Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yet more bigotry from Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton wrote a savagely bigoted column re homelessness today, doubling down on his hateful-toward-the-homeless column of the previous Sunday. It is to the profound discredit of Bee publisher Cheryl Dell and Editor in Chief Joyce Terhaar that vile bigotry has become the hallmark of the newspaper.

One sentence (read outside the context that Breton wrote it) I heartily agree with. He wrote:
“The people in this region get to pontificate about homelessness without ever truly feeling its effects.”
Damn right, Breton! You have a column in the Bee where you “get to pontificate about homelessness” while choosing not to have a clue about the homeless experience. That is disgraceful. You have - in text-only format - taken over the thin-skinned Rush Limbaugh slot in Sacramento as our very own, local & loco, bloviating yahoo. From a fount of slurs and ignorance you write information-impoverished editorials that aren’t thoughtful and don’t offer solutions.

At the beginning of today’s editorial, Breton bemoans a question oft put to him “What’s your solution to the homeless problem?” –  since in his homeless-topic editorials over the years he offers just complaint. Well, that’s not entirely true: He wants nothing done. And by nothing, he doesn’t mean “nothing more,” he means for Sacramento, the charities, and individuals to stop doing anything that aids the homeless. He wants the homeless out of town. And his justification is that other localities don’t do anything for the homeless, thus, if in Sacramento something is done for the homeless, we are chumps and the town becomes a magnet for poor people he views as particularly disgusting.

After his hateful editorial of September 9, I emailed Breton, endorsing the idea that the Parkway be cleaned up and be made the safe byway for every citizen’s fun use, but also wrote this:
I am all for cleaning up the parks and trails and being rid of foul smells, BUT PEOPLE HAVE TO HAVE A PLACE TO BE. It is simple physics [or the burden of inhabiting a carcus]. They have to put their bodies somewhere. And the aching need to survive requires that they shit, piss, eat and sleep. You really cannot write a column like the one that you did write and not address the need for "a place" -- a piece of ground, a new shelter, anything -- that gives people -- a great many of whom are addicts, yes, and mentally ill, yes, and have large friendly dogs -- a SOMEHOW, SOMEDAY, SOMEWHERE.
No response from Breton. Breton, however -- then, this week and always -- chooses to interpret the “What’s your solution” question as one wholly focused on eradicating the homeless condition (if not the homeless themselves). Nonsense. As the person who put that question to him – which he cites this week – clearly meant was that homelessness needs to be addressed compassionately. Jesus Himself said that there would always be poor people.

Then self-identified-Catholic Breton writes this:
If Jesus Christ hasn't "solved" homelessness, how are the city and county of Sacramento supposed to do it?

How would I do it? How would you do it?
You don’t know your Christianity, Breton. THAT is NEVER the question – though certainly there are some utopian Don Quixotes in our midst who tilt their protest placards at shelters & sheds and windmills & cabins and dream the dream of homes and plenitude for everybody.

The question, Breton, is meager. What do we, as a community, do with the living bodies of homeless people? The shelters are full.  Homeless people get rousted everywhere else.

Where can we homeless folk be that doesn’t annoy you? Where may we breathe and, maybe, hope to get our lives together? Where is only that? People are on the river, but where is another place for them to be if not there? Even during the extremely warm weather we’re having, there's no room in the shelters and no barn out back to rest a weary head. Homeless people – most of whom are long-time Sacramentans -- are sleeping where they can, near rivers and in dark patches next to buildings, on the grass somewhere and on sidewalks. Where should they be to suit you?

I’m reminded of a Simon and Garfunkel song from long ago. These are the lyrics:

Who will love a little Sparrow?
Who's traveled far and cries for rest?
"Not I," said the Oak Tree,
"I won't share my branches with
no sparrow's nest,
And my blanket of leaves won't warm
her cold breast."

Who will love a little Sparrow
And who will speak a kindly word?
"Not I," said the Swan,
"The entire idea is utterly absurd,
I'd be laughed at and scorned if the
other Swans heard."

Who will take pity in his heart,
And who will feed a starving sparrow?
"Not I," said the Golden Wheat,
"I would if I could but I cannot I know,
I need all my grain to prosper and grow."

Who will love a little Sparrow?
Will no one write her eulogy?
"I will," said the Earth,
"For all I've created returns unto me,
From dust were ye made and dust ye shall be."


Simon & Garfunkel singing "Sparrow", from their "Live in Central Park" album.

4 Comments:

Blogger John Pappas said...

Good article Thomas. This sort of rhetoric comes up in any community with a homeless population. The issue isn't that there are homeless but that other people have to see them. People are not looking for a solution, they are looking for a cover-up.

Working in a library, I would say I see a good amount of Rapid City's homeless and near-homeless. They live in hotels sometimes, crash at family or friends homes, live in one shelter or another. Some are on the street or in cars.

But one thing I notice is that in the library they have the audacity to be human. Some read, others talk, laugh, congregate (always a complaint from some patron on this one...as if they are below the human need to share stories, laugh or debate). At times they are intoxicated. Rarely are they overly difficult.

Articles like the one written by Breton dehumanize the issue by making the homeless a problem rather than homelessness. When dehumanized it is much simpler to provide non-answers to solve the issue. There will always be homeless and poor. Just hopefully not in that position for too long. People will lose jobs, homes and families but it is our responsibility to try to provide the aid so that they can get jobs, reclaim homes, support family and thrive.

September 16, 2012 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger sacramentodan said...

Excellent blog Thomas. I always enjoy reading what you write.

September 17, 2012 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Ron Andre said...

Yes this is and excellent blog post. And I'm glad to read that someone else sees the Sacramento general public's attitude towards the homeless the same way as I do.

I have been homeless off and on here since 2005. I've done the VOA, Sally's, Overflow, The Mission, Loaves and even the street here. Ans I know that when I walk through Chavez Park J or K Street, I see how narrow-minded tag wearing peons like Breaton look at me, not just as a black man, but the way they look at all unemployed, unfortunate people. As if we shouldnt be alive.

October 1, 2012 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger Thomas Armstrong said...

Thanks, Guys!

I consider how weird things are for the homeless in Sacramento and it makes me a little nuts. We're in the midst of the Great Recession. Only 63% of people in the prime of their life are working in America, currently. Yet there is this targeting of the poor? Romney's common refrain is an objection to Food Stamps? Food Stamps mainly exist to help farmers and bolster food prices, for crying out loud.

A writer, Thomas Frank, complains that America didn't pull together as it did in the Great Depression and change what was going on at the top and seek fairness, and justice and help underwater home owners and the poor, FDR style. Instead, America got the Tea Party, directed by the Koch brothers and other billionaires, to find false enemies to target as scapegoats.

October 1, 2012 at 5:43 PM  

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