Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Homelessness: Why Did We Give Up?

(William Bastian died in 1939, at the age of 64. Mr. Bastion was a homeless American, employed in the WPA on a National Park Service project at the time of his passing. His grave is on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. Local sources indicate that he probably lived in a work camp on, or near, what is now Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Photo by Brent McKee.)  

(Before enrolling in the Civilian Conservation Corps, "CCC Boys" lived in extreme poverty, often homeless and riding trains from town to town across America looking for work. Once in the CCC, these young men were given food, shelter, health exams, recreational activities, educational classes, training, and work. In return, they created and developed state & national parks that we still utilize today. Indeed, parks developed by the CCC are huge economic engines for America, via tourism and vacation spending. Above is Fort Frederick in Maryland. The men of the CCC restored the walls of the crumbling fort and, today, the fort is a National Historic Landmark. Photo by Brent McKee.)  

On October 14th, 2013, a story written by a homeless woman in New York City was published by The Guardian: "What I Learned About Humanity From Living on the Streets." It is a heart-wrenching story, a story that could happen to many of us, due to the current political & socio-economic heartlessness that governs our country today. The story ends with the author stating:

"My dream is to be a middle school math teacher. My college degree is in computer science, and I used to be a substitute teacher. I know this probably won't happen. For now, I do what I have to. I just wish people wouldn't make assumptions about me, especially that I am crazy or a criminal."      

(During the New Deal, there were many governmental efforts to lift people up. Today, not so much. Indeed, right-wing politicians are feverishly trying to cut back America's social safety net, a safety net that already ranks as one of the stingiest among industrialized countries. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

So, considering the historic lesson of what can happen when we give the homeless & unemployed opportunities, i.e., useful projects/creations that we still use today, why did we give up? Is it because "we can't afford it!!" as we so often hear from right-wing politicians and pundits? Well, if that's true, maybe it's because we've chosen, instead, to operate the largest military-industrial complex in the world, equaling in cost almost every other nation combined. Or maybe it's because we've chosen to operate the largest prison-industrial complex in the world. Or maybe it's because the United States loses hundreds of billions of dollars, every single year, to illegal tax evasion, corporate tax avoidance, and historically low tax rates on the super-wealthy.

Or maybe "we can't afford it!!" because we've lost our minds, and our hearts.

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