Shaidle Unchained

Where the Sidewalk Ends

February 23, 2016

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My Taki’s columns have now officially killed twice as many people as Ted Kennedy’s car.

Last April, it was Günter Grass, then last week, Harper Lee. I didn”€™t ask for this extraordinary gift, nor do I control it, otherwise I”€™d happily expand my deadly powers to reach beyond the confines of “€œelderly novelists.”€

For one thing, if everyone I wrote about promptly dropped dead, the “€œhomeless problem”€ would”€™ve been solved ages ago.

Blame those scare quotes on James Taranto. His WSJ Best of the Web column helped lure me rightward, and that’s where I first encountered the now-commonplace observation I”€™ll call Taranto’s Theorem:

That “€œhomeless”€ hysteria waxes and wanes depending upon whether or not a conservative or a liberal is currently the mayor, governor, or national leader of a particular city, state, or country. Not, of course, the number of actual homeless, although that’s what’s implied by the sheer volume of “€œspecial reports,”€ fund-raising drives, and public inquiries. 

I was still naive and impressionable enough to be saddened and angered by “€œhomelessness”€ when it was invented. I say “€œinvented”€ today, of course, but at the time I mostly swallowed received wisdom that stingy, heartless Ronald Reagan (and Canada’s Brian Mulroney) was somehow personally responsible for the outbreak of shabby, smelly gentlemen sleeping on the streets.

“€œIf everyone I wrote about promptly dropped dead, the “€˜homeless problem”€™ would”€™ve been solved ages ago.”€

While reporters railed in the realm of purported nonfiction, their showbiz counterparts undertook the Disneyfication of the homeless”€”The Fisher King, Stone Pillow, Samaritan, those Comic Relief specials”€”to sway any remaining citizens who might be blessedly oblivious to daily papers and the evening news.

Politicians and assorted do-gooders demanded more money to “€œdo something”€ about this allegedly metastasizing human mess.

And yet…

True, my own mother’s nickname for me was “€œMing the Merciless.”€ In my defense, that congenital callousness is inescapably coexistent with my chronic bullshit allergy. That’s why something about all this abrupt, encircling, suffocating hype”€”besides the homeless themselves”€”reeked indeed.

Along with Taranto, I”€™m indebted to columnist Mona Charen for substantiating the inklings of my intestines; the chapter “€œThe “€˜Grate”€™ Society: How Liberalism Created Homelessness”€ in her book Do-Gooders remains the finest explanation of exactly that sinister undertaking.

From the judges and politicians who struck down vagrancy laws to the crusading “€œcrazy is cool“€ celebrity shrinks; from Geraldo Rivera’s career-making Willowbrook exposé to the absurd fabrications of sick, self-aggrandizing “€œhomeless”€ advocate, secular saint, and real-life creep Mitch Snyder“€”it was liberals all the way down.

Blaming, of course, conservatives. And in many cases, making a nice living in the process. While, naturally, the homeless mostly stayed that way.

Liberals had been protesting this and that all my life”€”their whining and scolding were the white noise of my Vietnam-era childhood”€”but this “€œhomeless”€ cause was the very first time their theories, editorials, TV movies of the week, and calls to action and outrage were all being glaringly contradicted by my own lived experience.

I don”€™t just mean that the homeless I encountered every time I walked down Yonge Street weren”€™t anything like the gentle, lovable wise men in rags as advertised by the elites.

Now, you might put in at this juncture: “€œBut surely that’s not their fault.”€ Yeah, sometimes it is.

Because I”€™ve also met a lot of ex-homeless guys at AA meetings, including a few Main and Hastings refugees. They hadn”€™t been homeless because the Vancouver City Council was packed with miserly Tories or because there was a depression or a recession (in many case, there was neither). They were homeless because having a home”€”and a job and a wife and bills, living the “€œstraight”€ life”€”had been leeching precious time, money, and energy away from their addictions, not to mention their criminal enterprises and overall compulsion to be assholes, just cuz.

(And funny thing: None of these men were ever Asians or Jews, who presumably swam in the same economic and political ocean as all these white dudes. I know, right?)

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