Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Not "compassion fatigue." Denial.

We're a closeted poor country trying frantically to be a rich one. People reject and hurt what they fear that they are.

You know the gay Republicans who rant against the evils of homosexuality? We're getting that same compulsive shuddering abjection vibe in the anti-homeless campaigns that, as USA Today notes, are all over U.S. cities this summer. These are campaigns against visible admissions to the fact of poverty that, by stereotype, belong to the erstwhile "Third World": shantytowns, street sleepers, outdoor free-kitchen lines.

It would be too simple to claim these anti-homeless campaigns are caused by individuals' fears of becoming poor personally. On the other hand, I think they have a lot to do with municipal leaders' and owners' fears that their city, even their country, is no longer looking like a prosperous place. Hence the campaigns to sweep visibly poor people under the proverbial rug, and the legislative attempts in places like Denver, with its new sleeping ban, to require them to stay under the rug from now on.

"Homeless" is the label that's used right now for visibly poor people. Odd, really: people who literally lack housing sometimes blend into the general population; plenty of people have their own beds indoors but no money. Regardless, people labeled as "the homeless" get that rejecting anger.

Americans who, themselves, still have money and power are becoming fearful that the country around them is losing its "First World" shininess. Hence all the frantic spitting and polishing and othering.

(USA Today item linked linked here and here and other places.)

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