January 11, 2017 (Fault Lines) — It’s time for America to admit it. A war has been declared on a group of our fellow countrymen and women. Many of these people have served America proudly in varying capacities, yet they get respect only occasionally. Who are these people?
What? You were thinking I was lending some credence to the fictional, laughable war on cops? It’s the other way around. Mayors, councils and wealthy overlords are sending their attack dogs in blue after one of the weakest segments of society. If there is a war on anyone in this country right now, it is a war on homeless people perpetrated by the same people who claim there is a war on members of their profession. This week the shame is on display in Tampa, Florida where Food Not Bombs activists were arrested for serving hot coffee and bagels to homeless people.
Bagels and a cup of hot Joe: When you arrest people for that you have reached the epitome of cowardliness. Anyone trotting out the old “food safety” lie will just look like an idiot.
Last week it was Houston, Texas. Will it be your city next week?
It’s a given that the cops who go out and often joyfully fulfill their duty of arresting the homeless and intimidating or arresting folks who try to show them kindness and a bagel or two did not write the ordinances they are tasked with enforcing. But as a human being, you should have the capacity to realize that if your job description involves delivering even more misery to people who are already down, then your job sucks.
Also realize that you have made a conscious choice to harm others so that you and yours may thrive, because when you spend your time kicking the homeless around and arresting people for trying to serve them some food, you’ve gone far off your mission of fighting crime. You’re no hero.
Truth be told, the mayors, city council members who voted for these ordinances and the cops who enforce them couldn’t handle even one week on the street.
Not even a week. Let’s take a trip there right now:
The unthinkable has happened to you, you have fallen from your position of grace as a Mayor, city councilman, cop or snobbish investor. You are on the street with only the possessions on your back. You have nothing, you are nobody. Maybe it’s your own fault. Maybe you’re innocent. Either way, you are sleeping outdoors tonight.
Let’s be generous and give you a cell phone. There are homeless folks who have cell phones but one caveat: You have to load the minutes on it manually with cash that is noticeably absent from your pockets. Also, the only phone numbers you are going to have are those of other homeless people. There is no help, no-one to call, no place to go…
With no-place to go, you see your city quite differently. As a newly homeless person, you are feeling the crushing weight of your nonexistence as you wander the streets not knowing what to do. You feel depression, self-pity, panic. Hunger is distant because at this stage you would probably violently and disgustingly part company quickly with anything you tried to eat as your stomach is a tight knot of terror.
Darkness falls and you are exhausted from your trek. You desperately want to sleep but there is no shelter and a new fear has set in, caused by sharp looks from other street dwellers at your better than homeless-grade footwear. You wander all night and like a moth are drawn to the all-night establishments of the city, from which you are promptly repelled: Coffee shops, gas stations, there are surprisingly few. Who knew the city shut down this much?
Congratulations, you made it through your first night. Welcome to your new mental state: A hazy mix of terror, stress and sleeplessness that will guide you to desperate acts and many poor decisions. When hunger kicks in, it will be far worse. Day two is a repeat of day one, because you have no idea how to be homeless. An alternate universe was right in front of you every day in your past life, yet you cannot glean a single clue about your current situation because you never looked.
On day three, you are going to cry. Self-pity and the aforementioned brew of panic and depression will have now combined with a rumbling hunger. But crying is dangerous on the street. To your fellow street residents, it shows weakness. It can bring about unwelcome attention from the cops (all attention from the cops is now unwelcome) because uncontrollable weeping may make them feel that you are a threat to them or others. If you insist on crying, you should find a dumpster and hide behind it. Or learn to STFU like others.
On day four you will add to your new set of afflictions the completely dehumanizing condition of feeling disgustingly filthy yet with no place at all to bathe. So far, you have been lucky and unmolested as you left your steaming pile of feces and puddles of pee in freezing alleyways along with a few strips of quite abrasive paper, not designed for the purpose you put them to. But finding a place to bathe is a near impossibility. Welcome to your new state of un-cleanliness.
By day five, you have procured a spot and a cardboard sign to do the unthinkable: Beg. People pass you, looking away in revulsion and shame, just as you did to others.
It is to ward off the other unthinkable: Digging through the trash for food. As you stand there, you actually look like an authentic homeless person due to the disheveled look, black eye and gash on your head you received during your discovery that you can’t just pick a corner and start begging because someone else has already claimed that corner.
On day six…
What? Did you think this was going to be a five-day week like you had as mayor, city council member, cop or snobbish investor? It’s not that easy to leave the street. It is easy, however to let those who would help do what they will. Realize that it could be you out there and declaring war on those less fortunate will not make them go away. It makes them worse off and, in turn, makes your city worse off.
Smugly thinking it could never happen to you is wrong. Fortunes change.