Getting in my car to drive to OB to protest The Black’s “Don’t Feed our Bums” mentality, my mind said to me: “Hey, nobody will as much as give us remnants of picketers from another day the time of day.”
But when I walked down Bacon and hit the corner where it intersects with Newport Avenue and saw all the people and picket signs and heard all the noise, a feeling of hope lit up my body like Christmas lights in Times Square.
My first thought was: “Look at all those beautiful people standing in behalf of our brothers and sisters who’re penniless and homeless and living on the streets.” But no sooner than I entertained such a notion the reality of the situation rushed in where, the moment before, my elation had been. I don’t think I had ever in my life experienced such a sudden change of emotions.
I spent the next two hours wondering if I was in the Twilight Zone as I held up a sign upon which I had written “Children are Watching! Show them OB’s Loving Heart (symbol)” while all around me there were people supporting The Black’s “First Amendment Rights.”
Their chests were puffed out like bantam roosters or boxers staring each other down in the middle of the ring before a hyped up championship fight. I saw people’s fists clenched as though hungry gremlins were coming to take a bite out of their loins. Venomous words flew from mouths like fighter planes taking off from the USS Midway to bomb anyone who would dare stand up for “bums” and we were asked nonsensical “bum” questions that morphed into one big:
“Would you like it if your grandma was mugged by a bum with a knife or if you had a bum urinate and defecate on your hydrangeas or camped out or passed out or shot up or had sex in your yard or begged you for money or blocked your way every time you wanted to walk down the street or showed your children that it’s okay to expect a handout without working?”
What was scary is that they asked these questions as if they actually expected “Yes” as an answer, as though because you’re standing there protesting the insensitivity of a respected business, that you support such negative depressing scenes as they had outlined in their questions.
Oh, what a sad day in OB, so filled with mob mentality that these people didn’t see that their declarations of “We’re not talking about all ‘bums,’ just those who cause problems” rings hollow because the sticker made no distinctions between “good bums” and “bad bums” or “bums in between.” The sticker is just plain mean.
Now, I could have possibly supported the sticker if it had featured some cleverly created outrageous caricature of a super aggressive panhandler of some kind that managed to make it clear that an attack on all homeless people was not the intent. But the sticker was way too serious and insulting to accomplish that.
But even if the sticker was warranted for 99.9 per cent of OB’s homeless population someone needed to stand in front of The Black in behalf of that one tenth human being who didn’t fit the profile, who cowers in the shadows, broken and hungry with no home, without a feeling of hope anywhere in his or her soul or bones.
As my sign indicated: children are watching. And what one boy, in particular, saw that day didn’t inspire hope for the future, as he came upon the scene peacefully and in a matter of seconds joined the raucous crowd who jeered and got in the faces of those of us who dared to stand for what’s right and speak for those with very little voice in our world.
So, in light of the actions of that young boy, I say to the man, who lashed out at me with his insulting accusation that I was “wasting” my time,” it is never a waste of anybody’s time to model compassion for our children – especially when not one news coverage of the event even mentioned how children might possibly be affected by such callousness as was displayed in front of a business that proudly puts profit over the welfare of struggling people.
How can we expect our children to better their world in the years ahead if we don’t show them how to solve problems in decent ways in a spirit of love and caring for their fellow human beings?