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Friday, July 2, 2010

A Letter to a Friend

Hi Leslie,

I am writing to apologize for my reaction to your comment yesterday.

Perhaps your friend is right. Perhaps, no matter what, I should call on my mother and siblings. Maybe your friend's comment was a nudge at a distance.

Nonetheless, I want to repeat here for the record that I did take umbrage at your friend's comment, to paraphrase, that were she in my position and homeless, she would go to her family to live. You told me your friend is in her 50's, and I thought that comment was rather glib, uninformed, and maybe unrealistic given her age.

I cannot rule out that her relations with her family may be much better than mine; but it is no secret that family are often the hardest people with whom to maintain relations, just karmic fact for most of us. Family always have higher expectations for us than for anyone else, so my apparent failure being homeless would sting them. I would be surprised if this were not the case with her family as well. I wondered how much thought your friend had given this matter.

Personally, I also have my pride and have not given up on making it on my own despite the odds. Of course, given my circumstance, I have had to think of everything. When I have thought I did not, I phoned friends to ask for their ideas. So it did seem patronizing that your friend would think a homeless person who was formerly middle-class and educated would not think about every avenue of escape.

Please bear in mind that I am attempting to raise your awareness and your friend's. That is the purpose of my blog, to help dispel all the assumptions we tend to make about a situation that we do not share with another human being. There are, of course, middle-class assumptions that simply do not hold in a homeless setting. Where you would typically shun an alcoholic person, for example, I now tend to overlook the addiction. I told you how one alcoholic was the first person to greet me when I first started living in my truck. He made me laugh, and I dearly needed laughter at that time as I was laden with grief.

I also tend to ignore addiction among the homeless for another reason. Addiction may be the reason why some people become homeless, but it is not exactly the reason why they stay homeless. Among the wealthy, there are plenty of alcoholics and drug abusers. The difference is that they can hide what they do because they can afford it. It is a class issue, not a drug issue. Lack of money is what separates a poor user from a rich one.

Here in the United States, we think we are an exception to the rest of the world. It is known as American exceptionalism ---- the reason we do not protest all that much or start riots over money like they do in Europe. The Europeans have not forgotten that there is an ongoing class war, no matter how large their middle class. They know that if the European elites decide to fart in their direction, there goes the middle class; their goes funding for education, health care, worker safety nets, jobs --- the whole enchilada. We would do well here in the United States to remember that there are very powerful people who can shut down the entire game if they want to. And, those elites need to know that we will do ugly things to keep them in check as well, like rioting and other things that scare the Bejesus out of them.

Surely you remember the Kent State shootings. It was appalling to see footage of the National Guard shooting live ammunition at students, not unlike Tiananmen Square some decades later. It was quite surreal to me given the high-flown rhetoric of the greatness of our country with which I had grown up. It just did not seem possible, yet it happened, and someone gave the order and that order came from higher up. (As a note here, restitution has still not been made to the families whose children died at Kent State 50 years ago. Here is a recent report: http://origin.wkyc.com/news/local/news_article.aspx?storyid=135890&catid=45 ).

I recall thinking that the elites were real tired of the bratty children of the veterans of WWII skipping college classes to protest the Vietnam War. We were not grateful enough and did not appreciate the virtually universal education they had acceded to give to the generations of the World War II vets; and it was not long before it was taken away. Subsequent cohorts have had to go into debt for a mere undergraduate degree or forgo a higher education altogether.

So, yes, I spend considerable time thinking about my situation and that of others.

I only wish I could have listened more patiently to you yesterday.

Thank you for your help, always.

Kerry Echo

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