Convention sparks superficial activism

By CHRISTIAN PIATT
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN

I didn’t believe it when I heard it.

There have been rumors floating around that Denver officials were trying to whisk away homeless people before the upcoming Democratic National Convention so that they wouldn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.

I figured that certainly this was one of those urban legends that stemmed from a bad joke or something.

But it turns out that it’s actually true.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that the city is handing out free haircut coupons to people living on the street, offering a one-time day of beauty to help lend those without jobs or places to live that “my life is not as bad as you think” look. In addition, the Times reports that Denver Human Services is passing out “free movie passes and bingo games to get them (homeless) off the street, as well as temporary housing and free tickets to the zoo and Museum of Nature and Science.”

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?

Not only is this an abhorrent diminishment of a very real human condition, but it also is a sad statement about the expectations of such a convention, particularly for the party that supposedly is so focused on the needs of the poor.

It’s situations like these that make me understand why so many Americans are political independents. Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.

True, this little stunt is not the Democratic National Committee’s doing, but their relative silence on the matter makes them liable for the behavior surrounding their arrival.

If we want to get homeless people off the streets, fine. But let’s make it worth the effort.

I say give them tickets to attend the convention. Week-long passes would be great, complete with seats at Invesco Field to hear Obama’s acceptance speech.

And let’s not candy-coat the matter by trying to stick all 4,000 of them in one section. Every person there should have to sit immediately next to someone who is homeless.

Since this is a representative democracy, and since the Democrats purportedly are the party advocating for the rights of the marginalized, perhaps we should give them a slice of the delegate pie, too.

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimates that as many as 2 million Americans live on the streets on any given night, which is about one in every 150 people.

With about 4,050 pledged and unpledged delegates in play at the convention, this means that, in a proportionate system, the homeless should have about 27 votes on the convention floor.

This is only about one-third of the total delegates for Colorado, and considering we have a state population that’s a little more than double the estimated national homeless population, this seems only fair.

We say that the economy, jobs and housing are top priorities for the parties, but our bias lies in the context in which we consider those issues. We complain about ballooning mortgages while others live in cardboard boxes.

We gripe about wages not keeping up with inflation while some do odd jobs for pocket change. We think of economic issues such as the cost of groceries and energy, while millions wonder when their next meal will be.

It’s time for those so enamored with the political process and all its pageantry to pull their heads out of the clouds – or whatever orifice into which they’ve inserted their heads – and deal with the real, tough issues.

If we really want to talk about change we can all believe in, let’s begin with “the least of these.”

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