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Today I was reminded why I am a Liberal

gqmartinez's picture

Today is my 10 year vegetarian anniversary, but that's not why I was reminded of my liberalism. Its cold here in Seattle. Colder than freezing with a layer of snow on the streets from yesterday. Why does that make me remember why I'm a liberal?

I moved to downtown Seattle during the spring of this year. Prior to that I have been living in the suburbs for the last ten years or so, in California for grad school and then in Washington. Suburban life often isolates one from the massive homeless problem in this country. Everyday I walk (about 1.5 miles)/bus to work and pass several homeless people. After a while, the people sleeping on the sidewalk can meld into the scenery, just like the view of the Space Needle I see riding in my apartment's elevator: you know its there, but after so many visuals you aren't very much moved by it anymore.

Today, luckily, I didn't see many homeless people, certainly none sleeping on the sidewalks which are covered in sheets of ice. (The city of Seattle, thankfully, opened several additional shelters for this cold front.) It stopped snowing last night but the temperatures kept dropping and at 6 a.m., on my way to work, it was bitterly cold for this west coaster. I don't wear beanies because they make me look fat--vanity, I know, but that's how it goes sometimes--so by the time I got to my bus stop my ears were really cold. As I was complaining to myself about my poor wittle ears, I saw a homeless man slumbering on the other side of the street. And that reminded me why I was a liberal.

No human being should have to suffer the indignity of homeless if they are willing to work. And no one, however lazy a conservative wants to call them, should have to endure this cold weather without shelter. Though I don't share a theist worldview anymore, I've always held dear what the religious father of this country's major religious tradition called the greatest commandment: Love they neighbor as yourself. That, to me, sums up my liberalism. Love my fellow "man" as if they were me. Everything else is pretty much just filler.

Collectively, government can do more than an individual. I've talked often about the basis for society formation and called for a rigorous discussion of the philosophical basis and legitimacy of governments. But today, I see how much simpler it *can* be. While we can and should debate the proper responses to problems, our basic sense of common decency clearly tells us that we must help each other out. What if we were stuck in the freezing weather? Does it really matter how we got there?

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twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

...our basic sense of common decency clearly tells us that we must help each other out. What if we were stuck in the freezing weather? Does it really matter how we got there?

No, it doesn't matter how anyone gets there, but there's very little local outrage over homelessness these days, at least here. I wonder if the reason so many people are looking the other way is because a lot of us are about one hospitalization/lay-off/rent increase away from joining the homeless.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

One of the things I learned from Howard Zinn is that the lower rungs are often pitted against each other to benefit those at the top. People one check away from being homeless don't have much to spare so of course they aren't going to want to sacrifice. they might not even be able to sacrifice anything. So what do we get? We get the wealthy using "tax increases" to scare them. Or how if businesses don't get tax cuts, the companies will lay off people. And we get stories about "welfare queens". The list goes on and on.

I was trying to make the broad point that homelessness in and of itself is shameful in any society. Many of us run the risk of homelessness and once we are homeless it doesn't matter how we got there. Homelessness needs to be viewed as a societal evil. Period. As always, however (see comment below), people make this a much more complicated problem than it has to be. I'm guilty of it myself. If we make a stand against homelessness as a matter of principle, then it won't matter the reason. I get the sense that someone standing up to Glen Beck on homelessness as a *moral* issue (rooted in faith or secularly) can beat him. Once we start stepping into the causes of homelessness we open up ourselves to "welfare queen" type critiques which are bogus but end up taking much of our energy having to respond to.

Submitted by regulararmyfool on

No human being should have to suffer the indignity of homeless if they are willing to work.

The majority of the people in the world are one payday from starvation and homelessness. In the United States people are two months paychecks from the street.

I missed being homeless by 2 days in 2002. I have severe mental and physical problems. Almost all deriving from my 11.5 months in the hell we created in Vietnam. I have had, at least, four periods of total insanity over the last forty years.

People who natter on about "willing to work" totally piss the hell out of me. One quarter of the homeless, at the least, are veterans. Last statistic that I saw estimated that 7 to 9 thousand of these homeless vets are women, many with children, most with PTSD from rape while in service.

Everyone deserves clean air, clean water, uncontaminated food, protection from exploitation, housing, medical care, education, entertainment and a decent living.

The money is there. It is just that the owners of this country are a pack of greedy assholes that will never be happy until the poor are starving. Candidate for the presidency of the US couldn't remember how many houses he and his wife owned.

Work? I've worked somewhere between 50 and 100 separate jobs. Not a single one of which had any positive social impact. Not a single one that I, myself, could not have eliminated by simply pointing out to my bosses a different way to do things.

There is an over supply of housing in the United States. The only way to use it up is to move people up and pulling people off of the street would be an excellent idea.

MoveThatBus's picture
Submitted by MoveThatBus on

Many who are not homeless enjoy the royal life of "not working" for what they have. It's very expensive to live in an apartment with a scenic elevator in Seattle. That, too, is the right of whoever wants to call downtown home. Personally, I need less concrete and brick to touch my feet, and prefer the flora and, fresh air of the burbs.

That's why I like being a liberal. I truly believe that people should be allowed to choose their life, and when things derail they deserve help getting back on track. It should be going on every day, not just during the unusual storms.

I, too, live in Seattle. Putting a very scaled back dinner on the table this coming Thursday because I bought 50+ meals for people who go to the Union Gospel Mission for Thanksgiving, and will do the same at Christmas.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

You don't need a car in the city. Not having a car means no car payment, no insurance payment (though I do pay for my parent's insurance so they can use my old car) and no gas. Throw that into the mix and you easily take off several hundred dollars of monthly expenditures. Add in time saved on the commute (whether by bus or car) and you save even more, not to mention the flexibility in working hours since the commute is easier. Plus, I don't have to pay for a gym membership. So the extravagant picture you paint of me probably pays as much living downtown as I would in the suburbs, with increased peace of mind and flexibility.

MoveThatBus's picture
Submitted by MoveThatBus on

"But you kinda seem to miss the point that I was making. Namely, homelessness is an evil we should and can get rid of, period. "

There was no implication or criticism of you in my comment. Downtown Seattle apts and condos are terrific and it's a lifestyle CHOICE many of all age groups are making. And, should anything happen to threaten your lifestyle, I want some avenue available to you to stay right there where you want to be. Trump goes bankrupt, and he gets to stay in his extravagant lifestyle....that should be available to everyone!

(BTW-I would never eliminate a car from my life no matter where I lived.)

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

But you kinda seem to miss the point that I was making. Namely, homelessness is an evil we should and can get rid of, period.

Even though I have a PhD from a department that is typically ranked one of the top two or three in the country in my field, I would have been homeless had I not had family to take me in. And I did almost get a job as a housing advocate. So, yeah, I know the precarious situations many people are in and the various causes. I also know that many working people can find themselves and their families homeless so that work in and of itself is not sufficient for having a place to live. Also, willing, for me doesn't necessarily mean able. The handicap, whether physical or mental, are not always able to work sometimes so i think having a job is still putting the bar too high.

I should note that I can see how some hate the way the GOP uses "willing to work" and confuse it with what I'm saying, but if you think that's my intention you haven't read what I write nearly enough. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, we need to differentiate between willing and able because not everyone is, in fact, able. If you want to come up with a better terminology, I'm all for it.