Monday, June 8, 2015

City: "We should make it harder for people to help others"

The City of Hagerstown thinks people are helping other people too much and they want to know if they can make that illegal. No, I am not making this shit up. I'm merely mildly paraphrasing.

The title of that article is "City seeks help to slow growth of downtown social-service groups." The worst part is that the writer of the article completely fails to question whether it is a good idea to do so, you know, by getting the other side of the story, from those who run these programs or those who use them, like a good journalist. But then again, it's the Herald Mail. They don't have any good journalists.

Unlike many from my generation, apparently, I am not one to take offense easily. I try my damnedest to see both sides of a situation and am more likely to give people the benefit of the doubt than otherwise. But this is really fucking offensive.

First, the facts (as paraphrased by myself):
Andrew Serafini and Brett Wilson attended a city council meeting. They started discussing social-service groups that help people with addiction and homelessness. "[T]hey agreed that the services are needed."

Kristin Aleshire thinks that these kinds of groups are increasing in number too quickly, and "he is worried the city is on divergent paths between its economic revival efforts and a surge in the social-service agencies." (Translation: we're trying to gentrify the city, and these do-good-niks are encouraging poor people to stick around and dirty up the place.) Aleshire thinks that if we don't limit non-profits, poor people will continue to exist in the city and thus the city government won't be able to suck as much money out of the populace.

Serafini is sympathetic to the city's difficulty in succeeding in gentrification. He thinks young people, who are increasingly moving back into cities because we aren't idiots, won't want to live in Hagerstown if it's not as safe and pretty as the suburbs. So, we want more people to move into downtown Hagerstown, but Serafini also says, "[s]omehow, we've got to stem the tide of people coming here." Sorry - I should have said we want more MONEY moving into Hagerstown. Poor people, by definition, don't have money and therefore are not welcome here.

I'm just going to directly quote this next paragraph, because I don't think I can do it justice in any paraphrase: "The lawmakers and city officials emphasized that they don't want to displace individuals getting help, but there has to be a balance in how the services are offered, and the city must have input in the process." And from Wilson: "Perhaps Gov. Larry Hogan's administration can look at some possible rules that would require people to get help for problems like substance abuse in their own communities rather than being 'halfway across the state.'" and "'As we know, once someone comes here, they often stay here, and that's been the real problem.'" and: "Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said Tuesday that people come to Hagerstown from other parts of the state because of the low rent and good support services. As a result, Hagerstown becomes a "dumping ground," Brubaker said." (emphasis added).
They say they don't want to kick people out, but they definitely want to keep people who need help from coming here to get it, regardless of if help is even available to people where they live, and they want to stick their noses in to decide who gets what kind of help. You can really see what these jerks think of addicts and homeless people in that last comment. We're a "dumping ground" for people who need low rent and good support services. Because those people are trash, so far as Brubaker is concerned.

Wilson's a prosecutor as well as a politician, so he's not exactly the most sympathetic person towards addicts, professionally speaking; Serafini and Brubaker are both career-politician old white men. They've probably never personally known someone struggling with the mental illness that is addiction, I would bet good money that they've never been homeless, and find it more likely than not that they have never personally known someone who was homeless. And so these people, these fellow human beings who have found themselves in desperate situations and are seeking help in our community are not real people in the eyes of these men. They are numbers, they are problems, they are dirt and trash, something to be dealt with or swept away.

As a young person who bought a house in downtown Hagerstown, who has a Bachelor's degree, who is committed to this community, who has a long family history in this city, who is therefore demographically exactly the kind of person city officials want more of, I think the BEST part about Hagerstown is that, city officials notwithstanding, we welcome those who need help with open arms. We will selflessly and generously feed, clothe, and shelter the homeless. We will smile and talk with them in the streets. We will listen to them. We will provide those who need it with mental health care, with addiction counseling. We will stand up and be good people toward our fellow human beings in trouble. The last thing I want for Hagerstown is fewer services for those in need. The last thing I want is higher property values. I want rent to be low so the poor can afford to have a friendly, welcoming place to live.

Oh, and to those of you who consider yourselves Christians (most of our populace): if you agree with these politicians that we need to help fewer people, or should only be helping locals; if you are among those who think that the Community Action Council and social services should be moved out into the county, away from where the people who need their services are actually living; if you agree with the library's policy that wheeled luggage and plastic bags should be banned "due to sanitary reasons"; if you're among those yelling about methadone clinics and psychiatric services downtown: You are a terrible Christian. You are a blight on your religion. You are a hypocrite. You, not those you look down upon, are a worthless human being.

Your religion was FOUNDED by a homeless man who walked around saying things that made others think he was crazy (and he WAS crazy: he got angry with a fig tree because it wasn't producing figs and cursed it. It wasn't even the season for figs.). Your religion was founded by a homeless man who relied on the generosity of strangers who let him into their homes and fed him. Your religion was founded by a homeless man who taught that we should be nice to one another. Have you READ the Beatitudes? Don't know what that is? It's part of your holy text. No, it's not obscure: it's New Testament. It's in the Gospels. It's that part where Jesus says "blessed are the poor in spirit," "blessed are the meek," and "blessed are the merciful."
He also says "I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment," "if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also," "give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you" (did they teach you THAT one in church?), "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," "if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins," "you cannot serve both God and Money," "do not judge, or you too will be judged," "in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you."

Damn. Yours would be a great religion if y'all LIVED IT. This would be a great city, a great country, if we GOVERNED BY IT. Not that I'm calling for a theocracy, god forbid! But if we just helped others more than we punished them for needing help, if we got angry with each other less often and forgave more, if we gave to those who asked and took no more than we needed, if we saw other human beings AS other human beings, we wouldn't have so many people homeless and addicted and desperate.

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