The right time and place

I’m seriously considering un-friending some people on Facebook if they don’t stop talking about healthcare. It’s not just one post, or even one post a day, but several a day (per person).

There’s a time and place to talk about politics. Let me tell you that, from experience, Facebook is not one of those. I once made a rather innocuous (it wasn’t meant to be hurtful) comment on Facebook and my, oh my, did people want to add their 2-cents.

Just so we’re clear…

I grew up in a relatively conservative community (as in, slightly to the right of middle – it’s all relative), and when I went to college it was the same. Even my first few churches. And to be honest, I always considered myself “progressive,” as in conservative with a few liberal beliefs thrown in. I always tested middle of the road. I’ve voted for Republican and Democrats for president. And I really don’t care that much about or for politics (which is one of the reasons they’re almost never discussed here).

However, I did have a few life experiences that loosened up my conservative roots. When reading through each party’s agendas (available on their websites, which you should look up if you’re interested, and get it right from the horse’s mouth), I disagreed with nearly everything the Republican party stood for and agreed with almost everything the Democratic party stood for. So, I guess I changed a bit.

But, I don’t hold any negative feelings towards Republicans or their ideologies. I understand them. Lots of my family and non-Minnesota friends are quite conservative. I married a Republican (we like to go to the polls together to cancel out each other’s votes). I also happen to be friends with some people who consider the Democratic party to be a wee bit conservative. I really don’t care. You believe what you believe, and I’ll believe what I believe, and that’s just fine. And as long as you don’t try to shove it down my throat, I will give you the same respect.

I just so happens that some of my most conservative friends are quite vocal, on Facebook, about their beliefs. I’m pretty sure one person posted at least a dozen messages since Sunday night on the topic of health care. (A topic about which, I am sorry to say, I really don’t care about. Yes, I think it’s important. But no, I don’t really care how it gets done and would rather not talk about it, at all, because blah. I probably should care, but I don’t. So there. I have good health care via my job/union, and so I’m quite apathetic about it – how very… bourgeois of me.)

And really, it’s just not appropriate. I may have to un-friend, or at least hide this person from my news feed. It’s almost amusing when links are posted to articles that are factually inaccurate, completely out of context, or straight up rant. Almost. It would be funnier if I didn’t feel like someone was trying to shove their conservative agenda down my throat.

I’ve held my tongue (or, rather, restrained my fingers), because I know that getting involved, especially via Facebook, would in no way be constructive, especially considering who these people are. So I just take a deep breath and try to smile.

Could someone explain to people on Facebook that there are appropriate things to talk about and inappropriate things? Maybe there could just be a switch and I could filter for appropriateness? How awesome would that be?

Briefly Political

In a rare moment, let me just quickly link to a great article on why I can’t go McCain-Palin [link removed]. You are free to believe whatever you want to, as am I. It appears that this election, I seem to have strong opinions about this issue, much to my surprise.

Taking a break from our regularly scheduled blog…

… we bring you this uncharacteristic entry on politics. Read at your own risk.

As most people know, I don’t like to talk about politics. In fact, the few times I have talked about it on this blog, I think I mention that. In particular, I don’t like to argue politics. If I’m in a particularly agreeable mood, I may be interested in calmly discussing and sharing, but if anyone starts trying to convince me to change my opinion, I no longer want any part of that conversation.

And while we’re on that note, let me state for the record that I am not (consciously, at least) attempting to change anyone’s views today. I’m simply trying to put into words some thoughts that have been roaming about my head for the last few months. If you feel like I’m trying to persuade you of anything, and you are offended by this, then by all means stop reading and let me know what I did wrong, because I certainly don’t want to be thought of in the way that I think of those who try to persuade me of disagreeable things.

That being said, I have a few thoughts on the presidential nominations, race, gender, and the status of those things in America. Added to current events is the fact that I am currently taking “Gender and Culture,” an anthropology course, at Metro State, which has taught me a lot in a short (6 weeks) time.

Back in the beginning of the Democratic race, when it looked like it was close between Hillary and Barack, I said (to at least one other person, I’m quite sure) that Barack would most certainly win, because historically in our country, African Americans make advances before women do. From my limited (albeit recent and probably less limited than the average American’s) history education, I remember that in fighting for suffrage (the right to vote), the 15th Amendment guaranteeing the right to vote regardless of race or color or “condition of servitude” was ratified in 1870 (though not upheld everywhere until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 19th Amendment guaranteeing the right of women to vote (or the right to vote regardless of gender) was ratified in 1920 (and from the Wikipedia article, you can read how much more difficult it was to pass that one; and yes, I know that Wikipedia shouldn’t be considered scholarly, but it is a nice succinct and easy to read version of events with little bias). The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s was much more about racial equality than gender equality, with major strides being made towards racial equality in the1960s and early 1970s, and major strides being made towards gender equality in the 1970s and 1980s.

Now, it could be argued that the steps towards gender equality, when eventually made, were more successful than those towards racial equality. I believe that while women still make somewhere in the range of 85-90-cents on the dollar (compared to men), the gap for minorities is much greater. Searching for statistics on this is not easy to do and, well, I’m just lazy at the moment. (This article in the Washington Square lays out some statistics on gender and race-based wage gaps.)

At any rate, I thought it was a pretty safe bet that we’d have an African American president before a female one. And it looks like I was right.

It also looks like, as I suspected, sexism is much more socially acceptable than racism. There was an interesting article in today’s NYTimes about Sexism in the Presidential Campaign Race [link removed]. And, quite frankly, if Katie Couric speaks out about it, that definitely lends some credibility to the argument as far as I’m concerned, because she’s not known for overreacting and being overtly feminist (at least I wouldn’t consider her that way).

And that’s not to say that there weren’t some wholly inappropriate racist remarks against Barack, including the recent “baby mama” issue that’s just, well, rude and wrong. But in my limited interaction with the Democratic nomination race, there was far much more sexism than racism.

Furthermore, I’m pretty sure that the reason Hillary didn’t get the bid has nothing to do with her politics and everything to do with her gender. Here’s the thing: there are lots of people who don’t like Hillary. Why? Because she has some very strong personality traits that are, well, masculine, and people don’t like masculine women. Women don’t, but occasionally tolerate it, and men really don’t. Hillary has traits that, if she were a man, she would be lauded for and admired for and respected for. But, because she’s a woman, it’s distasteful.

Someone (or multiple someones, I don’t remember) that it wasn’t a gender thing, because they’d vote for Condi. Well, politics aside, Condi is much more feminine than Hillary. While being a strong woman, she still comes across as womanly, and she fits in with our idea of how women should act and be. She might crack the mold, but she doesn’t break it.

Is now the appropriate time to bring up the fact that when women were originally fighting for the right to vote, back in the days of the female ideal of being a mother and a wife, people didn’t want women to get involved in politics because it would invariably pollute them with the evils of politics, and women were responsible for bringing up moral, upright children.

I also feel it appropriate to bring up that when women were fighting to work (you know, after WWII during which they went to work because they “had to” and were doing their “American duty” and then found out that they liked it and got a sense of satisfaction from it and wanted to keep doing it), they feared more women in the workplace because if they were exposed to all those men, they would certainly be tempted to have affairs and leave their husbands. But decades (or centuries, whatever) of men having affairs with their secretaries (or just prostitutes) aren’t bad.

See, now, this is where I take a turn from rational and calm exposition and go down Bitter Lane. I’ll try to do a U-turn. My apologies.

I would like to think that this country is ready for an African American president, especially since that means that soon we might be ready for a female president. Back when I was declaring Barack the winner, I also decided that whoever got the Democratic nomination was going to win the election, because considering Bush’s popularity, in addition to the current economic situation and everything else, I just don’t see our country electing another Republican, even one as “middle of the road” as McCain (don’t get me started on him and gender equality, because I’ve already blogged about that and don’t want to go there again).

There are still four-ish months left before we find out if my initial prediction was correct. Is it too late to add that I haven’t explored any of the candidates since my favorite dropped out of the race (John Edwards) and have no idea who I’ll vote for?

If anyone is still reading (my guess is that and might hang on to the end here), feel free to leave comments of a discussionary nature.

Republicans, look away!

OK, as I was browsing the internet today, I ran across an article entitled “Environmentalism in 1880.” I haven’t read it yet. Can’t tell you if it’s any good. That’s not the point. The funny thing is that above the article is an ad. It shuffles through, so you’ll probably get a different one than I did. But look at the one I got (click for a bigger version of the screenshot):

Pairing “vote for McCain” with “environmentalism,” even “environmentalism in 1880” is just funny.

That’s good stuff, man. This piece [link removed], to me, right from his own website, is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. You should watch the video. It’s awesome.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled, non-political blogging.

And to answer a question from a co-worker when he saw the page up on my blog, no, I’m not voting for McCain.

That’s a bummer

I had unofficially decided who I was voting for in the next Presidential election. Of course, I knew full well it was possible that the candidate I’d selected wouldn’t make it that far. Well, as it turns out, Edwards is dropping out of the race [link removed]. Now who will I vote for? I’d threaten to move to Canada if McCain is elected (like I did a few years back, though I can’t remember who I was protesting at the time), but I’m not sure I could convince , and living in Canada without him would pretty much suck. I had already decided not to go to my caucus next week, but this was definitely the final nail in the coffin. I have no party loyalty, so the caucus didn’t really tempt me.

Sad. I like none of the other candidates.

Have I noted how cold it is today? We got home last night and the house was 54*! cajoled the furnace into working and we woke up nice and toasty this morning. But it was -14* outside upon leaving for work. I let my car warm up a good long time in the garage before leaving. It will not be happy when I arrive back at the Transit Center tonight and want to use it to get home.

I’ve got about 50 pages left in Darcy and Elizabeth: Days and Nights at Pemberley, and I really want to know how all the ends of the plot lines are going to be wrapped up. I mean, I would sit here at my desk and read until I finished it if I thought I could get away with it. I’ve definitely been enjoying this book. It’s not nearly so much smut as some people think (though it has its share, I think the contrast is in to the original Jane Austen, which is beyond chaste), and I have appreciated how many plot lines there are and the intricacy of the story. I’m wondering if there will be a third book, but I’m not exactly sure what else the author could do with the characters at this point. It may be time for it to end.

It has been painfully dry this winter. We have a humidifier in our bedroom which has helped my sinuses significantly, but my recent skin sensitivity to lotions and soaps has made keeping my skin happy quite difficult. (Most recently, Dove Sensitive Skin shower wash and Eucerin, both hypoallergenic, have been rejected by my skin.) I’ve been alternating between baby oil, baby lotion (which is not that moisturizing), and Eucerin (even though my skin isn’t that happy with it, I have yet to break out in a full-scale rash). Yesterday morning I just didn’t have the time to put anything on, and thought nothing of it. Last night after getting back from the gym, I checked my legs and noticed that not only did I need to shave, I had turned quite amphibious during the day and it was a little painful (that was the polite way of saying my skin was dry and scaly). I attempted to remedy that situation and after showering coated my skin with Eucerin, sensitivities be damned. I avoided showering this morning and put on another coat. I decided that little red bumps and even an itchy patch or two would be worth it and probably healthier for my skin than for it to be that dry. My hands and cuticles have cracks and so forth all over. Papercuts are dangerous in this weather, in that they could easily turn into something much worse that won’t heal until spring. [Author pauses to put on Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream.] has it much worse, however, since she has to wash her hands about a billion times each shift she works.

A coffee break is calling out to me. It’s really more of a hot cocoa day, but I think I’ll get coffee anyways.

Confession

I… did not vote yesterday. But before you get all uppity, let me say this: I was a responsible citizen and still performed my civic duty. What’s that, you say? Well, first of all, I was completely and entirely uneducated about this election, the candidates, and… well, everything. So I thought it was responsible of me to not vote, since picking all the names that “sound pretty” isn’t very purposeful. Secondly, I walked all the way to the polling place with Nikki and vouched for her so she could be a registered voter and vote herself. That was my civic duty.

And then I walked all the way to the co-op, restocked my pantry (a bit), made myself dinner, read the second half of a really long and boring chapter on the Cold War (sounds interesting, but it wasn’t), watched the Jim Carrey Andy Kaufman movie, cleaned (not much), finished crocheting a scarf and another square for my blanket, and…. changed the kitty litter. I took out the recycling too. I know, such an exciting time.

I am tired today because at about quarter-to-midnight, I had a revelation that brought me great peace and required that I journal about it (in an actual paper journal with a pen – so last century, I know), so I was up later than I should have been. I was almost late to class this morning.

Now I just have to figure out how to get everything done that I need/want to in the time I have. I need to go to Walgreens and pick up a refill (and perhaps some decongestant), but I’d also like to go to JoAnn and look at their yarn selection for some projects that are in the cue. There’s church tonight, too, and I have to make dinner or find it somewhere, because it’s just not working for me to eat there. Ooh, Chipotle is just a block away from the church. Maybe I’ll do that. At any rate, I don’t think I’m going to make it to JoAnn, which won’t be the end of the world.

I don’t have to work on Friday, it being a Federal holiday and I work for the government (remember – no mail delivery!). So then I have to figure out if I’m going to Prince Charming’s house after work on Thursday, or if he’s coming to pick me up on Friday after work, or if I’m busing downtown Friday afternoon and then busing out to his house… such drama, I know. Not really a big deal, just… need to make sure I get what needs to get done… done.

Alison’s baby is due in 40 days. !!!!! Thanksgiving plans are nearly cemented. (Huge sigh of relief.)

I have work to do, which is nice for a change of pace, and it’s not immediately pressing, which is also nice. Busy, but not stressed.

Four For Friday

  1. Grocery Shopping: When you go to the grocery store, do you create a shopping list beforehand or do you buy according to a routine or whatever suits your tastes? Yes. I try to have a list and get what’s on it, but I always end up buying other stuff too. Especially if I’m alone at Cub and hungry. Frozen pizza aisle, here I come! It’s so much harder to impulse-purchase at the co-op, mainly because impulses there are 1) expensive, and 2) not entirely promising in the flavor/taste department.
  2. Awards: If you did the work, which award would you like to receive: The Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Economics, Literature, or Peace? Literature, I think. I don’t really foresee this coming, seeing as how the majority of my blog content is worthless drivel. But you never know. One of these days I could write a second chapter to something.
  3. Politics: Do you plan on voting in this November’s elections? If so, and if a congressional seat is up for grabs in your area, do you view your ballot as a vote “against” the President, rather than a vote “for” him, or will your vote not take into account the President’s performance? I am embarrassingly under-educated, so I don’t think I will be. I don’t think that any votes I would make would have anything to do with the President, since his name isn’t on the ballot. I’m not a party-line voter. I voted for both Clinton and Bush (though I don’t like saying I voted for Clinton, because I think he’s swine, but that’s on a personal level – he wasn’t that bad of a president). I’m going to vote for who I’m going to vote for, regardless of party affiliation.
  4. Royalty: If you could be King or Queen of any country, which country would you choose and why? (Sorry but Disneyland is not a country.) I protest – Disneyland is too a country. How about Disneyworld? No? OK, then I pick some sunny, tropical island with a fair amount of trees on the beach, far away from any fault lines (you know, ’cause tsunamis are bad) and communist dictatorships, and… big enough to have a Target store, but not so large that vehicles of any type are necessary. Was that specific enough?

Me, on politics

Yeah, I know, I have previously strongly stressed how this blog is a politics-free zone, simply because often discussions of such a nature infuriate me. In an effort to perhaps not get so passionate about things and be able to discuss them reasonably (yeah, I’m doubtful that I’ll be able to accomplish this, but how will I know if I don’t try? Prince Charming will be proud of me for that attitude). So, while on digg this afternoon, I ran across the “World’s Smallest Political Quiz” [link removed]. Really, 30 seconds would be a long estimate, and that’s if you’re a slow reader. 10 questions. Go ahead and take it.

Confirming what I’ve known since high school when we had to take a similar quiz in Government, I was told that I am a Centrist.

Diamond diagram of political ideologies, with libertarian at the top, statist (big government) at the bottom, left (liberal) on the left, right (conservative) on the right, and centrist in the middle. The left side is personal issues score and the right side economic issues score. There is a red dot on the left side of the centrist section indicating my score.

Like I’ve said, I could have told you this before. I think on the 1-100 scale, I score 50, I’m that middle of the road. So, what I’d like to know is, what’s your score?

Today’s History Lesson: roommates are good, especially when you pack and make all your plans to be gone from the house for a weekend except for the tiny act of feeding your cat. Matea will be extremely grateful (as will I) to Nikki for feeding her this weekend, and it goes a long way towards feelings of goodwill since Nikki owes me utilities and cable and won’t be paying me for another two weeks. At least she told me, right? Um, no. Partially my fault, since I didn’t get the breakdown to my roommates for awhile.

Two interesting news tidbits

From the Star-Tribune today:

A woman faces ex-communication for trying to become a Catholic priest [link removed]. Right on! Actually, I totally respect the right of the Catholic Church to disallow women priests, especially since I’m not Catholic and don’t think I have any right to criticize what I don’t know/understand. So really, what she should have done is become Episcopalian (which in many respects is similar to Catholicism), and then she could be ordained without incurring the wrath of the Catholic Church (which is not the same as the wrath of God, just to be clear). But, since it sounds like she is Catholic, I support her right to work inside the system (kinda) for change. I’m sure those statements could come back to bite me in the butt, especially if anyone brings up the topic of homosexuality in the church, but I’ll stand by them for now.

A series of interviews with people in the Twin Cities who are homeless [link removed], particularly relevant to the recent discussion we’ve been having here about Las Vegas. If you haven’t talked to someone who is homeless before, you should read this article and try to understand what life is like for them.

This is why outlines are good

I wrote very good, well-thought-out and well-researched papers all throughout school. Of course, a carefully-planned outline helped a great deal. Kinda wish I’d had one for this post – it’s very random, and for that I apologize. I hope you can gleam something from it regardless.

Continuing from last week’s post (what some would call a rant) on the city ordinance in Las Vegas regarding feeding the homeless….

[Editor’s note: before I continue, let me again remind you that I have already said I would have a different view on this than most people, and I fully expect many people to disagree with what I’ve said or my viewpoint. Go right ahead. Please re-read my explanation of the potential motivators for my view and try to understand where I’m coming from. I will try to not be judgmental towards you and how you may have come to your point of view, and I expect the same in return. Hopefully, in this second post, I have successfully attempted to be less-emotional and more logical, and would appreciate a discussion of viewpoints, not an argument about who’s right or wrong. I will try to keep the name-calling to a minimum, which I didn’t do well in my last post. I would also like to remind you that I have very few political opinions in general, but when I do have one that I feel is worth sharing, I tend to have good reason for doing so and am very unlikely to change my mind. Which is why I don’t talk about politics here much – I don’t usually have much to say that I can defend or even explain, or feel strongly about. This time, I do. So, I hope you feel welcome and encouraged to leave comments that are in the spirit of friendly discourse – as you can see from previous posts, comments that differ from my point of view will still be published, you will not be censored (unless you say something truly offensive or try to direct everyone to your website where we will all make big buck$), and I will attempt to moderate a mature discussion amongst vaguely like-minded individuals. And by like-minded, I mean middle-class, employed, probably not homeless, persons, though all are welcome here; I’m just assuming that the majority of my readership fits into that category.]

Well, I still can’t find the full text of the law, but here’s what I have found for exact wording:

The ordinance bans “the providing of food or meals to the indigent for free or for a nominal fee.”Furthermore, “an indigent person is a person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive” public assistance.

The city attorney says this is not “selective enforcement” (which would violate the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment by “requiring people to make a snap judgment about others based on how they look,” but discernment. Now that’s just semantics.

The city just spent $1.7 million in landscaping and other improvements in the park (the parks and recreation committee meeting minutes also note new projects with price tags in the millions in the works), and yet says they want a long-term solution (this is part of a “regional initiative to end homelessness in 10 years,” which is a rather admirable goal, though I can’t exactly find evidence of said regional initiative) rather than stopgap measures in a city with limited resources for those living on the streets. Did they just admit they don’t actually have the resources they need to help the homeless? Because they keep saying they don’t like the mobile soup kitchens because they take people away from the structured organizations that offer other services as well, such as mental health counseling, job search help, etc, and that those organizations have plenty of resources for the homeless (though not all of the organizations being referred to agree with this statement). So do they have the resources or not? Also, the city keeps saying they “support” efforts to end homelessness, but so far the only “support” I have found them giving has been legal, and no [additional] monetary support has been given to the organizations that they’re counting on “fixing” this problem. And no, government money doesn’t fix all problems nor should it be counted on to do so, but you gotta put something where your mouth is, and I don’t really see the city council showing up to serve meals at the soup kitchen, and your options are action or money, or your words are empty.

Also, their mayor just offends me in general (he has been called a lot worse things by others, however, and I’ll just let you search the web for that yourself). “At a June meeting of the city council, [they mayor] suggested pan handlers with signs asking for food be sued for ‘false advertising’ because soup kitchens provide free meals.” He has also said, “I take offense with those who choose that [homeless] lifestyle,” and “I don’t want to see that on my drive home,” referring to a woman with a sign begging for food. (Seems the mayor has forgotten that “we hold these truths self-evident; that all men are created equal,” and that his comfort isn’t actually more important than whether or not someone has food for dinner.)

Yes, I don’t want to see that either, because it makes me feel like I should be doing more for those less fortunate than I. It reminds me that I haven’t volunteered at a soup kitchen or shelter for quite some time, or given my money to an organization that would help (other than for the little girl in Columbia that I support), or really done anything about the “problem” other than feel bad about it. (Furthermore, I hate that particular use of the word “that.” It goes along with “those” when referring to “those people,” and similar sentiments. It sets up an us-vs-them scenario, in which almost always “us” is better than “them.” I originally found the use of these terms abhorrible when I worked in San Francisco and heard small-minded people use it at the beginning of their week of ministry before they fully understood the city and homelessness and poverty; people almost never spoke this way by the end of the week, and for good reason. But I digress.) So in this sense, I am just as bad as the mayor and city council, because I have seen the problem and I haven’t done anything about it. I’ll admit that. I won’t even offer up any excuses (though my mind started reeling with the possibilities), but just say that I can definitely do better in this area.

But going back to the mayor, from the city of Las Vegas’ website, he is, self-proposed, the “happiest mayor in the world.” Really? He doesn’t sound very happy to me. He sounds like a mean, bitter man who has a grudge with anyone who makes him feel like his city is less than the greatest in the world. He sounds like if you’re less-fortunate than he is, step out of his way, and don’t do anything potentially offensive, because he might just pass a law and fine you for that. And yet, he and his wife moved to Las Vegas with just $87 in their pockets, and called it the land of opportunity (see the website for context). I don’t know what he and his wife did for their first week in Vegas with only $87, or how they changed their situation. Did they sleep in their car (more info about stay in Las Vegas)? Did they get lucky in the casinos? Did they stay with friends? Whatever they did, they were in a situation not unlike many homeless people (many people move to Vegas with nothing but a backpack and a dream, which is, I think, how there end up being so many strippers, but that’s another story). And somehow, they managed to rise above their circumstances, so to speak. (I must note, however, that he was a lawyer before moving to Vegas, and so probably had a lot more resources at his disposal than the average homeless person, even if he only had $87 in cash.) So you would think that he’d be empathetic to the plight of the homeless. Instead, he seems to be waging war against them, offended by their very existence. The city claims to want to end homelessness, but is not doing so in any way that is compassionate or forward-thinking. These are not efforts of love. (And no, not all government acts can or should be classified as “loving.” But I will refer you to the Preamble to the US Constitution, that sets out our goal to be “a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”)

I will agree that people urinating in the parks, public drunkenness, anything dealing with feces, and breaking into cars, to name a few, are more than a nuisance, and if I lived near such a park, I would want something to change too. San Francisco managed to curb some of these problems – there are public toilets everywhere. Problem solved. Now, how hard was that? Public drunkenness, well, that’s just a Vegas problem in general, and as one article stated, how are you going to enforce that in the public parks and not on the Strip? But sure, I get behind getting rid of public drunkenness (having had an undesirable experience with that a time or two myself) in beneficial means, especially if it involves detox. And breaking into cars is also unacceptable and should be stopped or prevented when possible. What I don’t understand is that the police officers have been booting people out of the parks before dawn or after dusk (when it’s closed), and I would guess that they would continue to patrol the parks after dark, and so wouldn’t a police presence like that stop some of those problems? You might see a lot of police cars in my neighborhood, but you sure don’t see a lot of crime. Presence is a powerful thing.

I was reading the blog of a homeless man (or who had been homeless once… I didn’t get the full story), and he said it was a common misconception that the homeless go to the parks because people feed them there. He said that people go to the parks to feed the homeless because that’s where the homeless are (which, in my personal experience, is the case, and I have plenty of personal experience in this area). Public parks are one of the few places the homeless can go without being harassed. I agree that disturbing the peace, breaking the law, making the park feel unsafe, these are community issues that need to be addressed and even prosecuted if necessary. I totally support the fact that the police fined the one lady (before this ordinance was passed) because her food distribution gathered more than 25 people – there are reasons why laws like that exist, why you need permits for large gatherings, why food inspectors regulate even soup kitchens.

But I still think this law is bogus.

I think the concerns of the citizens of Las Vegas are valid, and they have a right to speak up and request that their representatives do something. And their rights are equal to that of the homeless in the park. There has to be a more… compassionate, a more equitable, a more just solution than fining people for handing out food. It seems to me as though this law was hastily put together and not thought through well.

Did you know that most shelters are closed during the day? Yes, there are some that provide lunch, but not many. And often, the ones that are open require you to be part of a religious program that you may or may not want to participate in. That’s the organizations’ right to require, and your right to not participate, but it does depend on the idea that there are other places you can go. The Salvation Army in San Francisco ran a shelter in the building we were in. It cost $7 a night (or something like that), but you had to be in by a certain time (I think 10pm) and were out the door by 7 am. They had those folks on lockdown. I’ve never said the Salvation Army doesn’t run a tight ship – they do, and they’re stricter than I have ever been (so if you think I’m strict or unbending or unfun, don’t even bother with them).

Did you know that Vegas requires you to have a work permit for 28 different occupations? Did you know this work permit costs $75? Several people on the web have referred to this work permit as being necessary to get a job at all. That severely affects how you’re going to “rise above your circumstances,” “by your bootstraps,” and become un-homeless.

I had mentioned that several people have been arrested since this ordinance was enacted, and someone said that it was absolutely just that this happen, because these people were willingly and knowingly breaking the law. And at the time I agreed. But then I got to thinking about civil disobedience, and how that’s all these people were trying to do – get their point across in a non-violent way. And they all knew they’d probably be arrested or fined or whatever, and that was their choice. And so I’m still OK with all that. The words of Martin Luther King Jr ring in my head (now, he’s talking about radial injustice, but apply the ideas in a broader fashion please):

“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. …as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny (emphasis mine). And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom (emphasis mine). We cannot walk alone.”

We cannot walk alone.” Those are powerful words.

And if you’re needing some inspiration today, go read the full text of the “I Have A Dream” speech. Every time I read it I feel compelled to do something, to be part of something bigger than myself, to make a change in my world for the better.

I think I protest!

Most people who know me know I’m about as political as… socks (or pick something absolutely non-political), and so consequently politics and all things government are almost never discussed here on ‘wonderment.’ I’m going to have to stray from that path for a moment and discuss a recent law Las Vegas passed [link removed]. Read the article first. I’ll wait.


Done? OK.

I don’t want to sound like an extremist here, or, God forbid, liberal, but I think that’s the biggest load of [Republican] crap I’ve heard in quite a while. [Nevada is a red state – I looked it up. And, for the record, before anyone gets offended, I’m just slightly Democratic, like… 51% or something. I test right down the middle of the road. And if you’re easily offended by things political, I can understand why you might enjoy reading this blog, since we never discuss that stuff, but you might have to go read someone else’s blog today. It’s alright. I won’t be offended.]

Now I realize I have a slightly different perspective on homelessness and that whole world than the average citizen. Take into account the following:

  • I grew up in a Christian home and have been part of several Christian communities where serving those less-fortunate has not only been encouraged but sometimes promoted as saintly.
  • In high school, our youth group went to a soup kitchen to volunteer a couple of times. We also had events where we collected soup cans for the food bank or otherwise did something beneficial like that. When I was volunteering with the junior high youth group, we took a weekend trip into Chicago and painted apartments in Cabrini Green (so that they would be available for people to move into, something that the management couldn’t keep ahead of, which resulted in fewer subsidized housing units unless the community helped out). That was an eye opener (especially when I temporarily lost a junior higher, but that’s not relevant to this conversation).
  • In college, we had a group of students that went down to lower Wacker Drive in Chicago (Ctrl-F to search the page for “Wacker”) to feed sack lunches to the homeless there once a month, and I often participated, until I 1) had a boyfriend, and later 2) they closed lower Wacker Drive and “cleaned it up.” [link removed]
  • Also in college, I chaired the Missions Committee, a part of Student Senate. We planned the spring break Missions trips (which I’m getting to), and also local missions opportunities. We went to Nashville several times and worked in an extremely impoverished neighborhood with a children’s’ program. I remember clearly a little girl sitting on my lap on the swings, maybe 6 or 7, telling me about how her dad beat her mom and that’s why her mom lost the baby. In Chicago, with CSM, we went on a prayer tour of the city, which highlighted areas that were in need of God’s hand (that would be you and I, by the way), including housing projects, government buildings, parks where the homeless would sleep, neighborhoods with high volumes of adult entertainment centers and bars, etc. This was a pivotal experience for me, that resulted in my summer spent in San Francisco.
  • Then I spent the summer between my junior and senior years of college working for CSM in San Francisco (Dana was my boss, if you read partway down the page, and all those projects outlined we worked with). We lived in the Salvation Army building in the Tenderloin neighborhood (you really should read the first few paragraphs of that article), which was an experience in itself. There I daily worked with the homeless, the impoverished, families in transitional housing, people who chose to be homeless, people dying of AIDS, etc. I cannot go into enough detail to explain how this changes my view compared to the rest of America.
  • I also spent a summer in Arizona, and while nobody was homeless, we did work with a community that had a very low income rate and the majority were unemployed (70-85%).

So, you see, I have seen first-hand how government money, community efforts, kindness of strangers, hard work, etc, can positively work in people’s lives. Don’t misunderstand me – I refuse to give money to people on the street, but if I had a granola bar with me, I’d certainly pass that on. Especially in communities where the housing vacancy rate is around 1% and affordable housing is non-existent (like San Francisco), sometimes throwing money at the problem, like in the case of transitional housing shelters for families, does work.

And at the very least, even if there’s absolutely no government assistance whatsoever, there are [almost] always caring individuals in a community who want to make a difference in an individual’s life, or who want to bring more meaning to their own lives, or who just want to give back. And just on an individual level, what right does the government have to take away the satisfaction that helping out one less fortunate than you can bring?

I understand the concerns of a community with a growing homeless population. And the argument that people need more than a sandwich, they need social workers and doctors etc, is valid, but slightly off. Yes, people who are homeless, who desire to change their situation, will usually need the help of a community to do so, in the form of social workers and shelters and doctors and clothing and job readiness and …. the list goes on. But not everyone who is homeless desires to change their situation. And I’ve seen first-hand how that isn’t always a bad thing. I met some wonderful men in San Francisco who chose to be homeless and were perfectly content – they knew that the confines of life as you and I experience it were not for them, made them unhappy, or they just couldn’t adapt. And that was OK. Not everyone who is homeless is violent or belligerent or constantly asking for handouts or drunk. Sometimes they’re just people who step to the beat of a different drum. And in a community like San Francisco that is so open to the homeless population, there are social agencies that help, by providing free showers and toothbrushes, vegetarian soup kitchens, cots in shelters, etc.

The idea of actually making it illegal to make a tuna fish sandwich at home, pack it up, and take it to the homeless guy in the park across from your house… is abhorrible to me. Where does the law stop and start? If I walk over there and instead invite him into my home for dinner, is that a crime? Because it’s probably less safe for me than just handing over a sandwich. What if instead I hand over a business card to the local shelter or soup kitchen? Can I let him sleep on my front lawn? Can I give him things that aren’t food, like blankets or money? If I offer him a job in my warehouse, is that wrong too? Because all of those things could be construed as “enabling” and encouraging homelessness in a community.

Yes, that last part was a little extreme, and I did say I was going to try to avoid such statements. And I know some people have mentioned that when I write such long posts, even if I ask for comments, no one is going to leave them because it was too long. But I’m still going to end by asking for your comments. Amanda and Liz, you’ve worked with some diverse populations of people and probably have some good views on this. And I’m going to stop talking before I sound like the guy on the bus last night who was militant that the US government owed him millions of dollars of restitution for the enslavement of his ancestors 300 years ago. Because that just made everyone uncomfortable.

Four For Friday

  1. Moving: According to a recent report on American Public Media’s ‘Marketplace,’ in New York City, landlords and developers are paying big money (in some cases upwards of six figures and more) to convince renters to vacate their rent-controlled apartments. The practice, which makes way for property owners to then raise rents or build luxury condos, is now commonplace in many cities where rent-controlled housing still exists. Do you like your home or apartment? If so, what would it take to get you to agree to move? I think no, if only to maintain the idea of rent-control. I think it’s good (though I’ve not lived in a situation like that, and am not even sure if we have that in Minnesota).
  2. You Choose: Which is more important to you… Liberty or Security? I saved this one for last, because, well, it’s deep. I’m really a fan of liberty and freedom, and would find it very hard to live in some parts of this world that don’t have that. And there’s a sort of security in freedom. But I also really like that I feel safe, where I live, where I work (I don’t think I was meant to live in New York City), and truly treasure that as well. And honestly, if I have to pick one over the other, I’m going with security, because I think that I could secretly practice or at least still hold in my mind and heart those things where my freedoms could be taken away (religion comes to mind), but would find it very hard to cope in a war zone or always under terrorist attack or anything like that where my security was never guaranteed.
  3. Drinking: If you could drink anything right now–alcoholic or otherwise–what and how much of it would you drink? Well, I’ve got a homemade mocha sitting here that’s pretty good. A nice glass of ice water or really cold milk could be good too.
  4. Counting: How many light bulbs are in your home, and when was the last time you had to change one? Ooh…. OK, so this is only an estimate, and I’m counting light fixtures, not individual bulbs. Ten. Some of those have multiple bulbs in them (like the kitchen lights). Christmas Eve Eve, Prince Charming replaced the one in the front room so we could exchange gifts by the tree.

Elected Officials

I usually don’t get terribly involved in politics. I mean, I vote in the presidential election, and occasionally I vote for some of the other offices, if I’m relatively informed, which I’m usually not. So take what comes next with that grain of salt, because I really haven’t paid much attention to Coleman and what he believes, has fought for, has voted for, says, etc. And what little I have heard has been filtered through the fairly liberal opinions of close friends, so basically I’m pretty neutral. But after last week’s action [link removed] for AIDS funding, I received this email today from my senator, and other than getting my gender wrong, I am quite pleased (yes, I’m sure its a form email, but still he’s been the only one so far to actually respond, other than standard “we’ve got your email… too busy to reply to all of them… thanks for your concern”).

Dear Mr. Johnson

Thank you for taking the time to contact me concerning funding for the effort to combat global AIDS in 2005. I share your concern and appreciate your support on this critical issue.

As you may know, on May 27, 2003, President Bush signed the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (H.R. 1298). This historic bill authorizes $15 billion over 5 years to help turn the tide against the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide. I strongly supported this bill and the funding it authorizes.

U.S. funding for the fight against global AIDS is provided through the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill and the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations bill. The Omnibus Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2005 (H.R. 4818) authorized $2.9 billion for international AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria programs. This funding level will keep the U.S. on track toward our commitment of $15 billion over 5 years.

By law, U.S. contributions to the Global Fund are tied to the contributions of the rest of the world at a ratio of $1 dollar for every $2 dollars. This year, the Omnibus Appropriations bill provides $435 million for the Global Fund which meets that commitment.

HIV/AIDS has had a devastating effect on children and endangers the health, safety, and survival of all children especially in hard-hit areas. To help those children affected by HIV/AIDS, I have co-sponsored the Assistance for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children in Developing Countries Act of 2004 (S. 2939). This bill would provide assistance to orphans of HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable children to ensure their urgent needs are met.

Last summer, I traveled to Africa where I was struck not only by the tremendous suffering, but also the sense of hope among so many who are engaged in the struggle against HIV/AIDS. I firmly believe we must all continue to work together against what may be the single greatest threat to security, development, and progress in Africa.

Please know that I will do all I can to provide the necessary funding levels for combating global HIV/AIDS. Toward this end, the President’s commitment of $15 billion to fight Global AIDS over five years is an unprecedented step forward. The U.S. is the largest contributor to the global battle against HIV/AIDS and our leadership on this issue is an example of the compassion and generosity of the American people.

You may be pleased to know that I have sponsored amendments to add $530 million to fight this deadly and devastating disease. In fact, the very first amendment I coauthored as your U.S. Senator was an amendment to increase funding for the fight against global AIDS. In addition, I have also coauthored legislation to improve our strategies for helping AIDS orphans.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact me. I value your advice. If I can be of further assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me again.

Sincerely,
Norm Coleman
United States Senate

Great Quote

“I must study politics and war, that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, and naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”

-John Adams (2nd US President)

Yes, I did.

Yes, I voted.

Do I care if you did? No. I was quite annoyed yesterday with all the people who kept asking me if I voted. Especially the ones who really wanted me to vote because they assumed that since I belong to a certain age demographic I was going to vote a certain way.

So I voted to spite them.

Of course, my mind was already made up, and their attitudes didn’t change my vote.

Thanks to Kathy Howe for being the only one to not put pressure on me yesterday.