I’m beginning to believe that the older I get, the mellower I become. Now what’s got me puzzled is that I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing. Those who have lived around me for any length of time can give you their opinion and that and two dollars might buy you a cup of coffee.
The other day I‘m driving around and tune into some local talk show where the topic of the day was what to do with the homeless in our fair city. As you might expect, the answers went all over the board from lock them up for life to leave them alone and everything in between.
Thirty years ago I would have jumped onto the lock ‘em up for life bandwagon as I was a young cop just out of police school and out on the streets. The homeless were a dreaded menace and needed to be dealt with in some form or fashion which meant keep them out of sight of the decent folks of our community. In my mind these people just needed to get a bath, and get a job….then everything would be alright and they would cease being a blight on our community. They were just lazy and probably drunks, so let’s teach them a lesson and maybe they’ll move to some other part of the country and we won’t have to look at them standing on our corners with their pathetic little signs each day.
But, you know, the other day as I was driving, I passed several of these ‘untouchables’ and my mind started thinking. These people are someone’s sons, husbands, brothers, fathers, uncles and cousins. They belonged to someone at some point in their lives. Someone out here in our country knows them. Someone might be looking for them. What happened to them? How did they fall through the cracks in our society?
I don’t have the statistics for all of the homeless, so I can’t tell you how many like living on the streets. I imagine some do, but most likely not all of them. The common concept of just locking them up is kind of like going to the doctor for some kind of problem and he gives you some medicine for whatever ails you. He is treating the symptoms, not the cause. Seems to me that throwing these people into jail is about the same thing.
Sure they might be alcoholics, drug users, handicapped or mentally challenged, but is jail an effective answer for what troubles them? Shouldn’t we be doing more to help cure the problem rather than just treating the symptoms for the short run as opposed to looking at the overall cost to society for the long term? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I’m certain there are those out here who do. If we need more teachers, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, abuse therapists or whatever; isn’t that a small price to pay to return someone into our society as a healthy productive entity rather than just discarding them out the door and wishing (as I once did) that they would go away and move to some other city so I wouldn’t have to look at them?
This is a great country and as such we have great problems. But sweeping the problems under the rug or sticking our undesirable elements into jails and out of sight doesn’t seem to me to be very American, does it to you? Putting someone away because it removes them from our sight pattern doesn’t really solve the problem, does it? It only removes the problem, but doesn’t fix the problem. Kind of like painting the ceiling every time it rains instead of fixing the leak in the roof.
If we can spend billions, if not trillions to help people in other countries with their problems, don’t we at least have an obligation to do the same for a fellow American?
After all, he or she might well be one of your relatives.
Or one of mine.
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