Copyright 1995 The Chronicle Publishing Co.
The San Francisco Chronicle
MAY 14, 1995, SUNDAY, SUNDAY EDITION
SECTION: EDITORIAL; Pg. 6; LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
LENGTH: 1356 words
HEADLINE: LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
BODY: WHY AMERICANS TOLERATE HOMELESSNESS
Editor -- According to Dennis Martel (Letters to the Editor, Sunday, May 7), the Matrix-Quality of Life Program ''is a program to enhance the quality of life for all people -- residents, visitors and homeless alike.''
What impeccable logic. How can any police action improve the quality of life for people who must eat, sleep and urinate in public?
The question is why Americans find the condition of homelessness acceptable. Is our definition of compassion and what it means to be citizens so degraded that we can honestly believe that we're doing people a favor by letting them sleep on the street?
Is the figure of only 2,582 citizens arrested in San Francisco since Matrix began provided as evidence of how good we are?
I think homelessness represents failure of both liberalism and conservatism.
There are no noble liberals and no evil conservatives. There are only misguided men and women, political opportunists who use the suffering of others and the rhetoric of social action to gain and keep power.
In a healthy democracy, all political perspectives have a function; the language of morality and virtue has meaning.
If Supervisor Alioto, Mayor Jordan and others who claim to care about the ''disenfranchised'' or ''moral compass of the nation'' were truly doing their jobs, we the people would be engaged in a real discussion about the human problem of homelessness -- we might even see its classist roots.
This would mean abandoning the politics of snobbery that has made so many people rich and has caused both political parties to lose credibility.
This would mean demanding and electing leaders who refuse to nitpick over numbers, leaders who refuse to let us forget the cost of freedom and the meaning of community.
Editor -- I recently heard Angela Alioto speak on a local talk radio program, on which she lambasted Mayor Jordan's Matrix program. From what she said, one would gather that she is strongly opposed to the removal of people who sleep on the streets and the alleged violation of their civil rights.
I work as a property manager in San Francisco's Tenderloin district, and therefore can attest to the fact that people sleeping in doorways and on sidewalks has a detrimental effect on business, not to mention the people who live and work there. Everybody feels for people who, by misfortune or happenstance, are forced to sleep in the street. However, if we stand idly by and allow people to plop down to sleep wherever they want, then we as business people must also accept the possibility of joining the ranks of the homeless due to lack of business.
Editor -- Over the years that I've been reading Arthur Hoppe's column, I've enjoyed his good humor and, when he discusses serious matters, his good sense. I was, therefore, appalled by his Sunday column (April 30) in which he states that the criterion for a good war ''is one you win.'' Hoppe says he enlisted at 17 because he was bored with high school and all the young men he admired were in uniform. Moreover, he says during his three years in the Navy in World War II he never heard ''a fellow serviceman saying he was fighting for freedom or democracy.'' He clearly doesn't seem to have had any idea of the issues of World War II.
I spent almost 5 1/2 years in the U.S. Army during World War II (entering well before Pearl Harbor), and was in campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and France. Perhaps I was more sophisticated than Hoppe, since I had finished college and a year of graduate school before service, but I knew for what we were fighting. It was for my life and the lives of my family. Had Hitler won, I would not be alive to write this letter. Now, Hoppe (as a white Protestant) might have escaped annihilation, but has he ever considered what the world would have been with Germany and Japan victorious?
The British, free French and Polish troops I encountered in the Mediterranean theater knew what they were fighting for. Only Americans needed education programs to make them aware of the issues. Nothing has changed. Most Americans know little about the issues of our times, while most Europeans are far better informed and concerned.
Editor -- Since when does having a bad hair day achieve the status of racial alienation? In ''Family of Colors'' (Sunday, May 7), two black females relate their feelings about their hair when they were teenagers. This is less than thrilling. As a child of a multiracial family I had my share of bad hair days. I have felt alienated, rejected, picked on, abused and ostracized. I hold strong views about racially mixed families.
I think racially mixed families are a good thing. Racial discrimination is a real experience. It exists even if, like Amy Allen and myself, distinctions are not clear until after puberty. Early childhood educators tell us that we get our feelings for the world and our ability to deal with it very early on in childhood. It makes sense to give our children an en vironment that is loving and secure from early childhood. We must give our children a strong base so they become strong people. Children in desperate need should not be ignored. It is not a question of a white family or a nonwhite family for children of color. It is a question of being part of a family.
Editor -- In the past my science class dissected frogs, fish, star fish, etc. Well, I didn't do it but people afraid to stick up for their rights did. I didn't do it not because I think it's gross or anything but because I think it's an inhumane act. Animals shouldn't have to die. There is nothing in dissecting that we couldn't learn from videos or plastic models. I tried to get people to see my way, but most of the people wanted to dissect. Not for an educational purpose, though. They thought it was cool and fun. But they didn't even find any of the organs they were supposed to. They just tore it apart and copied all the answers off the person next to them. That's not fair to God's creatures. If anyone out there agrees with me, please show your support and call all the junior high and high schools in your area and complain.
HEART OF LEAD
Editor -- So San Francisco is holding a $ 125-per-plate dinner to raise funds for Gerry Adams and the IRA. From this grotesque news can we expect the Unabomber to be selected as the grand marshal of the next street parade or those wonderful people who gave you the Beirut Marine compound explosion to be given the keys to the city? In a politically correct world in which all points of view are accounted to have equal validity, it would be most provident to at least consider the method by which the message is delivered. One can only hope that the ghosts of all those innocents who were the victims of bombers, no matter what nation, creed or persuasion, will congregate at this obscene dinner and, like specters at the feast, choke the very food in the throats of all those ignorant and indifferent persons who come to listen and applaud. What happened in Oklahoma City was a tragedy that has been repeated over and over, for years and years, by the politically motivated assassins of Europe and the Middle East. But even after Oklahoma there are still people too thick to see the point.
It has been said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of ultimate evil is for good men to do nothing. I wonder how much faster it goes when they actively participate. San Francisco has been portrayed as a questionable hussy with a heart of gold. Today her virtue is no longer questionable and the heart has been found to be made of lead.
TRY MUNI NEXT
Editor -- Well and good to see our mayor riding a bicycle to work. Now let's get him and the Board of Supervisors on Muni.