Sunday, February 22, 2009

What Does it Take to Get the Respect of A Citizen?

I'll confess that I'm a little sore still from the rebuff of the city council's vote that awarded still another liquor related business in a section of the city over saturated with liquor related businesses.

I'm probably equally irritated by the fact that there are people who covet the anonymity of blogs to vent racism, hatred, xenophobia, resentment and paranoia against minorities and the poor. These are the people who dare not speak personally with the people for whom they have such antipathy, but find it easier to voice their venom protected by the thick techno-curtain of the blogesphere.

But I'm also concerned about the state of local politics. This past week, Central Dallas Ministries had yet another vote go against us. A vote to support our plans to turn a near vacant hotel into high quality homes for the poor and currently homeless, was denied by the council's housing committee.

When linked with the political disregard with which some of our elected officials hold unjustly formerly incarcerated citizens and I am beginning to wonder just who are the people we categorize as 'citizens'?

If you own property, how much does that property have to be worth, in order for your citizenship to matter?

If you have a business, does business ownership trump all other expectations that poor neighborhoods and communities have from government, therefore relegating them to a discounted type of 'citizenship'?

When we say 'community', who are we talking about? Are we talking about only those who have the social 'space' to meet and deliberate and publicly ask arcane questions in polite, appropriate ways?

What if 40-50 poor, unemployed, currently homeless people had come to City Hall voicing their support of a project that they considered to be in their interests? Would they be considered a 'community' or a mob?

Does it matter that they will most likely be in Dallas much longer than those who opposed the project?

Why is it always better for government to spend money to help those who have money make more money, while money spent to stabilize poor neighborhoods, homes and schools, find better jobs, or obtain more education are considered 'give-a-ways'.

Why are veterans, and others who have have worked and yet gone through some misfortune or personal disaster, leaving them homeless considered 'unworthy' to receive support via the benefits they've accrued through their service to their country or their more productive working years? And why do those who are one missed paycheck from financial disaster, if not homelessness, mouth the interests of those with money, and who receive much more 'welfare', than the poor?

And how do we think that it is fair, in anyway, to unjustly take away a man's liberty for decades, release him penniless and homeless and then say that it is politically untenable to support their just compensation?

What kind of politicians justify their support and perpetuation of these ironies? And how do we justify our support of them?

Those of us who work with the poor, the homeless and those whose communities suffering neglect, blight, and decades of intentional and strategic disinvestment, are not blind to these ironies. And believe it or not we know and understand the political process not only as it should be, but as it currently operates. The fact that we chose to try to engage politics in the way it should be done, doesn't mean we're unmindful of the way it currently operates.

We are bewildered, however, that more people don't recognize those ironies and work with us to expose them. Until that happens, politicians will continue to talk themselves into thinking that they are doing the right thing. And those comfortable in voicing their thinly veiled antipathy, toward those with whom we work, will continue to give credence and support to those who find it more convenient to hide behind the blogesphere to spew their nonsense.

That is, until some of them join the numbers of those we serve.


Larry James said...

Thanks for this powerful summation of where we are! I'm so grateful for you. I'm fortunate to know you as a friend and brother. Sooner or later, they'll have to realize "we ain't goin' away."

john chapman said...

To: Gerald Britt and Larry James

It is so refreshing to the hear voices of reason amidst the noise of apathy and complacency. It is obvious that both of you have a valid understanding of homelessness. The casual observation of homeless people doesn’t seem to really impact the hearts of people.

Maybe a different approach is needed. What do you think?

belinda said...

Thank you. You should have witnessed the public outcry when the downtown rescue mission (Huntsville, AL) was trying to relocate. NO ONE wanted it in their neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

"convenient to hide behind the blogesphere to spew their nonsense.
That is, until some of them join the numbers of those we serve."

I think you mean blogosphere.....and really? It sounds like you are wishing homelessness on anonymous bloggers. What would Jesus do?

Gerald Britt said...

Jesus would remind all of us that our hospitality or inhospitality to others is hospitality or inhospitality to Him.

He would also remind us that the 'less fortunate are our neighbors.

And no I'm not wishing misfortune on anyone. Just stating a fact. These days, especially, many of those seeking help from CDM and organizations like ours, lived like those who criticize them. They never thought they'd be in need of our services.