Martin Luther King Jr,’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.] starts this way:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.
It seems to be a recurring theme for those in authority to see the acts of someone who stands up for the oppressed and those victimized by the system to be “unwise and untimely”.
Mayor Horrigan made a video that said “sometimes the loudest voice isn’t the wisest.”
And a recent Editorial Board article in the Akron Beacon Journal declares that “Tents are for camping. They are not an adequate response to homelessness.”
They all sit in their comfortable bubble never once asking the homeless themselves how they feel.
Yesterday I asked Dave Butler and Rebecca Reeder what they thought about tents. They were one of the couples that got housing at the end of our tent community only to be quickly thrown out because they had dogs… something the facilitators of the housing program knew full well. At the end of that process they were just trying to jam people into houses as fast as they possibly could.
Dave said, “At the end of the day a tent is better than sleeping under a bridge or out in the rain. That sucks.”
That pretty much says it all. You don’t need a fancy blue ribbon panel of elitist intellectuals to come to that obvious conclusion.
Intellectual, wealthy, powerful people have always loved to create policy that suits them and hurts the poor. Sadly, it is a scene in the theater of human history that gets played out over and over again. They never seem to learn.
We know what Keith Stahl, the director of residential services at Community Support Services Inc. believes because he has told it to me at least twice: “The street is motivating.”
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I’m sure he is thinking, “Dave, if you hate sleeping night after night exposed to rain and snow with no shelter you should get a house.”
He got a house. And then he was thrown out of it because he had a dog.
These are the messy parts of reality that governmental systems try to sweep under the rug and hope we never question. They will attempt to spin it that Dave and Rebecca have somehow failed the system. The system certainly didn’t fail them. “The system works” is a motto they love to repeat endlessly.
The Akron Beacon Journal editorial board article begins with the words “Sage Lewis”. They are attempting to turn my name into a villainous phrase. “Sage Lewis” A trouble maker. A fool. A person who is causing more harm than good. “A person who hasn’t moved the needle”, as the mayor has said in an editorial that also included my name in the first sentence.
It’s not about the homeless for them. They don’t care about the homeless. It’s personal for them. Our movement is making a dent in their decades-long complete and total control. They don’t like anyone saying anything even slightly different than what they are saying. It’s shocking to them that they even have to deal with this annoying topic of homelessness.
It hurts their egos that have become fragile over 30 years of no one ever standing up to them in a public way.
We, as a community, will never even begin dealing with this human rights atrocity until they begin their articles with the phrase “The Homeless.” Not “Sage Lewis.”
I am not the problem. The problem is that we have people suffering and festering on the streets with nowhere to go. The problem is not that they have an activist trying to solve their systemic problems.
The problem is that the system does NOT work. It needs severely retooled.
Just because they don’t like tents doesn’t mean that American citizens who have lost everything have to suffer because their sensibilities are hurt.
The homeless are the ones dying in the streets, in the backyards, in the abandoned houses and in the sewers.
Their feelings will recover. The homeless are dying.
But saying this is all pointless. They are The Borg. They are now the system. The system is now them. Any other input does not compute and therefore is wrong.
“The system works.”
If the system doesn’t work for you then it is you that must end. Long live the system.
We have to move around them. The system is merely a rock in the river. We are the water.
We have to use tools that ignore their machine language “if then” statements. They have lost their way. They have lost their humanity. They have lost their very ability to adapt and learn. Their program has been written and there is no room for new code. They are “the Collective” called the government. The only way we will solve the actual problems of the world is to work around them while they fight us every step of the way.
We are on the right side of everything good and meaningful in history. Every great thinker, philosopher and spiritual leader would stand with us. Jesus, the man they pray to every single city council meeting, would stand with us.
We just have to continue to do the work.
In 1935 Akron became the home of AA.
Akron will become known as “The Recovery City.”
It is in our DNA. It is in our heart. It is in our soul.
We will be the city that teaches the rest of America a new form of recovery. A recovery for homelessness. A recovery for opiates. A recovery for systemic hopelessness.
This is our true Renaissance. Not a pseudo Renaissance artificially created by 15 year housing tax abatements.
The real Renaissance will be profound, revolutionary and innovative.
It will be a Renaissance created by the people in spite of the government who can’t see the forest for the trees.
And once we do all the work, I assure you they will take all the credit. They will say it was their idea all along.
But that too is just the way of the world. The credit is irrelevant. All that matters is the work.
People are living on the streets because the system is a blunt force tool. It is a hammer that thinks everything is a nail.
Homelessness is complicated. Homelessness is a condition.
They need to stop talking about me and start talking about the actual problems in their city. But that’s how they do it. They attempt to assassinate the character of their enemies in hopes of confusing the people and getting away from the real issues at hand.
We will not waiver. We will not quit. We are right. They are wrong.
We will be waiting for them on the the right side of justice and humanity once they wake up from their zombie trance and realize they can’t ignore their actual problems because it makes them feel icky.
(The featured image is a picture of a statue at the National Prisoner of War Museum, Andersonville National Historic Site, Georgia, United States.)