America’s Number One Product: the Homeless

America is in the business of manufacturing homeless people, mainly via the penal system and the military.

Some say the homeless are just a bunch of ex-cons, who deserve any misery they have brought upon themselves. Aside from being statistically inaccurate, the proper answer to that is – so what? Think about the fact that most inmates are locked up for non-violent offenses. America imprisons a larger percentage of its population than any other country, including the wicked dictatorships we are always rushing around trying to bestow democracy upon.

If you know a hundred people, one of them is in prison. An awful lot of them are casualties of the immensely destructive war on drugs, which is an incredibly efficient producer of people who come out the other side with very little chance of making it, in any viable sense.

The “perpetual prisoner machine,” to use Joel Dyer’s phrase, produces a massive number of people who, though capable and even willing, can’t get jobs because they have records. A lot of them could cope quite well, but they’re not allowed to.

The military chews up and spits out people who come back incapable of coping with life, to the point of being unable to hold a job. A lot of these folks are so torn up physically and/or mentally and/or emotionally, they can’t handle the responsibility of self-support, let alone take on anything as ambitious as home ownership. For some, it’s a major project just to wait in line for a pair of donated socks.

Righteous businessmen spend their lunch hour talking about how much the towel-heads need their asses kicked, then leave the restaurant and walk right past the panhandling homeless vet – the very guy who went over there and did the ass-kicking. The veterans who hated what they had to do, and came to believe that war is truly hell, they’re the ones who come back and have breakdowns. The successful warriors, the ones who enjoyed the experience, come back and get jobs with police departments, gravitating toward the SWAT teams or black ops.

Is anybody making the connection between the huge numbers of homeless vets, and the conflicts our country is continually engaged in? One of the many consequences of these glorious incursions is that thousands upon thousands of American lives are going down the crapper.

Whether you believe America’s wars happen for mom, the flag, and apple pie, or whether you believe they happen so arms manufacturers can buy a better quality of caviar, either way, the people who took the oath don’t deserve what’s happening to them on their return.

It ought to concern us very much that so many veterans are homeless. These are people who presumably have some degree of capability. They made it through basic training. They made it through various tech schools. They acquired skills, and in many cases, managed to keep their shit together enough to avoid being thrown out of the service for a very long time. Many of them have survived combat or situations closely related to combat. These are tough folks, with grit and determination and patriotism. America’s finest.

Why in hell are they out wandering around in the cold, looking for spare change?

About Pat Hartman

Before publishing the two books "Call Someplace Paradise" and "Ghost Town: A Venice California Life", my main project was "Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics. " I wrote extensively for "Scene," a monthly arts and entertainment magazine with a circulation of 25,000. Also proofread, sold ads, put together the music calendar and, for a couple of years, served as editor. Presided over a couple issues of the local NORML newsletter, as well as being featured speaker at chapter meetings. Wrote a complete screenplay; collaborated on another one; worked on a couple of scripts (additional dialog and general brainstorming) with an indie film producer. Booked the talent for a large music festival. Wrote, designed, illustrated and produced various catalogs and brochures for small businesses. Spoke at a high school as a panelist on Women in the Professions; was a featured speaker at the 1991 Women in Libertarianism Conference; presented public programs on "Success in One Lesson" and "The Bloomsbury Group: What's It To Us?" Created the website and wrote many politically-oriented pieces for
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3 Responses to America’s Number One Product: the Homeless

  1. There are so many causes in the world, so much need, but for me personally, nothing makes me so upset as the plight of our homeless in this country. As you say, it is so entwined with our penal and military systems. I do not know what it will take to get people to see that homelessness is something our country caused. It is not a sad byproduct of war or justice. It is something we intentionally cause with our policies and our defense of the rich, which is totally unjust!

    An article like this is always timely. Isn’t that unfortunate? Ms. Hartman, you have made the connections as to the root causes very simply. Anyone who reads this should understand what is going on!

    Thank you,

  2. nurmihusa says:

    Yes. You’ve laid out the ugliness so beautifully. Yes. What you’ve said. Yes.

  3. rdl says:

    Great post! well said.

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