Americans are prone, by conditioning, to require a special day to express their thankfulness for having adequate food, shelter, and family. Obviously many Americans do have myriad reasons to be thankful they live in an extremely wealthy and semi-free nation such as the United States, but there are tens-of-millions who are likely only thankful they are able to survive an increasingly hostile corporate oligarchy and inhumane Republican party.
The media like to portray Americans at Thanksgiving as either family gathered in comfortable homes around a feast fit for royalty, or lounging, stuffed to the gills, around a giant television watching football, or at the local mall spending like drunken frat boys with daddy’s credit card. Indeed, for many Americans, that is what Thanksgiving means and they should be thankful, but many Americans are only thankful for a food bank providing a free Thanksgiving meal because when it is over they still live on the street, makeshift tent, or an abandoned car and are increasingly being punished for being homeless.
Last week a report by the National Center of Family Homelessness (NCFH) revealed that over 2.5 million children, mostly in poverty-wage families are homeless. The reason is the “lingering effects of the Great Recession and low wages” that keep them living in cars, tents, or if they are fortunate, homeless shelters. However, there are currently approximately 578,424 homeless people living in the United States whom have no shelter at all. For those people, not only do they have to battle the elements to survive, and many do not, they face an increasingly good chance of running afoul of the law for being poor and homeless.
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In communities, mostly controlled by Republicans, around the nation there is a concerted effort to punish America’s least advantaged citizens for being homeless, and increasingly there is a drive to punish the people attempting to help them survive. For example, in Ft. Lauderdale Florida, city officials passed a new measure to crack down on Christ-like humanitarians who were feeding the homeless.
Within two days of the inhumane law’s enactment, police placed a 90 year old homeless advocate under arrest for handing out meals to the homeless. The nonagenarian, Arnold Abbott, is a regular volunteer at a local soup kitchen, and his crime was giving food to the needy for which he now faces up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Abbot said the arresting officer ordered him to ‘”Drop that plate right now,’ as if I were carrying a weapon.”
The elderly humanitarian and Veteran was joined by two local pastors following Jesus Christ’s commandment to feed the poor who were also arrested and face the same imprisonment and fine as Mr. Abbott. It is the kind of story that makes one think that anyone thankful to live in the “exceptional” United States is either delusional or inhumane.
Also in a Florida this week during the season of Thanksgiving, police arrested a homeless man at a public city commission meeting for exercising his 1st Amendment rights and speaking out against the city’s crackdown and inhumanity towards the homeless. The Mayor told the homeless man that as a homeless protester he had “to get outside rather than make a scene;” the man was promptly evicted from the meeting by two police officers and arrested. The homeless man was charged with disorderly conduct for “interrupting (speaking while homeless) a public meeting on homelessness.
This idea of criminalizing the homeless, or worse, those attempting to help the homeless, was condemned last April by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC). The HRC condemned (under Section 19) the United States for criminalizing homelessness they called “cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment;” it was also a violation of America’s obligation to adhere to international human rights treaties after conducting a review of America’s compliance with a treaty ratified in 1992 of which America is a signatory. The HRC called on the American government to take corrective action.
The Chairman of the committee, Sir Nigel Rodley, spoke for the Committee and stated in the review that “I’m just simply baffled by the idea that people can be without shelter in a country, and then be treated as criminals for being without shelter. The idea of criminalizing people who don’t have shelter is something that I think many of my colleagues might find as difficult as I do to even begin to comprehend.”
It is apparent that the HRC does not understand that across this so-called Christian nation, Republicans and their base consider cruel and inhumane treatment of the homeless a major accomplishment they are likely thankful their government allows them perpetuate and increase by punishing humanitarians attempting to help the homeless. For decent Americans it is shameful, but according to the increase in laws punishing the homeless, and now their advocates, it is obvious that decent Americans are on the decline.
In a nation flush with wealth, and resources, it is an abomination there are any Americans without shelter, food, or healthcare for that matter. There have, and likely always will be homeless Americans, but since the 1980s when Ronald Reagan convinced Americans that government was their mortal enemy, Republican economic policies and social program cuts have increased the number of homeless Americans. Over the past ten years, those cuts have literally killed homeless Americans and Republicans have the temerity to expect Americans to think this nation is exceptional and a reason to give thanks for.
There are likely some reasons to be thankful to live in America, but when over 45-million Americans, most of them hardworking Americans, live in poverty, and well-over half a million more live on the streets, it is difficult to find much to be thankful for about the state of this nation. This is particularly egregious when religious organizations are receiving well in excess of over $82.5 billion (as of 2013) in taxpayer welfare as “charities,” but are not opening their buildings to the homeless. Worse, most of the churches are not thankful for the tens-of-billions in taxpayer charity and consider that they are entitled to the free money.
One hopes that on this Thanksgiving while some Americans are taking stock of everything they have to be thankful for; comfortable homes, family and friends, and plentiful food, they will spend a minute thinking about 45 million Americans living in poverty conditions, or the over half-a-million who live on the street. With Republicans in control of Congress, by next Thanksgiving they may only be thankful for a free meal; if the police allow humanitarians to feed them. Happy Thanksgiving!!
This author would be remiss not to thank PoliticusUSA’s readers, moderators, and authors for their support. As a Secular Humanist (SH) who is deeply pained by the seemingly hopeless conditions in this country, the readers and PoliticusUSA family constantly reinforce the idea that all is not entirely lost and for that this SH is eternally grateful.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.
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