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Reply to an editorial by the Bee Editorial Board about homeless campers, fires and saving the ARP

One issue is the Bee's use of the term "whack-a-mole."
There was an editorial in the Bee today by the Editorial Board  that was about homeless campers along the American River Parkway, fires that have occurred near to where the campers have been and actions by the Supervisors of the County of Sacramento to protect the ARP.

I wrote an email to the members of the Board in response. Here it is – in its final draft. Unhappily, an earlier draft of the email was what the Board members received. Oh well. Close enough.

To the Board Members,

I read the Editorial Board piece this morning about safety on the ARP. I have no serious complaint about the actions of the county supervisors in protecting the American River Parkway against its destruction by careless campers and arsonists. Homeless-rights lawyers -- of course, here, I'm thinking of the Merin Law Firm -- may take another view, that the county action is more restrictive and punitive than it needs to be. In any case, I agree that the American River Parkway should be protected.

Your editorial says that "some may call [the supervisors' actions] criminalization of the homeless." A statement such as that I perceive as being Bretonian, a thin-skinned effort at putting up a strawman to function as an easy foil. Whom, specifically, do you know to believe that the supervisors' actions are unconscionable? After someone complains, THEN you can say “A-ha!” and go after the damn liberals you perceive to be inimical to what you think is best for the American River Parkway.

Near to the end of the piece,it is written "At best supervisors are playing whack-a-mole. When homeless campers are pushed out of the parkway, where will they go? Parks in midtown?”

As I wrote to Ms. Dell, Ms. Terharr and Mr. Breton a couple days ago, there is a solution to the whole of the problem. The city and county of Sacramento can see to it that there is near-immediately sufficient shelter space, and/or a safe recognized camping area such that ALL of the county's homeless citizens have a place to spend the night. According to the Department of Justice, it is unconstitutional to ban homeless folk from sleeping outside when they have no other option.

And now ... about your use of the term whack-a-mole: If the Bee Board or an opinion-writer for the Bee were to write in objection to immigrants crossing the Mexico-U.S. border and then write that "Mexicans cannot be deported any faster that others of them come into the U.S.; it's like playing whack-a-mole." Do you think that that would be OK?

Me, I do not think it would be OK. You are whacking people on the head. “Whack-a-mole” is a crazy term, but it is certainly violent in the context I suggest and in the very similar context where you use.the term. The concept of “whack-a-mole” is undignified; it is an assault on thinking, feeling human beings. Homeless people are not an amorphous herd. They are unique individuals who think and feel and suffer and strain to get by. I submit that you would know not to use the term “whack-a-mole” to describe the Board of Directors of the McClatchy Newspapers. You would not print, “Whoa, the membership of the Board of Directors of the corporation that owns the Bee changes so fast it’s like a game of Whack a Mole. Indeed, Kevin McClatchy just got whacked really hard! He won’t be popping his head out of the hole anytime soon. You can bet on that!”

I advise, I plead, that you read about "The Science of Hating Homeless People." The idea of "whacking" homeless people verges on being sadistic. Homeless people get beat up, killed and messed with, plenty as it is. They don't need more of it. I don't think that my objection is one of broom-up-the-ass political correctness; I think it is more one of "Wow, was that ever inappropriate. Amazing how little these people know about the folks they are writing about."

Which leads me to my last issue, which has to do will the very apparent need for the Bee to get reporters and columnists who either know more about homelessness or are willing to talk to homeless people to gain more knowledge about the world of difficulties that homeless folk face. There are perhaps a hundred homeless people 'out there' who could warn the Bee off of making mistakes in articles and editorials re the homeless circumstance. You have GOT to change your ways. Yes, Ryan Lillis is a star. No doubt there are other reporters at the Bee who would not be afraid to talk to real, live homeless people. Perhaps Dale Maharidge might be willing to come back to the Bee. But DO SOMETHING, Bee people. Please, please, please do something ... different!

  Tom Armstrong
  Sacramento Homeless blog 


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