Shaidle Unchained

Where the Sidewalk Ends

February 23, 2016


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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