While we await indictments and anticipated perp walks and prosecutions of you-know-who, I’ve been reflecting on homelessness and how we, as a society, can better approach it. As far as I can tell, our Native American brethren, before the advent of land-greedy Europeans, had nothing like homelessness for the 21,000 years they inhabited this land. Tribal members took care of one another around basic needs, and everyone had a time tested function to fulfill to insure the survival of all. Today’s Republicans would probably have screamed socialism, but it wasn’t that at all. It was an emphasis and priority on the health and well being of the commonwealth. Individual accomplishments were certainly rewarded but caring for the commonwealth, for the community, was primary. And it wasn’t just survival they attained. On all levels, they thrived.
Today, we European immigrants–and yes, MAGA Republicans, the only ones among us who are not immigrants are the remaining Native Americans–have placed the individual over the community, which has led to homelessness, an increasingly chronic problem which plagues us all, regardless of political party. And have no doubt: We must solve this problem as urgently as we must solve our global climate crisis. Why? Because it is eating at the heart of our basic principle, namely that there is a vital connection between the health of our individual citizens and the health of our communities, collectively called The United States of America. This involves something very difficult, it seems, for our culture: A fundamental shift in our priorities.
For the most part, most of us citizens have divorced ourselves from taking any responsibility for homelessness, foisting it onto local governments, as if those governments were not extensions of ourselves. In fact, that is the core of other problems in our society: It’s not a separation of church and state, but a separation between each citizen and his or her representatives in local, state, and federal legislatures. Due to apathy spawned by anger, antipathy, or frustration, we’ve grown too distant from the workings of government, leading to blaming politicians instead of ourselves where the true blame belongs. That’s right: We have no one to blame but our ourselves. The system toxified over the years primarily because of citizen apathy and a chronic laissez faire attitude.
So any solution to homelessness (or any other societal problem) must involve an acknowledgement that the responsibility for solving the problem is ours not out there somewhere in the halls of government. Without that sine qua non, the problem of homelessness only worsens. But once we accept that responsibility, we can then put our collective heads together and find a viable solution. We have the brain power to do so. We have sufficient compassion as a people, especially when we often see children and pets among the homeless. We have the motivation, spurred every time we see a squalid homeless encampment, stirring the thought, “Human beings just shouldn’t have to live like this.” And yes, when you consider what else we spend it on, or how much taxes big corporations or billionaires avoid paying, we have the money to solve the problem. Yes! We do have the money!
That’s essentially all I have to say right now. Unlike Trump always claims, I do not have all the answers. But the answers are there. President Biden is right when he asserts that we are a great country in that regard: When we set our minds to solving problems, we have solved them, while retaining our hallowed democracy.
Yes, I do have ideas how homelessness can be ameliorated. I think about it a lot, since I am reminded a lot every time I see a homeless person begging on the street or a tent on a downtown sidewalk or a line of broken down RVs with junk strewn about or an older man or woman pushing a shopping cart around filled with rotting possessions and think, “There but for the grace of God go I,” or an immigrant family with several young kids in tow asking for a handout. Such sights are constant reminders that these people are not separate from ourselves. They are our tribal members who need the tribe to lift them to the dignity they deserve as human beings.
Thank you for your attention. Enjoy life. Help others.
I was a recent guest on Joey Chmiko’s The Authentic Only video podcast. You can see it wherever podcasts are shown, such as Spotify, Apple, or YouTube. We covered a lot of ground. I think you might enjoy it (or not, as Leonard the Shaman used to add on Northern Exposure years ago!).