I wonder when people make rash, complete, and unmovable judgements about others to whom they’ve never spoken nor listened… I could have finished that sentence and told you exactly what it is I wonder, but quite frankly, I just wonder. I’m confused by the overwhelmingly accepted and fully believed poor is stupid mentality; that drug use and poor choices beget all homelessness. Simply befuddled.
I saw this cartoon about a month ago on Facebook. I thought it was a simultaneously brilliant and grim reflection of our country, not just for the simple fact that 30%-45% of the US homeless are veterans (depending on who you ask), but also because it’s a damn accurate reflection of the hypocrisy lived daily by some Americans.
Nearly this exact scene happened to me yesterday at the Occupy Portland site, and the irony nearly floored me. You see, if you didn’t know, I spent eight years, five months, and twenty-nine days in this country’s armed forces. I was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant after two combat tours: one in each sandbox. The latter being Afghanistan, leaving me wounded after my truck was directly hit by a 200 lb roadside bomb. I now live in my car, and officially have no health insurance, renters insurance, nor job.
Don’t mistake my stating these facts as a cry for help or even a muffled complaint. I was a cryptologic Chinese and Korean linguist with a TS/SCI clearance. I worked hand in hand with the NSA, FBI, and CIA, and hated my job with every ounce of my soul. There was nothing satisfying in setting up targets to be murdered.
I am homeless and unemployed by choice, not circumstance…but that’s just because I have taken my life into my own hands and made that decision. I refuse to work for the Department of Defense in a similar occupation, being paid an easy six figure salary of blood money in return for my soul and happiness.
So there I was, knee deep in protesters at Occupy Portland, and two young, well groomed gentlemen leaned out of their shiny white BMW and with hate in their eyes, met mine, and screamed, spittle flying as they formed the angry words, “HEY LOSER! WHY DON’T YOU GET A FUCKING JOB!!!”
I was so startled by the fact, that I didn’t even have a chance to be offended before I found my eyes closed towards the heavens, my face wet with falling rain, and my body spasming in ironic laughter and disbelief. You know, the kind of laughter not brought from mirth that’s generally accompanied by an involuntary shaking of the noggin. Suddenly the sad human condition made sense. They carried such hate for me for being part of a movement in which they believed not, and knowing nothing of my abilities, service, nor personality, took what they heard someone once say, labelled me, and felt proud of their stand on the issue as they cackled their way down the busy street.
I looked after their vehicle as it faded into the distance, another identical hunk of metal in a throng of drones heading home or to some bar, and sighed. I felt no anger towards them, no pity, no disgust, no sadness. They have a right to hate me, because of a label they attached to me.
It IS a “free” country, right?
I decided to make a sign, and return to the movement today. On one side it will say, “I am an unemployed 8.5 year wounded OIF/OEF veteran, I have blue hair and speak four languages.” On the other, “Did you know that before you judged blindly! Make more eye contact!”
I wrote this today to share with you a teachable moment. Don’t look at crazy blue hair, silver earrings that say peace, dirty pants, or a lack of disposable income, and assume anything. Speak, learn, listen. MAKE MORE EYE CONTACT, IT BUILDS LOVE.
There are no laws against love, compassion, consideration, smiling, sharing, and understanding.