Wednesday, May 6, 2020
"The homeless" are not one thing. As someone who's worked hard for decades on precision in language -- something at which I often fail -- I will forever hate that an entire group of people are just one thing. We've all heard racial stereotypes that depend on that trope: Blacks are …; Mexicans are …; Jews are …; Muslims are …: Even people in those groups use that kind of group language on each other. Take me for instance. I am only technically homeless in the sense that I don't have a permanent address. I saved up a little money while living in the apartment at the newspaper -- where I believe "Mad Men" was filmed. I'm going to be paid a small severance from my company and then paid for unused vacation and time off. Then I can apply for unemployment. Dozens of folks -- many strangers -- have reached out with offers of free rooms so I can make my savings last. There are significant support systems in Bloomington, which I will begin using, again so I can extend the savings I have. But there is no one cure to homelessness because each story is an individual. Those of us who have that moniker applied to us are individuals and the reason we each have no one pillow on which we can lay our heads each evening have different stories and reasons and therefore solutions. By the way, I have a huge head and the need for a huge pillow -- we'll get back to that later in this piece. Every year, I re-read "Leaves of Grass" (the so-called death bed version as there were six publications) so I view groups of people in two ways as a lesson from Walt Whitman. You can call a lawn a lawn but as beautiful as it might be as one, but it's made up of millions of individual leaves of grass. So with terms like "the homeless" or "the media" or "Muslims." Nothing any individual has done defines the entire group. Imagine the couple leaves of grass that don't hold up to the beautiful lawn. They don't define the lawn. As for the big head -- how's that for a poor segue -- I talked with my most-awesome daughter a couple times today. She was nice enough to set up a GoFundMe account to help me: https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-homeless-editor. She at first was horrified I referred to myself as "homeless" but I explained to her that doesn't mean I'm squatting in the woods somewhere. We laughed today about some of the trolls who sent ugly messages to my blog. I noted that I've been an editor for a quarter century and a journalist going back to my high school days, where I received my first hate mail. The letter referred to my big head -- not egotistical but a nine hat size. Back then I was skinny and my head made me look like a cocktail meatball on a toothpick. I was a third-string receiver and had to get a special football helmet made for me. Now, I just look like the missing link -- the sausage link. (I deserve a nickel for that joke. ) When one lives the public life of a journalist, one becomes used to hate. (This is where I tie it together.) Regardless of whether I'm homeless or big-headed, no one gets to define me. I do that through my actions of loving others, treating everyone with dignity and respect and having a sense of humor about it all. The hate, however, has been drowned out by tremendous support and love. For that, I thank all of you.
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