The Comment

Posted: July 14, 2008 in Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality

* Sigh *

There are a lot of times when certain things just don’t make any sense to me whatsoever. This is one of those times.  

Yesterday I published a post called, Shock Therapy. In it I mentioned what is called an "invisible fence" pet training system. Its purpose is to teach your pet to remain within a certain area or to not go into a certain area. The way it does this is by using a collar fitted with a small radio receiver which will deliver a very small jolt of static electricity if your pet attempts to cross a specific boundary. It does not harm the pet, but it does get their attention. And, after several weeks, your pet associates certain areas with the static electricity and ceases to go beyond that specific point.

I went on to say that I wondered what would happen if human beings were fitted with something similar. However, instead of giving off a small static shock if they attempted to go beyond certain borders, it would be modified to give a jolt if they mistreated or in anyway behaved unseemly toward another person.

Please note, that I said I "wondered" what would happen. That’s the operative word. It was an exercise in a "what if" line of questioning. Nothing more. I did not say that I thought people should be fitted with these types of devices.

Yet, one reader obviously failed to grasp what I was saying and the point I was trying to make. That person – who called himself "Paul" – left this comment:

you are so stupid. All the homeless I see are drunk bums. Why should I wear one of those collers just so maybe I might want to be nice to some homeless person who is just too lazy to get work. Maybe you should wear one of those collars if you want you idiot

I don’t care that Paul called me stupid. Nor do I care that he referred to me as an idiot. It’s not the first time I’ve been called either. And, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

But there are things in his comment which caught my attention. First was the sentence:

All the homeless I see are drunk bums.

I do take offense at that.

It’s true that there are homeless who have alcohol related addictions. And, yes, there are those homeless who have drug addictions. But that doesn’t make them bums. It makes them persons who need help.

I also noted that Paul uses the word "all" – as though only those homeless persons he sees encompass the totality of the nation’s homeless population. This gives me reason to believe that Paul either has an intense hatred for the homeless; is completely unaware that the homeless population is comprised of men, women and children; or a combination of the two. Of course, it could be that he may be aware that not all of the homeless have an addiction disorder and are not – as he puts it – lazy bums, but chooses to ignore that reality.

The other thing which caught my attention was this:

Why should I wear one of those collers just so maybe I might want to be nice to some homeless person who is just too lazy to get work.

In particular were the words: "just so maybe I might want to be nice"

I’m not sure what to make of that.

Does that mean that he deliberately chooses not to be nice to the homeless? Does it mean that he would be nice, but only if he did indeed have to wear an invisible fence collar? Why not just be nice in the first place and be done with it?

What saddens me the most about Paul’s comment is that there are many, many other people who feel toward the homeless exactly the way he does. They view the homeless as some type of pestilence; some type social disease to be squashed and destroyed. And it doesn’t matter that there is factual evidence which contradicts their views. They nonetheless continue to vehemently cling to their misconceptions and stereotypes.

I don’t know why there are folks like Paul. I don’t know why they choose to hate the homeless. I don’t know why they are so adamant in their refusal to believe that not all homeless are drunkards, drug addicts, derelicts or lazy.

The only bright spot on the horizon is that there are also those folks who do care; folks who are willing to extend a hand of compassion; folks who recognize that the homeless are people just like the rest of us.

Compassion is able to extend beyond all societal barriers.

I’ve met so many in the community who have the ability to be compassionate. And guess what? Some are housed members of the community. Others are homeless members of the community.

And I’ve been blessed to have some of them become my dear friends.

  1. Matt Barnes says:

    It is unfortunate that some people were apparently unable to grasp the metaphorical context of the post and sad indeed that many people do share Paul’s outlook.

    However, Paul’s attitude is born from ignorance and the solution to ignorance is education, something you are making a fine job of here. Keep up the good work Michael.

  2. Carol says:

    I found your site a few months back by mistake and I’ve been reading your articles ever since. After I read today’s I went back reread yesterdays and I don’t see how Paul didn’t understand the point you tried to make.

    I think that Matt is right. The attitude that Paul and people like him have are because they aren’t educated about homelessness. Don’t let Paul’s comment keep you from telling it like it is.

  3. AnAmerican says:

    “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. ”
    — Mother Teresa

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