Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tent communities in Los Angeles (or: Is this what America has come to?)

I followed my own earlier link to Will Shetterly, and I discovered this video:

About groups of people who’ve been forced homeless, many by recent foreclosures caused, it seems, by the recent crises in the subprime mortgage industry and the US economy overall, the latter of which, for anyone who doesn’t know, is in the shitter, with the dollar fallingfallingfalling hard. The American dollar is so low even the Canadian dollar is now worth more. The American dollar is so low it’s probably rivaling the peso or the yen at this point.

But this isn’t about the American economy. Fuck the American economy, and furthermore fuck any country that could possibly allow such a thing as a tent community to occur. Fuck any country in which people are so completely disenfranchised, so completely ignored, that I live in this fucking county and I hadn’t heard about it until twenty or so minutes ago, because I’m constantly surrounded by hipsters in lowriders who drive Porches and park valet.

I live in West Hollywood, close enough to Hollywood that I can almost see its sign from my bedroom window (there’s an apartment in the way. My roommate has an unobstructed view). I used to work in a gym where people drove Hummers and Bentleys and Mazeratis, and I drive, two days a week, down to USC, a campus full of students with affluent and influential parents. George Lucas has donated untold millions of dollars to his alma mater (which is great, don’t take me wrong) while across the street, teenagers choose carefully their school outfits for fear of wearing the wrong color. Every day, I realize how lucky I am to be teaching, while every day again I receive a DPS (that’s Department of Public Safety) notice that someone got mugged or shot or worse.

And now I discover that, an hour from where I live, a group of people fallen on hard times have founded a “tent city.” Where they rely on churches for handouts, and where they look to group trips to the DMV to obtain ID cards they can use to visit a hotel where they might shower (and, who knows, maybe even sleep in a bed. One can dream, can’t one?). Where they reside and remain when they’re not working the one day a week at the job they managed to find in an unstable economy.

And now, where they face eviction.

Was your first thought mine? How could people living in tents be evicted? Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

Apparently, Ontario has decided that only Ontario residents can reside in “Tent City.”

I assume they mean “residents” and “reside” for various definitions of each word.

Ontario is, in fact, now issuing arm bands to people. “blue for Ontario residents, who may stay, orange for people who need to provide more documentation, and white for those who must leave.”

In 1939, Jews are required to wear armbands or yellow stars. This, of course, came six years after the Nazis, in 1933, suspended civil liberties for all citizens.

You know. Like, say, a commander-in-chief usurping full executive power. Or, I don’t know, an attorney general authorizing illegal wiretapping.

Those kinds of civil liberties.

America is currently a country in which one of its most prominent newspapers (The Los Angeles Times) can print the following sentence: “Another resident, clearly confused, seemed relieved to get a white band — not understanding it meant she had to leave.”

Yes, clearly confused.

The ACLU of Southern California noted: “We are concerned that however they go about trying to reduce this population,” which seems ominous wording indeed. They promise they are continuing to monitor the situation, though, which I’m sure will make everyone breathe a collective sigh of relief.

I was going to quote “First They Came,” by Martin Niemoller to end, but I think I’ve made my point without it.

1 Comment

  1. Another example of the two Americas… Last night, while preparing for teaching interviews, I researched various Denver neighborhoods and schools. I looked at statistics, mostly. CSAP test scores. Poverty levels. It absolutely floored me.

    The school I’m interview with was closed in 2004 because DPS through up their hands…said, “we can’t do this.” KIPP, an organization founded by TFA alum, came in and basically did the same thing this year. Now, DPS is trying to bring the school back to life. The only reason, really, is because the school itself is architectually important to my city. Otherwise, they would have torn that sucker down and abandoned it…just like they’ve abandoned the children in my city.

    Last night, I was in tears. Out of curiousity, I went searching for information on MY old school (another across town, in DPS). I was completely knocked down by *worse* scores and statistics.

    I grew up there, and I always knew it was bad. I always knew something needed to be done. I had no idea how bad. You live in poverty…you see it every day…it’s so much that your mind becomes numb. It doesn’t compute. You excuse it because it’s everywhere you go.

    I got out, but it’s always with me. Those people who I left behind are right here, in my heart. I won’t abandon them. When I see what’s happening to our country, it breaks my heart. How can it not? Why aren’t more people crying over this? Why aren’t more people helping to change it? Are we all numb?

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