Friday, January 22, 2016

Anything but the best?

   Poor Martin O’Malley. He was all but ignored in Sunday evening’s Democratic presidential primary debate, with the moderators addressing question after question to the red-hot front-runners, Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  The Maryland governor was pretty much left saying “But what about me?” while no doubt many viewers asked, “Who is that guy?” Indeed, he would have been relegated to the second-tier debate for low-polling candidates, as in the Republican contest, except he would have nobody to debate (although, as I was reminded by an article in today’s L.A Times, there are many Democratic and Republican presidential candidates we don’t hear about). 
   This really is too bad – not only for O’Malley but also for the rest of us Democrats left with a shaky slate just over a week before the primary races begin. 
   Don’t get me wrong.  I am all for Sanders.  I love his vow to fight the big-money powers that be and for truly universal healthcare and college.  I am all for his socialistic ideals, standing up for the rest of us.  I feel the Bern.
   But can this self-avowed Socialist win in November?  Really?  When I went to a political forum a few years ago in Claremont, a well-respected scholar in this relatively progressive community was loudly booed when he tried to say that Socialism was perhaps worth pursuing. 
   Maybe things have changed since then, but I’m not seeing it.  Sanders talks about revolution, and it would really take a revolution for him to win the presidency.  I’m sorry to say that those of us who do these sorts of revolutions don’t have a good track record.  Look at Occupy Wall Street.  Occupy what? you ask.  Exactly. 
   November isn’t that far off.  And I don’t see a lot of college students, other than the usual scrubbed-face die-hards with their researched noon speeches, getting fired up over an old man, even a fiery,  radical one, like they did over voting for the first black president.  I would love to be proven wrong on this.  Another thing – and this is a big thing these days – is that Sanders looks like a deer in the headlights when the topic is foreign policy.  (Yes, Donald Trump doesn’t know much about foreign policy, but he certainly doesn’t look like a deer in the headlights when spouting off about it – not that this is a good thing, but it certainly has been effective.)
   And then there’s Hilary.  She may be so hot that we’re on a first-name basis with her, but I’m concerned about us getting dragged down by all her baggage, at least until November, if not afterwards.  I’m not just talking about the e-mails, whether she can be trusted, Bill’s womanizing, the dynasty factor, blah, blah, blah. Wasn’t Hilary so exhausted after her time as Secretary as State that she hid out for months, not sure at all about returning to public service? Will she be up for another four or eight years most likely to be even more grueling, all the more so in these bitterly partisian times? What about Bill, with his well-known heart problems?  What if he has a heart attack and dies while Hilary is in office?  It will already be tricky having (former president) Bill Clinton as our first First Gentleman. 
   Maybe this is just so much late-night obsessing – again, I’d love to be proven wrong.  O’Malley may or may not be the ideal candidate.  I’m just saying it’s too bad he was never given a chance and we now don’t get much of a choice.  We need all the choices, viable choices, we can get, especially when the opposition is so passionate and behaving in such an extremist and volatile way.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Shelter in a (and another and another) storm

   “Seeing that he was okay, she went on her way.  Soon after, the running water had crashed the curb and began spilling across the sidewalk and into Lopez’s encampment.”
   It has been raining a lot.  At least for Southern California.  (My friend visiting from Vermont chuckled over how people here are alarmed about the inclement weather.) So far, so good – the great El Nino, with its promise of much-needed precipitation, appears to be panning out and like clockwork, with these first big storms coming in early January.
   One recent morning, I went on my weekly marketing trip.  It was raining a bit, more like a heavy sprinkling.  Nothing like the downpour that I looked out my living room windows at a few hours later, lasting much of the afternoon. I was lucky. 
   Yes, I am lucky.  Not only did I get out when the rain wasn’t too bad, I have a nice living room from which I can watch the rain, whether it’s a heavy sprinkle or a drenching downpour. 
   At least, I’m not like Felipe Flores Lopez, who Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote about during the first week of El Nino storms.  The columnist visited Mr. Lopez after a nun e-mailed him about the homeless man’s set-up under a bridge: “Hi, I photographed this fellow. His little ‘home’ is unbelievable.  Attached are photos.”
   One can raise questions, as I certainly can, about whether this is romanticizing homelessness, and this isn’t the first time I’ve seen it.  In any case, Mr.  Lopez did have quite a set-up, complete with table and chairs, cupboards and a double bed with a box spring and mattress and a clean white comforter. On top of his dresser sat a little Christmas tree with red decorations. 
   It was quite a set-up, except when it wasn’t, except when, during the columnist’s visit, the rain came and washed it all away.  There is a dramatic photograph accompanying the column of Mr.  Lopez climbing atop his bed, trying to keep it from floating away.
   In a sense, Mr. Lopez was/is lucky.  He was crafty and scrappy enough to put together “his little ‘home.’” And he told the columnist that he knew a place where he could build a new camp that wouldn’t get washed out.   But he is only one of 44,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County. 
   It is said that this is the capitol of homelessness, with the country’s most homeless people, largely because of – ironically now – the mild weather.  Many, unlike Mr. Lopez, are mentally ill or disabled, and many have severe substance abuse issues. 
   Also, as discussed in an adjacent news article, many are stubborn and don’t want to leave their encampments, even with dire warnings and threats of flooding, etc. There are numerous reasons for this – they don’t want to lose a pet, they want to keep their possessions where they are, they don’t like the rules and regimen in a shelter, etc.  There is also pride.  When Steve Lopez offered to buy him lunch, Mr.  Lopez not only declined but, “[a]s the rains picked up and the water rose, he whipped up a fine meal or burritos and set glasses of water on the kitchen table.”
   What are we to make of all this?  How do we deal with all these folks living in such a dire, unsafe and unhealthy situation, even as local and state officials scramble and argue and contradict each other over what to do?  After a woman saw Mr.  Lopez get flooded out, she gave him a dry jacket.  But how many of us are like the woman who, before the rain got bad, “[s]eeing that he was OK…went on her way?”
   How many of us go on our way when we see the homeless out on the street? 
   And I am totally against laws against camping, sleeping in public – laws that criminalize homelessness.  But, when all else fails, when push comes to shove, doesn’t being in a jail cell with meals – if such was available - for a night or for a day or two sound better than being left out in a storm?