I have lived in my Los Angeles neighborhood for 12 years, far longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else. Obviously, I love it.
Yes, I know—according to right-wing suburbanites, there is no greater hell than California, where you can’t go a day without being carjacked by crackheads, shot by MS-13 gang members, and swallowed whole by an earthquake. Worse of all, our gas is six dollars per gallon.
The conservative obsession with California is disconcerting. To them, our every problem is irrefutable evidence of liberal disaster, while our successes are random flukes not worth addressing. Fox News just can’t shut up about how horrible we are, and here in the Golden State we want to say, “Dude, you need to move on. You’re just embarrassing yourself.”
Instead of conservatives frothing at the mouth about the largest blue state, you would think they would focus on how great life is in the red states… OK, maybe there’s a reason they don’t talk about that.
In any case, there is one undeniable problem here in Los Angeles, and it is not right-wing hyperbole. You see, our homeless population is vast. Like every urban area, we’ve always had street people, but the rise of tent cities is a fairly new phenomenon.
Recently, more homeless people have appeared in my neighborhood. Last month, a disheveled woman sat on the front steps of my apartment and babbled away to herself. I came outside and asked if she was OK. She didn’t answer me, and rushed away.
The same woman appeared again last week, materializing once more on my front steps. This time, when I asked if she needed help, she snapped at me, issuing a list of lamentations and accusations that made no sense. Her diatribe ended with the assertion that she could sit wherever she wanted, because God had given everything to her.
“I own these steps, and this house, and this city,” she said. “I own all of it because God said so.”
Now, I’m pretty sure that God did not co-sign my lease, and at the very least, the guy has not been chipping in on the rent. So I have to dispute her claim.
What was my next move?
As a good progressive, perhaps I should have extended sympathy. Maybe I should have offered her food, clothing, and a stay on my couch.
But no, I didn’t do that. You see, I have a nine-year-old son who was already a little freaked out at the mumbling lady on our steps. Inviting her inside had all the makings of a horrific ’90s sitcom but with the potential for a real-world shitshow. I wasn’t putting my family in jeopardy.
So I called social services, who informed me that it was a police matter. Sure, many industrialized nations have seen great results from dispatching social workers rather than cops to handle situations like this. But here in America, that commie idea sounds suspiciously like “defund the police.” As such, unless I wanted to drag the woman away myself, or let her live on my front steps with God, I had to call the cops.
I told the police that she wasn’t violent, but I was still concerned that they would come in with billy clubs raised and guns blazing. I figured that, because she was a white woman, it wouldn’t escalate. Honestly, if it were a homeless Black man, the moral calculus would have been much harder, because I would be seriously concerned that I was sending someone to his death.
Instead, the cops drove by an hour or so later, and the woman got up and left before the squad car even slowed down. Crisis resolved.
The woman has not returned, and while I hope that she can somehow get the help she needs, I am relieved that she has not come knocking on my door, demanding to be let in because God told her that our TV and Nintendo Switch actually belong to her.
In no way do I believe that I did the right thing. However, neither do I second-guess that, under the circumstances, it was the correct call. I would call the cops again, no question.
But it is undeniably sad that I did not help someone who is a victim of our cutthroat culture. Instead, I sicced the authorities on her.
For conservatives, there are few tests of their faith. If they see their fellow Americans suffering, it’s part of their philosophy to ignore it—or even relish it. When your mindset is “every man for himself” and “fuck the weirdoes,” it’s fairly easy to go about your life.
Furthermore, when conservatives do encounter a contradiction in their approach, it is surprisingly easy for them to justify it. This is why the party of limited government that hates cancel culture is happy to use state power to crush any dissent.
But for progressives, there is always a complication, a messy grey area, a pragmatic tradeoff between the word we’re trying to build and the country as it exists. And there will be times when we simply cannot merge the two.
Featured image by Franco Folini/CC BY-SA 2.0