Earlier in the week, I reported on a new movement of citizens who are fasting in order to protest the Congressional budget cuts. The group includes New York Times foodie Mark Bittman, prominent progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis, David Beckmann, the president of Bread for the World, and members of MoveOn.org and the SEIU.
Now, Congressional representatives have joined the ranks of anti-austerity activists, including US Representative Jan Schakowsky, who has announced she too will be fasting to protesting the draconian budget cuts. Schakowsky will be taking the place of Representative Barbara Lee, who had been fasting since Thursday (drinking “water only,” according to an aide,) and Keith Ellison announced he would also go without food in protest.
Other representatives participating include Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Rosa DeLauro (D-OH), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Jim McGovern (D-MA). In total, twenty-eight members of Congress (all Democrats) will be going without food. Each representative has agreed to fast for at least a day, and thus far the “fasting schedule” appears to be set up like a relay where each person fills the slot of the fasting representative who came before.
Of course, these representatives don’t imagine their, in some cases, day-long hunger strikes come anywhere close to accurately replicating the strife felt by America’s working poor. Rather, members of Congress want to draw attention to the cruelty of the proposed cuts, which Schakowsky describes as “draconian, reckless and meanspirited.”
The entire fasting movement has now grown to 30,000 participants, according to Wallis, ranging from Christian groups like World Vision and Opportunity International to secular groups such as Women Thrive Worldwide and the ONE campaign. For Wallis, who is currently in his eleventh day of the fast, the outpouring of support from both sides of the political spectrum, and now Congressional representatives, has been enormously heartening. He shares some inspiring messages of solidarity.
[A] doctor friend, calling with concerns about my health, said, “Well, I walked into church today and our youth group announced a 30-hour fast for the poor and a moral budget, and said they were inspired by your fast.” Also, a Jewish activist joining our water fast told me he was re-reading the biblical story of Esther, who called the people to a public fast to change the king’s mind. He spoke about the emotions he felt when he imagined his 2-year-old daughter having the hunger pangs he was now experiencing. Low-income workers from my hometown of Detroit, Michigan came to one of our Congressional events to thank us for fasting, and to say they were joining us.