that were sweeping across the nation and around the world.
The increase of kitty pictures was an indication that even in such desperate times, there were good people out there willing to give of themselves.
That spirit, that giving of oneself, is still prevalent in the economic crisis of our own time. You can find it, for example, in the excellent diary series Filling Empty Bowls from this past weekend, and the great efforts by noweasels, boatsie, rb137, JellyBearDemMom, srkp23, Kula2316, blue jersey mom, SpamNunn, Timroff, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, and blue jersey dad.
You can also find it in the loose confederation of Kossacks who have banded together for networking and support in these tough times of economic and employment uncertainty. You can find those folks over at Kossacks Networking For Jobs and Community, helping each other with job tips, résumés, and helpful advice for weathering the storm.
There's a lot of great stuff being done for our fellow Americans, and it makes me proud to be a Kossack. When I was a kid, my family was on Food Stamps. My mom stood in line for government cheese, powdered milk, rice, and peanut butter. My dad stood in line for hours to try to get a job at McDonald's after he was laid off from his construction job, and was still turned down.
One in eight hungry people in this country is a travesty. This is supposed to be the richest country in the world. Of course, you and I know that most of those riches are held in the hands of a very exclusive club at the top of the ladder. But even beyond that, most of the world has it a lot worse than we do. They often live in countries without any social safety net at all -- no food stamps, no soup kitchens, no help from the government. If they cannot raise enough income or food to eat, they starve.
And many of those who are starving, of course, are children. Let's assume that it took you two and a half minutes to read what I just wrote. From the time you opened this diary until the time you read these words, 30 children have died.
A whole classroom full of kids, wiped out within the timespan of a commercial break.
As with the hunger and poverty crisis within our borders, there is something we can do for those living beyond our shores as well. Will you consider giving a gift from OxFam America this holiday season? Whether you are donating seeds, a garden, a whole cereal bank, or even a goat, you can give three gifts at once. One to your loved one. One to the world. And one to yourself.
Please, before picking up that set of golf club covers for your dad or the beauty kit for your wife who is pretty enough already, please think about giving them an Oxfam gift instead.
PS. Here is a picture of an Oxfam donkey.
And here is a picture of an Oxfam goat.
UPDATE: From blue jersey mom, here is the link to Feeding America.