Friday, December 02, 2005


It's been days and I still can't rid myself of the stupidness of this comment:
In this country, there are enough resources that literally nobody HAS to die on our streets.
Compare that to this 1999 study which found that:

Age-adjusted death rates of homeless men and women were 4 times those of the general US population and 2 to 3 times those of the general population of New York City.
And that was based on a study of shelter residents. New York, like many cities, doesn't have enough beds in shelters to house all the homeless who want a bed, and there are plenty whose mental illnesses prevent them from seeking shelter. People are homeless for various reasons, including a fire which destroyed a home, an illness that drained financial resources, or a mental illness. Many of the homeless are veterans whose service to their country left deep mental scars, scars that leave them unable to function properly in society, and too many of them die on the streets with no other options.

I found it absurd that anyone would say something so blindingly stupid as this, until I remembered something George Lakoff said (I quote from Moral Politics):

[In the conservative frame] social programs amount to coddling people - spoiling them. Instead of having to learn to fend for themselves, people can depend on the public dole. This makes them morally weak, removing the need for self-discipline and will-power. Such moral weakness is a form of immorality.

The myth of America as the Land of Opportunity reinforces this. If anyone, no matter how poor, can discipline himself to climb the ladder of opportunity, then those that don't do so have only themselves to blame. The Ladder of Opportunity metaphor...implies that the ladder is there, that everyone has access to it, and that the only thing involved in becoming successful and being able to take care of oneself is putting out the energy to climb it.

There is a world of difference, from the conservative perspective, between having government help a victim of a natural disaster (who does not have himself to blame for his misfortune) and having government help someone who is merely poor (who in this land of opportunity, has only himself to blame for his poverty.
That sentence was about someone's frame. He sees an America of Opportunity, where anyone can succeed, where (by definition) no one HAS to die on the streets. If they happen to do so, it's their own damn fault. In France, they have no choice (being smelly, lazy wine drinkers).


I see it differently. I see it as the job of society to prevent people from dying on the streets, to actively intervene if necessary. Homeless veterans deserve a safe, warm place to sleep and they deserve quality medical care. We owe it to them and to others in their position.

"I Ain't Got No Home In This World Anymore" by Woody Guthrie from the album Hard Travelin': The Asch Recordings Vol. 3 (1998, 2:46).