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Dear friends,

Occupy Washington. The people in those tents. Night pitch-black; it's pouring, cold dank. It's very hard.

Ray Kachel in Zucotti Park: A New Yorker article put a real face, showed the humanity we all share with the people in these encampments.

Towards the end of Austen's Mansfield Park, Fanny Price changes the place she means by the word home. When she was growing up at Mansfield and talked of the Prices (her mother and father, sisters and brothers) in Portsmouth, she thought of them as home; now she is living with them, and longs to be back in Mansfield, she finds herself calling MP home.

A while back, a friend on facebook and wompo, Diane Kendig wrote of returning to Ohio, as her home, after many years of living in Massachusetts: Home again  Some good talk ensued and one friend said: " Don't think I could go home again. I escaped and do not want to go back. Distant memories ... Some were good, but too many things I could not fix ... I made a new place ... Turned my face away on purpose. Since I sold my moms house in 1998 I have only driven past once. And it did not feel good. Would rather close the door and pick the memories to hold. The others I have released like a handful of butterflies.

To which I replied:

I have no home to return to. NYC meant a lot as a place but I grew to love it only after I married my present husband, and the one home I've had that has been my home is with the same person and we have nested in this house in Alexandria, Va for nearly 30 years now. This place which we've made so comfortable for us, surrounded ourselves with beloved objects (mostly books but not all), many memories of times and things done and feelings experienced all over the house and garden.

And then last night I thought about the Occupy Washington people at K and 17th in DC. The night was pitch-black, it was pouring, cold, dank, dreary.
Every year when the cold comes, I think of the homeless and am aware that there but for Lady Luck ... and so on. They really don't want to just sit or sleep there. So they demonstrated and blocked K street. 60 were arrested. They are up against an obdurate ruthless oligarchy with military to back them up. The photos showed soaked people taken away.

I'm reminded me that once I grew older and left the Southeast Bronx (where I grew up), I didn't see homeless people until the early 1980s. And how quickly homelessness emerged once Reagan got into office. He ended all federal money for building affordable housing -- of which Carter did a beautiful middle class style one in our area, today a very nice place to live. Not tall blocks but garden style apartments. Occupy reminds everyone forcibly for I assume my thoughts might not be typical. So this evening I'm thinking of how we use home emotionally, metaphorically (as a good place we feel is our life, we belong in and it belongs to us) but homelessness we use literally as in without a house to sleep in, no roof over your head (in Italian the literal word is rooflessness i senza tetto).  Unhomey is uncomfortable, maybe uncanny.

On another section of our homeless populations in the US and UK, see Asylum by Payne and Sacks. the article by Scull on this book in the TLS has been scanned in by a decent person.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 9th, 2011 12:11 pm (UTC)
for reminding us
The New Yorker has a great article this week with profiles of two of the NY occupiers. Anyone who says these people don't stand for anything need to go stand with them for a day. Thanks for reminding us, Ellen. Diane K.
Dec. 9th, 2011 12:13 pm (UTC)
Sometimes it's hard to stand up for what you believe. I personally dislike discomfort. My protest of the Iraq war consisted of passing petitions and going to a staging of Lysistrata.

I replied:

Ah yes and Jill I fear violence. I loathe those cops on principle but for me it's also the whole thing would bring out my nervous distress. I would not do well. I might want to be brave but I'd break down. Flight is a deep impulse with me.


"My mother detested Reagan because he in large part caused the current homeless problem with his wholesale closing down of mental institutions (remember, my mother was a nurse in one). It is common knowledge that a large portion of the homeless population is the mentally ill that once would have at least been housed. Now the mentally ill suffer a revolving door where they are taken to an emergency room for outrageously disruptive behavior, medicated, and put back out on the street. Sometimes they rate an overnight stay, maybe two, but the revolving door turns again and back on the street they go.

The mantra of the time was, "It will be so much better for them to go into halfway houses where they can receive more individualized care and be integrated into society..." but there was no money provided for these idealized halfway houses, and no money for medication."
Dec. 9th, 2011 12:14 pm (UTC)
The mentally ill & distressed
Do read the TLS article on the book which has a preface by Sacks defending the old asylums. At least these people were not starving, homeless, beat up continually, knifed, raped. What happens now is they also die quickly -- reminding me of Swift's sarcasms in A Modern Proposal: eat the babies and help the aged to die as quickly as "reasonably expected."


Edited at 2011-12-09 01:41 pm (UTC)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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