By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
There’s a restaurant reality show called Say It to My Face.
In each episode, restaurants and their most vocal online critics meet face-to-face, for the first time, to air grievances.
I was reminded of this when reading a story recently about a cyclist who claimed the homeless were harassing her on a bike trail.
While the alleged harassment was totally inappropriate, so were some of the comments by a few people who were full of “digital courage.”
Shockingly, one person commented (sic), “ … Bring your gun when cycling through there. When the homeless mfers pop out at you, blow their f ing heads off.”
Haven’t we had enough violence against the homeless in Albuquerque? Think back to the horrific killings in July 2014 of two homeless men in Albuquerque by three teenagers.
Would this individual come out from behind the anonymity of a computer keyboard and actually tell that to a homeless person? Worse still, would he actually do what he suggested?
Admittedly, some one did comment right after that, “You’re the poster child for the left’s argument to increase gun restrictions. As someone who believes in our legal right to carry, please (shut up).”
Another reader had a good but troubling point when she said that while the person was an obvious “fool, even even stupid comments sometimes have a kernel of truth in them.”
She said there’s a good chance of violent conflict on the trail referred to in the story “if the police and the City Council continue to ignore the issue.”
Another person writing under a pseudonym said, “I hate homeless people. They are lazy, drug addicts, and drunks. They plague society and expect your hard earned money. Round them up and dispatch them all.”
This same individual continued on a rant, calling the homeless “All junkie scum, “ adding “I work and do not give free handouts to druggies or liberals.”
Another individual suggested rounding these individuals up and “dropping them off at the county line.” What then?
There were also a number of ridiculous comments from the other side of the political spectrum,, like the ones that asked with so many unoccupied homes, why there’s any homelessness at all.
I had one of our staff ask a few of our guests at Joy Junction what they thought about the views expressed.
One guy said that not all homeless people are in that situation because of laziness, nor are they homeless because of drug use. Some have been put on the street because of family issues, financial issues, or other issues.
He added, “I have children who are in this situation with us and I can say that they are very hard workers in school. I’ve seen them work harder than some adults who have everything they need.”
A female guest commented that while the actions of some of the homeless can be problematic at times, it’s not right to judge all the homeless by the actions of just a few.
She continued, “I feel bad that some people get harassed. They don’t deserve it. But, when someone says to blow their heads off, that’s just evil. I couldn’t believe that someone would say that about people that they don’t know. I know that some people are cruel, but they shouldn’t tell others to kill the homeless.”
However, this seemed to say it all. One woman said that while she understands both sides,
homeless people are human beings who should be shown the same compassion as others who have jobs and homes.
She asked rhetorically, “What does a homeless person look like?”
The woman continued, “It could be your co-worker who comes dressed in a suit to work, or a fellow church goer who you worship with. You cannot judge a book by its cover. Many people who are homeless are educated veterans who served this country and those who have been hit by hard economic times.”
She added, “ Before you judge and decide you want to get rid of the homeless-you may be deciding to get rid of a co-worker, fellow worshipper, and a family member. You never know you may find yourself in a homeless situation. I am an educated, single female who has never thought in a million years would be homeless. I look just like you, so if you found out I was homeless would you shoot me?”
In addition to the antagonism expressed to the homeless, and the frustration expressed by everyone involved, I was shocked and saddened by the lack of civility in the thread.
I guess it is a sad fact of life that our culture has degenerated to this low level of social discourse. Is this what we’ve come to here in Albuquerque? We can do better than the abundance of juvenile name calling, and suggesting in a public forum that we shoot the homeless and transport them to the county line.
For those of you who would like to help lessen or solve the problem by a civilized dialogue as opposed to threats and fourth grade name calling, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And for the guy with all the digital courage who suggests blowing away the homeless, I’ll meet with you-but only with a law enforcement officer present!