The Mean Country



by David Glenn Cox

Last winter I wrote a story about the number of people who were dying

in house fires after having their utilities turned off. I began to do

some research on the growing numbers of tent cities springing up across

America. How, I wondered, will these people deal with the coming months

of winter cold?

But, as I find is so often the case, I start

off on one story and end up doing another. Officially there are over

fourteen million unemployed in America. That is the official number

that the politicians will own up to; in actuality the number could be

as high as twenty million.

I have been unemployed myself for

well over a year. I have twenty years of management experience, and I

have a great track record with a proven record for results. However, I

am over fifty years old and to prospective employers that is the kiss

of death. They perceive you as about to keel over from a heart attack

at any moment.



There are very few jobs to be had; the department

of labor reports six people looking for every one job available.

Because of the economy I became homeless and now live in a garage. I am

not an alcoholic, and I’m not hooked on drugs. I’m just unemployed.

So

as I began to research the tent cities across the country, what

surprised me, although it really shouldn’t have, was the attitudes of

my countrymen towards their fellow homeless Americans.

Several

years ago I read a book about a woman who was a holocaust survivor. She

described how she would drag out the dead bodies from the barracks in

the morning so that she could have the corpse’s clothing. She could

then trade the clothing for extra food or necessities. She said

something that has always stuck with me. “Many people gave up on life

because this was a world where it was very easy to give up on life.

When you gave up then you just died.”

When you are homeless it

is very easy to give up on life. Every activity is an uphill struggle,

cooking food, doing laundry, looking for work, etc. The industry in

which I worked has virtually ceased to exist. Many unemployed workers

were employed in industries that have now ceased to exist. Their jobs

and careers are gone, and yet the public sneers, “Get a job.” They also

offer up the following helpful solutions, direct quotes all.

“As

others have said..does it really help the homeless by providing them

with a free home? I bet not. There are other solutions. I notice that

when I give things to my children it does not tend to make them more

responsible.. Just the opposite.”

“I don’t know the actual

number, but what, isn’t it like 70-80 percent of all homeless people

have drug/addiction problems? Even if it’s less how is tent city doing

anything but enabling this problem? I know this is more about tent

cities in general but honestly giving someone a free place to live

along with free meals is not really motivating them to change.”

“The

poverty pimps will not allow the homeless to be housed without 24/7

babysitting. Without the babysitting the homeless could move on with

their live and thrive; NO MONEY IN THAT FOR THE POVERTY PIMPS!”

Homeless people are not children. For the most part they want the same things that any other citizen of this country wants.

In

my two decades in management I have had to deal with employees with

both drug and mental problems. Mental problems are sometimes masked by

drug problems; just stopping the drugs does nothing to solve the

emotional issues. It is not uncommon for a widower or a divorcee to

struggle with depression and to then medicate themselves with drugs or

alcohol. Why should it be so difficult to understand that a person who

has lost everything they’ve owned and worked for to use the same

treatment?

Many of these people have lost husbands, wives, and

children. Why is it so hard to understand their pain? These people are

not made of wood or stone; they are breakable. “Many people gave up on

life because this was a world where it was very easy to give up on

life.”

“You don’t have to go beyond the first page of a

Google search for “homelessness and criminal behavior” to find several

links to studies, which find much higher rates of drug use, crime, and

mental illness among the chronically homeless. It’s sad, but some

people are truly beyond saving.”

“I understand unemployment is

up and some people have lost homes and need a hand to get back on their

feet. These tent city’s are not for these people. History shows that

this is just a party camp for the homeless. Help the people who want to

help themselves not the ones who just want a hand out to support their

criminal activity.”

What is truly sad is how these people tend

to view crime. They worry about the homeless man who might steal their

purse but don’t give a thought to the corporate executives who might

steal their pension. They want all drug abusers locked away in prison

because they are beyond saving. Then they listen to and watch talk show

hosts with long and chronic histories of drug abuse and bob their

heads, agreeing in unison.

“If I lost my job and house, I would

literally have 10 options as to where to stay til I got back on my

feet. I understand I am lucky for having a good support system. But how

does someone get to the point where there is not even a couch or

friends garage they can crash in? the only answer I can come up with is

Drugs. You guys can paint these people as business men down on their

luck all you want, an it might be the case for a very tiny minority of

them, but last I checked McDonald’s is still hiring.”

Almost

ten million homes have been foreclosed on in the last three years. That

means forty million Americans have been dispossessed. That number does

not include renters who have also been evicted. So maybe these people

are living with relatives but maybe the relatives also enforced

conditions. “You can stay but that good for nothing husband or lazy,

fat-ass wife can’t!” Take your choice, live with mom and dad by

yourself? Or live in the street with your spouse? If children are

involved what real choice is there?

As I peruse the want ads

each day, I see many jobs that literally don’t pay enough money to keep

the lights on. I had written about the job offered by the storage

facility. Be available 24/7 to do sales, bookkeeping, maintenance and

janitorial work at any facility in Atlanta. $300 per week, no mileage,

no gas money, no benefits, no promise of steady work. I read an ad

yesterday to rewrite 400-word articles for five dollars each. I thought

to myself that at ten or twelve thousand words a day I could make a

decent living. McDonalds and many large corporations take applications

to keep a current stock of applicants on hand, but it doesn’t mean that

they are hiring.

When Chrysler went through its recent

bankruptcy I read about thousands in Chrysler management who had been

permanently laid off. Most had worked their entire adult lives in the

automobile industry, and I thought, “Where will these people find new

jobs?” The problem is not drugs or alcoholism or even homelessness; the

problem is jobs. Strange, isn’t it, that when America had a strong

manufacturing base and a strong job market that we had few so-called

defective people.

I live in the South and there are a great many

literal Biblical believers who take the Bible at face value. I’ve

always tended to view it in the same way as the Old Testament was

written, in the form of parables. The stories are told in a way to make

us see ourselves in them. Why else would they dwell on Christ’s long

walk to Calvary? Dragging his cross, an innocent man convicted by

society. As the onlookers heckle and throw things at him, mocking his

burden, only one of the multitude stopped to offer him any kindness or

assistance.

As Lenny Bruce said, “If Jesus had been killed

twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little

electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.” This is a mean

country that calls the victims criminals and the criminals innocents.

So I’ve stopped worrying about the coldness of winter, as it will never

blow colder than an American’s heart.

(photo by D.Evans.Photography)

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.