Scott Hardie | June 16, 2005
Warning: Touchy subject.

Snopes has just published a thought-provoking speech by former governor Richard D. Lamm on the subject of immigration, multiculturalism, and the threat they pose to our country. (I recommend skipping the transcription in green and scrolling down to the version directly from Lamm himself in all caps.) (link)

I won't say whether I agree with Lamm or not; he makes some good points and some bad ones. But I am amused that he doesn't seem to recognize the irony of his argument. He reasons that multiculturalism is dangerous because it leads to Balkanizing of the country, of the people from one cultural group turning against the people of another cultural group. But he himself is already doing that: He wants to preserve his culture and keep out others, and argues their inferiority with references to high-school dropout rates. While I don't have statistics, I'd wager that most people desiring to immigrate to America look forward to being immersed in our culture, leading me to wonder if the strongest potential for Balkanizing lies not with immigrants but with Lamm.

We've discussed immigration on TC before, but since it is once again a very hot topic in this country, I wonder if anyone would like to add something new.

Mike Eberhart | June 17, 2005
(link)

Please support the Minuteman Project. This is exactly what we, as civilians, need to do to stop people from coming into this country illegally. There's going to be a multi-state watch again in October, and I plan on participating.

As for Lamm's article, I completely agree with him. Unless America's values are preserved, we will be doomed to fail. I, for one, will not allow this to happen. I will fight with everything I can to keep America true. How can I do that, by helping out the severely undermanned border patrol agents.

Jackie Mason | June 17, 2005
[hidden by request]

Kris Weberg | June 17, 2005
A country with two or more competing languages or cultures can't survive! Just ask Switzerland and Belgium!

As to the "Minutemen," well, I suspect they'll do just fine until some wackjob,whether affiliated with the "real" members or otherwise, shoots the wrong person. Everyone else int he group will be tarred with the same brush, and that'll be the end of that.

But if you seriously want to stop illegal immigration? Easy. Give the FBI a big chunk of funding to investigate the hiring of illegal immigrants. Pass laws to the effect that someone caught hiring illegals goes to jail for 25 years. Treat it as a national security violation to justify the harsh sentence.

No jobs = no incentive for illegal immigrants to cross the border. But as long as employers are willing to hire illegal immigrants, the INS, the Border Patrol, and, yes, even the "Minutemen" will never want for work.

Michael Paul Cote | June 17, 2005
This was forwarded to me... wishfull thinking? I wouldn't mind hearing a president give this speech.

WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT TO TURN ON THE TV AND HEAR ANY U.S. PRESIDENT, DEMOCRAT OR
REPUBLICAN , GIVE THE FOLLOWING SPEECH?

My Fellow Americans: As you all know, the defeat of Iraq regime has been
completed.
Since congress does not want to spend any more money on this war, our mission in
Iraq is complete.
This morning I gave the order for a complete removal of all American forces
from Iraq. This action will be complete within 30 days. It is now to begin the
reckoning.

Before me, I have two lists. One list contains the names of countries which have
stood by our side during the Iraq conflict. This list is short. The United
Kingdom, Spain, Bulgaria, Australia, and Poland are some of the countries listed
there.

The other list contains everyone not on the first list. Most of the world's
nations are on that list. My press secretary will be distributing copies of both
lists later this evening.

Let me start by saying that effective immediately, foreign aid to those nations
on List 2 ceases immediately and indefinitely. The money saved during the first
year alone will pretty much pay for the costs of the Iraqi war.

The American people are no longer going to pour money into third world
Hell-holes and watch those government leaders grow fat on corruption.

Need help with a famine? Wrestling with an epidemic? Call France.

In the future, together with Congress, I will work to redirect this money
toward solving the vexing social problems we still have at home. On that note,
a word to terrorist organizations. Screw with us and we will hunt you down and
eliminate you and all your friends from the face of the earth.

Thirsting for a gutsy country to terrorize? Try France, or maybe China.
I am ordering the immediate severing of diplomatic relations with France,
Germany, and Russia. Thanks for all your help, comrades. We are retiring from
NATO as well. Bon chance, mes amis.

I have instructed the Mayor of New York City to begin towing the many UN
diplomatic vehicles located in Manhattan with more than two unpaid parking
tickets to sites where those vehicles will be stripped, shredded and crushed. I
don't care about whatever treaty pertains to this. You creeps have tens of
thousands of unpaid tickets. Pay those tickets tomorrow or watch your precious
Benzes, Beamers and limos be turned over to some of the finest chop shops in the
world. I love New York
A special note to our neighbors. Canada is on List 2. Since we are likely to be
seeing a lot more of each other, you folks might want to try not pissing us off
for a change.

Mexico is also on List 2. President Fox and his entire corrupt government really
need an attitude adjustment. I will have a couple extra tank and infantry
divisions sitting around. Guess where I am going to put em? Yep, border
security. So start doing something with your oil.

Oh, by the way, the United States is abrogating the NAFTA
treaty - starting now.

We are tired of the one-way highway. Immediately, we'll be drilling for oil in
Alaska - which will take care of this country's oil needs for decades to come.
If you're an environmentalist who opposes this decision, I refer you to List 2
above: pick a country and move there. They care.

It is time for America to focus on its own welfare and its own citizens. Some
will accuse us of isolationism. I answer them by saying, "darn tootin."

Nearly a century of trying to help folks live a decent life around the world has
only earned us the undying enmity of just about everyone on the planet. It is
time to eliminate hunger in America. It is time to eliminate homelessness in
America. It is time to eliminate World Cup Soccer from America. To the nations
on List 1, a final thought. Thanks guys. We owe you and we won't forget.

To the nations on List 2, a final thought: You might want to learn to speak
Arabic.

God bless America. Thank you and good night.

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English, thank
a soldier.

Amy Austin | June 17, 2005
Haven't read an untrue thing so far... except that I'm not entirely certain about Kris's middle paragraph. No doubts about the truth of the first and last, but I question the FBI proposal.

And BTW... Singapore is also multi-cultural/lingual. Everywhere you go, there are things written in, like, seven languages... it's crazy! Like Jackie, not saying that I particularly *want* this... just noting that it *is* possible, as it *does* happen in other countries every day.

(I was writing before the last was posted, but some of that is appealing as well...)

Michael Paul Cote | June 17, 2005
Another way to look at immigration is that turn about is fair play. We took this land from its rightful or at least current owners, now other immigrants are doing it to us.

Mike Eberhart | June 17, 2005
Michael,
Excellent post. I would love to hear that from a President. Too bad it won't ever happen. If I was in charge, I would cut off all foreign aid effective immediately. What have we ever gotten from all the aid that we dish out. NOTHING. So end it now and focus on our own problems.

Anna Gregoline | June 17, 2005
Wow. That was one of the scariest imaginary letters I've ever read (although I stopped halfway through because the rhetoric was getting tiring for me).

Kris Weberg | June 17, 2005
That letter would be a whole lot more convincing if we were anywhere close to "winning" in Iraq, if our military weren't stretched so thin that any threat we make right now is an empty threat (just ask Iran and Kim Jong Il), and if I'd never read about the Marshall Plan in a history book.

Unfortunately, I can't seem to buy into the sort of patriotism that understands the United States of America as a disgruntled adolescent's power fantasy.

Scott Hardie | June 17, 2005
My conviction hasn't changed since last summer. (link) What all that foreign aid has bought us is decades of prosperity and as much peace as we want: Since WWII, no nation has dared attack the United States, and we have not gone to war unless we have chosen to go to war. (The military action against the government of Afghanistan was a response to attacks by private terrorists.) Nobody attacks us in part because we have such a powerful military, but also because we have mutual-protection treaties with half the nations on Earth. You fuck with the US, you fuck with the whole Western hemisphere. If Iraq had inspired our invasion with an actual attack on our soil, you would have seen a whole lot more nations joining "List 1." Instead, we chose to go to war on our own, and can you blame other nations for sitting back and watching? Seriously, if you were the president of France, would you have contributed a single soldier to an unprovoked American invasion of Iraq? What would your people have thought if their own soldiers were dying for another nation's aggression? Look at how much flak Tony Blair has taken.

Anyway, I still believe that we enjoy so much national security and prosperity because we spread the wealth. If we become tight-fisted, the rest of the world won't have reason to extend their treaties with us. Sooner or later, someone will attack us, and by then many of our former allies will be obligated by treaties to help defend them if we strike back. Honestly, if you want to destroy America, immigrants aren't the fastest way; just give the rest of the world a real reason to hate us.

Michael Paul Cote | June 20, 2005
Scott,
In a way I agree with you, but I have a feeling that even if an attack had landed on our shores many of our "allies" would sit back and watch. How many nations owe us money for "loans" that we have given? Do we see them paying any of it back. Don't think so. I am all for humanitarian actions for people - not governments - because I feel that much of the aid sent to these countries does not go to the places where it is needed or intended. I also feel that the best way to help someone is to teach them to help themselves. If you constantly give, they will constantly stand there with their hand out. I'm also tired of the attitude that immigrants coming to this country have that we "owe" them or that they deserve to get whatever they want. I hate to sound bigoted, because I try not to be, but I have seen way too many middle easterners spit on our country and then demand to be treated like royalty. I will say that out of all the nationalities that I have had contact with the Vietnamese seem to be the hardest working and most self acacing people.
Of course, I feel the same way about people in this country. If you are hungry, or don't have a place to live, don't stand on a corner with a sign saying so... do something about it. A job getting paid to do something that you might find disgusting or revolting is still something that will put money in your pocket. If for some reason the only way I had of making money to support myself and my family was to go to the local McDonalds and make french fries all day that is what I would be doing. There are jobs out there, they are in the papers everyday. Are they all glamorous, no but they all pay way more than standing on the street with a sign that says "hungry" or "homeless".

Anna Gregoline | June 20, 2005
Many jobs are impossible to get without an address, for starters. I think this (unfortunately geocities) link highlights a lot of the other important factors as to why many of those homeless people with signs are having trouble:

(link)

I don't think the majority of homeless people choose the humilating experience of begging for money because they don't want a non-glamorous job at Mickey D's.

Kris Weberg | June 20, 2005
Oddly, it's hard to get even a Mickey D's job when you have no work history and haven't showered in days. I used to work at a Starbucks in the Loop in Chicago, and our manager simply refused to consider the homeless persons who applied for work there. So did the McDonald's on the facing corner. They had no addresses to which things like tax forms and insurance materials could be sent, and in some cases, they were mentally ill. Plus, the businesses had an endless stream of teenagers and 20-somethings who were better dressed, had service work experience, were lice-free, and wore clothes that had been laundered.

There are people who are, for a variety of reasons, effectively unemployable and many of them will likely remain that way for life.

As to the rather ludicrous notion that other countries wouldn't help the U.S. were we attacked, Michael seems to have forgotten the swiftness with which NATO passed a resolution to do just that after 9/11/01. For that matter, other countries have a lot to lose should the U.S. fall to invaders -- the economic catastrophe that such an event would visit on everyone else, given the centrality of the U.S. to world markets, is incentive enough to prevent actual assaults on the U.S.

Note, however, that "stop an invasion of the U.S.A." and "help the U.S.A.'s foreign military projects" generally aren't seen as the same thing by other countries, any more than we tend to consider other nations' foreign military deployments as worthy of the kind of support an invaded country like Kuwait merits.

I do love that sort of nationalist paranoid schizophrenia, though, in which America's so great and wonderful and powerful that everyone's out to get us and we must be ever vigilant -- even as the same people espousing such a viewpoint argue that America couldn't lose to any enemy. Which are we, vulnerable or invincible, a superpower or a nation on the brink?

Michael Paul Cote | June 20, 2005
Kris and Anna,
You are both right and I guess that I was generalizing a bit too much, however, I have been witness to many people who just refuse to work. My wife worked for the state in the welfare office and it's almost unbelievable the abuse that the system takes. I agree that the homeless do need assistance, but exactly how many of the people out "panhandling" are actually homeless? I have a feeling that you'd be surprised.

Anna Gregoline | June 20, 2005
From the pool of the same people I see every single day out in Chicago, in my neighborhood and downtown? There is no doubt in my mind that they are homeless.

Scott Hardie | June 21, 2005
I'll add that there's the element of exposed money: None of the fast food restaurants where I worked would have hired a homeless person and let them anywhere near an open cash register. There's no way of telling which people are trustworthy and which people aren't.

It would seem to me to be plain common sense that nobody would choose to be homeless: Mike said himself that even minimum-wage jobs bring in significantly more money than panhandling. But on the other hand, a mutual acquaintance of ours effectively chose it for himself. He's in an absolutely horrific situation right now and I feel no small amount of sympathy for his misery, but I cannot lie; he passed up a large window of opportunity to work and knew this was in his future. What can I say? (In case it's wondered why I don't help him now, well, I've done my part. I've taken in the homeless as unpaying roommates before and I've also worked at a shelter; it's time for me to move on with my life.)

Amy Austin | June 21, 2005
I, too, agree with Kris & Anna (to a certain extent), but to give Michael a little bit support here... just because you see the same folks every day doesn't mean that they are all homeless. In fact, for some of these people, it may only mean that "panhandling" reaps enough success/reward for them to consider it a "job" (and depending on the area you "work" in, I disagree that money at least *equal* to minimum wage can't be brought in)... case in point:

When I lived in Gainesville, Florida (starting in 1990), I was about as poor as one can be and still have a roof over your head. I will never forget the night that I took my last twenty over to the convenience store across the street and with it bought some peanut butter, a loaf of bread, milk, a tuna sandwich (because I was so hungry and wanted something ready-to-eat so immediately that I couldn't wait to make my own PB&J!), and a few other assorted edibles. As I started back across the street, I was approached by a tall and somewhat thin guy with long scraggly hair and a beard. He was what Hank Hill would no doubt describe, with disgust, as "a hippie" (I think he was even wearing "Jesus shoes")... ;-D He also had a bicycle. Of course, he wanted money, and of course, I didn't have enough to offer him. But in my just-turned-twenty, do-the-right-thing, "liberal" soft-heartedness, I reached into my bag and earnestly offered up the sandwich that I so badly wanted to eat at that very moment, telling him -- in a rather apologetic way -- that the little bit of money I had left was the last I had for an unknown period of time, but that he could have the sandwich I had just bought for myself to eat... since I had also bought bread and peanut butter. And do you know what this turd said to me??? He refused my sandwich, telling me that he was a vegetarian and "on a special diet".

Now, before you blast me for being insensitive to the particular dietary needs... of a bum!... let me just tell you that this man couldn't have been more than 10 or 15 years older than myself (and that's guessing under all that fucking hair, too), was obviously physically capable of at least riding a bicycle, and... (here's the clincher) over the next decade (and through about a dozen *low-paying* jobs of my own), I came to recognize his familiar face -- riding his bike all over town to beg outside the grocery stores. He at least had the sensibility to never approach *me* again... or at least was able to read the disapproving scowl that was ever after cast his way. Unbelievably, however, he would still ask others in my party for money... even though they had *all* heard the story and would also tell him "no". I extended him the courtesy of biting my tongue and not telling him to fuck off and go get a job... which I am quite certain he could have done.

And even if not having an address is being used as an excuse in this scenario (however, I don't believe this man was really "homeless" -- and from what I hear, he is still biking around town mooching off the never-ending supply of college kids), I think it's a rather pitiful one for any person who is serious about changing their circumstances... are you telling me that these people have absolutely *no* friends willing to let them use their address on an application form? That they can't shower at a shelter before an interview and be *creative* about naming their place of residence??? Hate to be trite here, but where there's a will, there usually *is* a way... Like Mike said, it may not be a most desirable way, but it is there... and I have taken it, too.

Anna Gregoline | June 21, 2005
I hear these anecotes. I hear ya.

But I'm really disappointed when I hear the kind of "pull yourself up on your bootstraps" about the homeless. I just don't think the kinds of problems many of them are facing can even be comprehended by people like you or me, and we have no way of really understanding how incredibly difficult it is to get off the streets.

I wish I had something with more eloquence and more logical arguments to say, but I don't.

Kris Weberg | June 21, 2005
Of course, odds are pretty much all of us here would either know persons who moved down the "food chain," or be persons who moved up it. We're all pretty much middle-class, most of us born that way -- we have computers, regular 'Net access, and so on. As anecdotes go, we're not a representative sample.

But the question I'd ask is this: would all of you admit that anyone who starts out from a position of great poverty, even in childhood, tends to have a much greater disadvantage in achieving economic success than a person who starts out middle class? Right now, plenty of people with degrees from state and private universities can't get jobs; how likely is it that someone with no more than a diploma, or a community college degree, will?

Homeless shelters, too, have serious problems -- overcrowding, underfunding, and so on. How many of you donate regularly or significantly to shelters? How many of you, now, volunteer at them to help give people a "leg up?" And how many of you, right now, would be contributing nothing at all to such places were it not for the use of your taxes?

As to "no friends," well, yeah, I bet a lot of the homeless people you see have no friends who aren't homeless. I mean, do any of you, Scott excepted, have homeless friends right now? I've never had a homeless friend, myself; I suspect many of you could say the same. For that matter, how many of you would give your home address to a homeless person, without fear of being robbed or somehow bilked?

If you have a homeless friend, I can guarantee it's someone like the person Scott mentions -- someone who wasn't always homeless, someone with a decent education and opportuinites you saw them squander. Someone, then, who likely doesn't fit the general profile of the undereducated, lifelong poverty-line existence that statistically accounts for the bulk of homeless persons.

Amy Austin | June 21, 2005
First of all -- while I never had a computer *or* "regular 'Net access" until my late twenties -- I never claimed to be a representative sampling of the homeless or of any particular demographic other than one who doesn't appreciate a beggar who can otherwise take care of him/herself. I also never denied the fact that there is greater disadvantage among those who were born into it... but there are also more than a few amazing stories out there of those who changed their positions in life -- to better than mine or yours! -- from a start that was worse than mine or yours.

As someone who doesn't have much more than a diploma or community college degree myself (remember that I am a drop-out, after all...), I *do* know how tough it already is for people like me (I'm not working right now, either, remember -- and although that is totally by choice at this very moment, it is also the first time in my adult life that I've had such a choice... and it is also about to stop being a choice). I have told my own husband (who has a very marketable set of skills that will *always* be in demand *wherever* he goes) that if it weren't for the military and/or marriage, I probably wouldn't be much better off than I was ten years ago... which is saying a whole lot, because I was barely able to sustain myself after dropping out.

And yes, I had friends. I do expect that the friends of all the homeless weren't *always* other homeless, unless they were born into being homeless... which is sort of a separate-but-related problem anyway! I don't know the statistics of how many homeless were *always* that way vs. how many fell into some sort of a downward spiral -- like Scott's friend -- but in a lot of cases, the likelihood is that there was somebody, somewhere along the way (like Scott, for instance) who watched helplessly as their friend made foolish choices or refused the help that could possibly have made a difference.

I know full well the problems that exist in shelters, and no, I've never contributed time or money to any such institution... other than taxes or what I've put into someone's hand directly -- which may or may well not be as beneficial, but it is something. As for having homeless friends??? Well, as a matter of fact... last I knew, my own mother was, in fact, homeless and in just such a shelter (she's a high school grad with more limited college than myself, incidentally). And -- thoroughly in keeping with my point -- her choices were a result of her own pride, obstinence and a refusal to deal with reality. She has disconnected herself from all family that I know of (primarily, my sister and myself -- having not spoken with her in over six years, I don't really know), and isn't even aware that I or my sister are married or that she is now a grandmother... with another on the way. For a short time, she lived with my sister -- an example of the type of borrowed address I'm talking about here... I wasn't suggesting "giving your home address" out to just any/some strange homeless person, after all -- which put my sister in a *very* difficult position, since my mother wouldn't do what was necessary to help change things. And BTW, the possibility of being used, lied-to, "robbed or somehow bilked" exists whether you are helping out a complete stranger or your own family... but I think that there is (or at least should be) a much greater sense of obligation in the latter case -- and even though our resources to help my mother were *QUITE* limited (I had just enlisted myself in order not to become a burden on anybody else!)... we still did what we could, even though it ultimately meant turning her out. I would venture to guess that most normal folks feel this way and do or have done what they could for their own family members in similar situations... if not, well then, shame on them. In the event that the remainder of people that we speak of are, in fact, totally orphaned and without friends or family, well then I guess that really is who we should be concerned about, as you suggest, isn't it... but quite frankly, I have more concern for my mother -- and I couldn't help her any more than I can save the rest of the world.

Hate to sound like some stingy right-wing Republican here (and having had a homeless parent and only recently crossing the "Digital Divide" myself, I guess I'm not exactly your totally-typical, average middle-class American citizen here, Kris) -- but I have been doing what I can to help myself, and I know damn well that there are those out there who are not. Which is why I don't hold a heck of a lot against illegally-employed immigrants (the employers, yes)... which was, after all, the original topic of the discussion!

Anna Gregoline | June 21, 2005
"I would venture to guess that most normal folks feel this way and do or have done what they could for their own family members in similar situations... if not, well then, shame on them. "

Shame on them however really doesn't mean much - I think we can safely assume that the homeless DO have few resources, or none at all. How does a person with no money, no place to live, and no family or friends make it off the streets? Add to that possible mental illness, disease, addiction to drugs, etc. and you've got a huge problem.

I'm going to bow out of this now because it's coming off too callous to me. I still don't think the "do something!" idea applies to even 10% of the homeless. They've tried or are trying. And even if they haven't, their obstacles are so much larger than the ones Amy just described that any upward movement seems impossible, and almost is.

I was reading this site because I was curious about numbers, and the statistics are amazing:
(link)

"Mental Illness: Approximately 22% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2001). "

And this .pdf link I found absolutely fascinating, so I thought I'd share:
(link)

But I know you can't change hearts or minds with numbers. Shrug.

Michael Paul Cote | June 21, 2005
I too have been on both sides of the fence. I have been helped by friends during tight spots (unfortunately my family could not bear the burden of a full grown son) and I have opened my doors to friends in need. I have supported shelters, although not since moving to Florida, volunteering and monetarily. I have seen both ends of the spectrum at shelters, the ones that belong and the ones that are just there because it's available. As I mentioned before, my wife also worked for the state of NH in the welfare dept. and she actually heard people waiting for their checks so that they could "go play bingo" or "hit the bars" or many other various "amusements".
McDonalds may have been a bad choice of employers, I only used it because it is generally thought of as low end employment. There are plenty (at least in this area) of the "work today, get paid today" job pools. Most of these require no experience, no home address etc. Granted the jobs aren't the greatest, but even people in tough spots should be able to feel satisfaction knowing that the meal they are eating was paid for by their efforts.
As far as the people with degrees from state colleges and universities that can't get jobs, is it that they can't get jobs, or can't get the jobs they want. I have a degree in marketing communications and design, but can't seem to get a marketing position, so for the past 9 years I have worked in print shops. Not my choice, but it pays the bills and supports my family. Maybe I'm being silly, but in this country there are ways to help yourself if you make an effort. I'm not trying to take away from the people that really can't help themselves, those are the ones that we, as well as the government, need to assist. It's the ones that have learned to "play the game" and are bilking the system that need a good kick in the ass.

John E Gunter | June 21, 2005
I have 3 stories to tell about homeless individuals, but before I do, let me tell you my position about them. In my opinion, some individuals who are panhandlers are incapable of maintaining a job due to some disability, whether that be mental or physical. But other panhandlers are very capable of getting work and maintaining a job. How can you tell one from the other? I'd say just go by your gut feeling.

I hand money to panhandlers when I can afford to, because I like to help people. If you don't, that's fine, but I find nothing wrong with lending a helping hand. What that person does with my money is there decision. I'm offering them help, if they wish to take it and eat something, good for them. If they want to spend my money on boose or drugs, hey, they can knock themselves out. Once again, it was their decision.

Now my stories...

My mother and father were coming out of the grocery store one night and a panhandler asked them for money. My father told the man that he would give him $5 if he would push the shopping cart out to my parent's car. The man wasn't interested. So my father didn't give him the money. It would have only taken the man about 5 minutes to push the cart out and he would have made $5. Me personally, I'd love a job that paid me $5 for 5 minutes work!

Next story...

My wife and I were leaving the grocery store, this one is in the same area, but across a major street. As we were walking out from the store, a panhandler was sitting on the curb and asked for money. This was during one of our lean times, and I didn't have the extra money to be able to give him any. So I politely told him no.

As we continued walking, he started making some rather unkind remarks. This got me seething, but I ignored him, better to maintain a positive attitude than look like a real bastard kicking the crap out of some rude homeless guy. My wife on the other hand got into a verbal exchange with him.

She was about to go kick the crap out of him when he decided that he had bit off more than he could chew and got up and made a quick exit.

Last story...

One Thanksgiving, soon after we had just finished our meal, a man came to our door panhandling. He wanted money, but instead we made him a to go meal. This was the only time we ever saw him, but we gave him a good meal. He was extremely thankful for what we gave him and blessed us to no end.

So I take the opinion that there is nothing wrong with helping panhandlers, but no all of them are incapable of helping themselves. Plus as Mike says, there are plenty of "work today, get paid today" jobs in our area. Just not every panhandler wants to work. I'm talking about the capable ones here.

It's much easier to just stand around with a sign or ask people for money. I just decide when I can help them and hope that they appreciate what I can give them.

John

Amy Austin | June 21, 2005
John, this is exactly the same attitude that E & I share about it. In some of the wealthier neighborhoods of California, there are frequently some of the most pitiful-looking souls standing at the traffic lights with a sign and/or a hand out. This is one of *the* most uncomfortable approaches, of course, because you can't just walk or drive away but are instead forced to either look away or to deal with them. Do I think that they know this and that this form of panhandling offers the biggest possible payoff??? Of course I do!!! Why else is it that we never saw these people on the street corners in *our* neighborhood... because people like us don't have wads of money to spare -- we are frequently experiencing "lean times" ourselves and don't care to throw away what little bit of extra cash we might have on hand to some lazy ass. I am certain that we have given money to beggars -- out of pure kindness -- that may or may not have been truly needed... any more than we ourselves might have needed it. We have "donated" more often than saying "no". One time (at one of these traffic light hold-ups), we even gave money to a guy with a portable oxygen tank that we were just sure was more than likely a prop. He thanked us and "blessed us", and we drove away discussing his ploy -- was he truly so hard-up that he thought to enhance his efforts with a phony medical condition, or did he actually live nearby, and we just helped him with his mortgage??? ;-D

Don't get me wrong... I know that there are plenty of those who truly are infirm (you can't fake the absence of legs, for instance!) and down on their luck for legitimate reasons -- it's far from a perfect world, and this is only to be expected. But along with that, there will always be those who try to benefit from those circumstances by willingly allowing themselves to be thrown into that group and labeled a "victim". Sorry if you think those facts of life sound callous, Anna... but that's just how it is. And as for *your* estimation of the adversities faced by my mother, I might also inform you that I do believe her to have some undiagnosed mental/emotional conditions (bipolar disorder and very likely even mild schizophrenia) that would probably benefit from medication and/or therapy that she doesn't have access to, but that wouldn't preclude her from holding a job. A lot of these mental conditions are also *very* situational. That is to say, when things are going well (a job, a family who loves and supports you, etc...), the condition is improved and can even seem quite negligible; when times are tougher than that (divorce, no job, etc...) and one's spirit and will are depleted by circumstances external *and* internal, then these conditions can and do worsen and become aggravated to the point of becoming a true obstacle -- as in the case of my mother. You should just count yourself lucky that you haven't been so debilitated and not make light of that which you know nothing about.

Anna Gregoline | June 21, 2005
"Sorry if you think those facts of life sound callous, Anna... but that's just how it is. And as for *your* estimation of the adversities faced by my mother, I might also inform you that I do believe her to have some undiagnosed mental/emotional conditions (bipolar disorder and very likely even mild schizophrenia) that would probably benefit from medication and/or therapy that she doesn't have access to, but that wouldn't preclude her from holding a job."

See, this is why I don't want to talk on here anymore. I feel like there isn't any discussion - it's - here's my view, here's your view. Blah. I feel like Tragic Comedy used to do more than just present anecdotes. But I digress.

I didn't make any comments or estimations about your mother or the particular adversities she may or may not face, and there's no way that I would have. I'm not stupid enough to assume that I know the situation, and I'm not rude enough to talk about it since it's none of my business.

And we don't agree on the "facts of life" you speak of, and it's not "how it is" for me at all. Your description of events make it seem like there's a right and wrong answer here and your answer is right - that's not in the least bit true. There are no right/wrong ways to see the homelessness problem. These are opinions, are they not? I accept that we've had different experiences and the ones you describe go a long way into explaining why you feel the way you do about the homeless.

Amy Austin | June 21, 2005
Your description of events make it seem like there's a right and wrong answer here and your answer is right...

Sorry, I didn't mean to make it seem that way -- just frustrated by the redundancy of viewpoints, I suppose... as are you, I guess. But I think that most people feel that anecdotes are the best way to illustrate their points of view, and I would tend to agree -- otherwise, it's just an unsubstantiated world view then, isn't it???

Anna Gregoline | June 21, 2005
I agree that it's great to understand where people are coming from with anecdotes - but on the flip side of that, I get frustrated sometimes with them because they don't PROVE anything, they have no basis in the reality of the world. Meaning that everyone's experiences are different. Argh, I don't know.

I just feel like we used to get somewhere with discussion and it doesn't really happen now. Not that minds were changed, but that something was actually discussed - now we trade stories. Which is interesting in it's own right, but I don't see it as a discussion.

Ah well, my old TC is gone forever and I've already accepted that.

John E Gunter | June 22, 2005
I'm just curious Anna, if we were to stop using anecdotes to get our points across, then how would an author substantiate their point of view.

After all, most facts start out as opinions or theories, don't they? Then they become facts when multiple individuals agree that this opinion/theory is true.

John

Scott Hardie | June 23, 2005
I, too, get disheartened by the attitude that homeless people are all lazy. A number of friends have told me they've rolled down the window to shout "GET A JOB!" at panhandlers on the sidewalk, as if the solution were so easy. (Let me put it this way: I wouldn't weigh four hundred pounds if all I had to do was "STOP EATING SO MUCH!")

What I sought to remind myself with my anecdote was that, in fact, some homeless people are/were indeed not willing to work. Anecdotes have the useful quality of being true, and they do prove something; they prove that there are no absolutes. Not long ago, I mentioned my disgust at the stereotype that all Jewish people are penny-pinching, which is of course false... but not absolutely false, since several college acquaintances of mine fit the stereotype perfectly. So just as I can say that the stereotype is false for Dave and Scott, I can't say it's false for everyone who is Jewish, and personal experiences help me remember that no issue is purely black and white. If the experience happened to someone else in the discussion, that makes it no less useful. (When it happened to a friend of a cousin of a roommate... Well, I guess there are limits. :-) )

Anyway, Anna, I don't know that I'm any more interested than you are in a mere exchange of anecdotes with no analysis to them, but I do believe personal anecdotes are invaluable to our discourse here, as they have always been. Unless we're just making them up, they DO have an incontrovertible basis in reality, which is their very usefulness to us. We just need to remember that they don't prove absolute truths any more than statistics do.

Kris Weberg | June 26, 2005
Another question, this one based on the anecdotes presented thus far -- in at least some of these cases, it seems that a person who makes mistakes, and big ones, while younger would permanently cripple their possibilities even if they "wake up" down the line and make a serious effort. Should someone be screwed for life because they were a dumbass in their twenties?

Scott Hardie | June 26, 2005
On the subject of withholding foreign aid: If my calculations are correct, in 2003, our foreign aid was less than one-hundredth of one percent of our budget. (That's based on $16.25 billion spent on foreign aid out of $2,140.377 billion spent in total.) Would withholding that money pay for the Iraq war or sweeping societal changes here at home? I'm not proposing we should boost foreign aid like the "One" campaign, just pointing out that it's currently a much smaller amount than it may seem.

Denise Sawicki | June 27, 2005
That's less than 1%, not one hundredth of 1%, but still wouldn't pay for too much according to my google searching.

Jackie Mason | June 27, 2005
[hidden by request]

Scott Hardie | June 28, 2005
Sorry; you're right, Denise. There's a reason I was an English major instead of taking up mathematics. ;-)

Scott Hardie | July 7, 2005
It seems I'm not the only one making stupid statements. (link) Says Bono: "He's very difficult to deal with because he won't agree to things that he doesn't believe he can deliver." What the hell is Canada thinking putting such a reasonable, level-headed man into office?

Amy Austin | July 7, 2005
I could be wrong here, but the quote sounds to me like a sort of back-handed compliment situation... Judging by the contrary wording of the full quote ("...although..."), it seems rather like Bono is offering praise for the PM's "level-headed"ness, but as he in the midst of expressing frustration over not being able to change his mind:

"He's very difficult to deal with because he won't agree to things that he doesn't believe he can deliver, although that is very frustrating and annoying and infuriating."

Scott Hardie | July 7, 2005
Ah. You're probably right. I took on faith the general tone of the article, which was that Bono was putting him down, and that made his comment sound petty and silly.

Amy Austin | July 7, 2005
Sure. But you know how the media just loves to taint the tone and/or context of quotes, making any high-profile figure sound like an ass. Like I said, I could be wrong -- since I didn't hear the quote for myself, and hearing the tone for yourself can make all the difference -- but I doubt it.

Scott Hardie | July 7, 2005
True. Another thing I give up by getting my news online. :-)


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