Monday, December 24, 2007
In my post "It's 'The Grapes of Wrath' all over again?" I received a comment regarding the homeless in Ontario. It wasn't a bad comment, but it did ask an important question I'd like to answer.
First, I wrote:
"If someone needs help in this country there are places to get help. Period. If you are living in a tent in Ontario with your kids, you need to retrace your footsteps on how you got into that mess, figure out what went wrong, seek help from the City, County, or even the Governator (He has programs there to help terminate poverty), and get a roof over your kids heads ASAP.
People can fall on hard times, but there is NO excuse for keeping your kids in that mess. This is the United States of America, where our poor live like the upper-middle class throughout most of the world. Poor people around the world would give anything to be a poor person in the United States."
Have you been there? For whatever reason a person becomes homeless they're still people. People in need. I am convinced that they are there because they are cognitively unable to succeed or navigate in our society or it's because of a series of unfortunate situations that puts them there. Their reason for landing at tent city isn't what makes me want to help them. I go because I see people who need assistance. I am thankful that the city of Ontario has allowed them this area of land to exist without having to sleep under bridges or on sidewalks. I can go there and offer blankets, tents, gloves, socks...whatever I can think of to keep them from suffering.
It's a legitimate comment, but I disagree with someone starting with the question, "Have you been there?" It implies that if you haven't been homeless, you can't discuss homelessness in America. Whether or not that was what the author implied, it's still implied. Using this logic, if you want to protest a War you must have experience fighting a war. If you don't know what War is really like, how can you say anything about it. Even better, how can historians exist if they weren't alive thousands of years ago to experience daily life of the Egyptians or Mayans? Just because someone hasn't been there does not mean you should discount their opinions.
Yet, I was asked whether or not 'I've been there.' Without going into too many details, I spent most of my early childhood on the verge of homelessness, occasionally sleeping in our car on rare occasions. I've stood in line at food shelters and at churches to receive free meals with my Mom and brother. I've sorted through bins at the local clothing pantry in search of donated pants and shirts that fit. I spent a few summers at the Salvation Army summer camp up in the Santa Cruz mountains near Ben Lomand. I was lucky/unlucky enough to live in low-income housing for nearly a decade in Santa Cruz. Lucky because it was a roof over our head, but unlucky because it assisted in allowing my Mother to continue doing what she did to keep us in that position in the first place.
Not trying to say anything bad about my Mom. The past is the past, and I still love her to this day, but she chose that life for us. She would quite jobs in order to keep our income level low enough to receive assistance or remain in low-income housing. I made more money while working in high school then she did during that time, so I footed a lot of the household bills and occasionally rent. My point in bringing this up is that she chose to be there. She chose to use public assistance to subsidize her way of life instead of using it to improve the lives of her children, and she wasn't alone. We were surrounded by people doing the same thing. I can remember of only one family who moved up and out to improve their lives.
There are too many sources of assistance in California that will help families with children in times of need. Nobody should be on the streets with a child in that State. No Child deserves to be placed in that situation. It all comes down to choice. Even if a parent didn't choose to be there, they're choosing to stay there by not seeking help.
Choices. All of my life I was told by my neighbors, some teachers, the housing authority, and my Mom that I had no choices in life. I was destined to follow in my Mom's path and make our 'temporary' low-income apartment a generational home for my future family. It took some good friends and the strong family of a great friend to show me that I did in fact have choices in life. In most cases I made the right choices and moved out and away from that lifestyle. I choose to not allow my children to ever experience that way of life.
If something unexpected and terrible ever happens and I find myself in the same situation, I will do everything I can to get out of it and to show my children that if you work hard enough you can always move forward and give yourself choices.
I also help people who need help, but I'm more selective of who I help because of where I came from. I will always help a child in need, no matter where they're from or how they got there. I refuse to help those who clearly keep themselves in that situation. I reward those I see working hard to make a difference in their lives and in their town/city/country. I turn my back on those who stick out their hand and expect to be taken care of.
You can see that very same situation play out here in Baghdad. I break my back for the Iraqis that I work with who strive to help themselves, their families, and their country. I only lift a finger to help the ones who don't deserve my help only when I'm ordered to do so. Yet, I jump at the chance to help if I know there is a child involved.
I also stand by the fact that the poor in the United States are the envy of the poor throughout the rest of the world. A poor man in Bangladesh or Uganda would give anything to be poor in the United States. That's a fact, not an opinion. I wish those choosing to live on the streets in Ontario California could see this place, and see these people. I wish the spoiled 'Sweet 16' kids on MTV could spend a week working at an orphanage or school here in Baghdad.
I guess I wish for a lot of things.
The original post discussed agenda-filled Journalism and stories that are accusatory instead of helpful. I'd love to read a story about the down and out people in Ontario and what the local community can do to help them. I loathe stories that exaggerate reality, place blame on those who are not at fault, and offer useless solutions that have been proven worthless every time they've been enacted.
The Journalist should have been the solution to the situation instead of contributing to the problem.
posted by El Capitan at 1:38 AM
Yahoo! Well said, Major T. And you and your people are in my prayers and thoughts this Christmas. Thanks for all y'all do.12:06 PM
Merry Christmas, Tony, to you and all your fellow Americans there in Iraq, whatever branch of service or civilian. Stay safe, and return home on time.
I hope you'll keep up your blog after you come back. We need more people like you, and more people reading and thinking about the things you write about.
Any chance you deployed from Ft. Hood?
That was a great post - no joke! You're a deep fellow, you know that?
There is no better attention grabber than disasters and tales of gloom and woe. It seems the standards of journalism today allow exaggeration and distortion in favor of ratings or readership. The article on Yahoo gives journalists a bad name and is part of a general downward spiral of that profession IMO.
I was born and raised in SoCal and more and more people flock there for reasons that are beyond me. It's an urban sprawl like any other. It seems like housing prices continue to climb while salaries don't keep pace. We've seen a bit a of that here in the Midwest. People are desperate to make a profit based on how much they paid for their home as opposed to the assessed value. I can understand not wanting to take a loss. However, this has resulted in some houses sitting on the market for over a year and some people losing their homes to foreclosure because they got in over their heads.
It seems that the solution would be to level the housing prices with the salaries in the region but I know it'll be cold day down below before that happens. There's no way the federal, state, or civic governments can implement a solution in which everyone wins. Someone's gonna be unhappy with whatever solution is implemented and they are going to be loud about it too.
You're rock ON.1:46 AM