Thursday, July 30, 2015

Demand public toilets or live in squalor

Buenos Aires and other thoughtful cities have sidewalk toilets. Mexico has many public toilets that cost about a dime to use. The United States has newspapers and TV stations that publicize and shame homeless people caught peeing in public.  In the US, one must go into a place of business and ask to use a toilet. I duck into fast food joints, but when I encounter the need to ask an employee for the key I'm usually ok even if the sign says "For customers only." I guess I get by because I am well dressed. And white. Homeless people are in a bind and what are they going to do? Not go?
As a society, Americans are edging toward trouble. Sooner or later I think we will begin to jail more and more homeless people for unavoidable crimes. The cost of toilets is much cheaper than jailing, but since there are privatized jails and prisons, the pressure on lawmakers will be to jail ever more people. Common sense is a tough sell.
If cities would provide many more public toilets and pay to clean them daily you would see that everybody would use them -  the middle class and the rich get "caught" in need, too. It would cost some money and we have an entire class of citizens who can afford to pay more taxes. No one gets rich without society because "No man is an island." The rich cannot always avoid the messy realities of life. What kind of a society do we want and how can we possibly have a decent society without facilities for the poorest of the poor?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sandra Bland and the curse of standing up for your rights.

It took seeing the first few minutes of the Sandra Bland ticket video for me to understand. The cop initiated a discussion about how she felt instead of simply issuing the traffic citation. Then he upped the ante by asking her to put her cigarette out. Then he simply bullied her. I don't think anything except complete humility on Ms. Bland's part could have protected her from this man. This kind of behavior can be expected more and more from the people in society who are elevated to "hero" status simply because they wear a uniform. In their minds they deserve not just obedience but also respect, not just respect but jovial politeness. Sandra Bland might have gotten away from her traffic stop if she had "yes sir" and "no-sired" the hell out of the man. Might. But her tone of voice could have become an issue, too. His attitude and her anger put them on a collision course right on the cutting edge of American racial politics.
I am reminded of a statement I read in an Eli Lilly worksheet on mental illness. According to the drug maker Lilly, "I know my rights and I will stand up for them" is a statement that indicates possible mental illness. I have already blogged about what a disgusting belief that is. It's anti-freedom; it's totalitarian, but, if you want to live on to fight another day it is an attitude you should control. Take your ticket, then go to court to fight it and make your statement there. Going one-on-one with cops is not the answer. Be polite. Then, if you must, be jovial and self-deprecating. It's wrong; it goes against your beliefs, yes. But that's how you get away to fight another day.
I've walked or driven away from police encounters with this jovial technique where I was detained and bullied for over 30 minutes, but then I'm white. The odds are with me from the start. I'm sorry to say it, but Sandra Bland would be alive today if she had "eaten crow." But then, Jim Crow is a bitter dish and poor Sandra Bland had had enough.