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Panhandlers Beware

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Evil Plan Afoot To Press American Youth To War?


By James Donahue

August 2005


The United States needs soldiers to fight the government’s ugly wars and gain control of dwindling oil deposits. Oil is a key component to keeping a capitalistic economic system like the one operating in the US running smoothly. Thus in the minds of our government leaders the control of the oil in the Middle East is vital to our national security.


The war has nothing to do with terrorism. In fact, it is really sparking terrorism that may soon be coming here to bite us.


But the American warmongers have a bit of a problem. Due to unexpected heavy resistance and the loss of lives and limbs of our troops, the political sentiment at home is turning against the campaign in Iraq. People are beginning to question the shallow spoken motives for our being there. They are beginning to realize that it is all over oil.


If the Bush Administration expects to stay in Iraq and possibly expand its assault on neighboring Iran, it is going to need a larger army. But there is a dilemma. During his campaign for re-election Mr. Bush promised that he would not reinstate the draft. That has proven to be a very unpopular subject. Also, army recruiting offices are no longer getting enough young men and women to enlist for service so the military has been drawing heavily on the reserve forces. The troops in the field are tired and they want to come home.


Thus a quandary.


There seems to be a plan afoot to resolve this problem in a most subtle and malicious way.


There is a growing force of unemployed young Americans, many of them now becoming homeless because they cannot find work and cannot afford to pay for housing. Many are still living with their parents.


All across America there has been a movement, mostly in the larger cities, to adopt anti-panhandling laws. In effect, the city councils are making it a crime to be homeless, in the street, and asking passersby for money to buy a meal.


I first noticed this phenomenon this week when I caught a story about the City of Atlanta approving a law making it illegal to panhandle. The penalty for breaking this law was a stiff fine, which anybody begging for money would certainly be unable to pay, or jail. And this seemed odd because jail would, in a sense, be a welcome solution to a homeless person. Time in jail would mean a warm place to sleep, a daily shower, three meals a day and in many states, free medical care.


Why would Atlanta want to pass such a law, I asked myself. So I did a little research.


A search of the net quickly revealed that Atlanta isn’t alone in adopting such an ordinance. Similar laws have recently gone into effect in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and San Francisco. I am sure most big cities in America either have laws against being homeless on the books, or are in the process of adopting them. Things like this usually spread like rumors through the grapevine once they get started. Someone, somewhere, got this thing started. The seed was planted. Did it come from Washington?


Most people elected to city councils can be easily persuaded to pass laws to control things that are unsightly or embarrassing to the city’s image. And lets face it, the large and rapidly growing number of homeless and begging people on the streets of America are clearly an embarrassment to the people with wealth and power; the kind of people that get elected to city council jobs.


I suppose the councils reason that if they pass a law making homelessness illegal, the problem will go away. Or at least, the homeless will move on to someone else’s city and no longer be a problem in that particular community.


But with every town in the nation passing panhandler laws, we suddenly have a backlog of homeless people in violation of the law. They can be arrested for going up to a stranger and asking for “a little change” for a meal.


The poor have always been out there. I remember during better times when the skid-row bums would hit you up for a quarter in hopes of getting enough money together by the end of a day to buy a cheap bottle of wine.


The winos may still be out there, but they are outnumbered now by the really needy people. Some are entire families living in their cars, or in cardboard boxes. Many even have menial jobs but can’t afford the cost of rent. Their numbers have grown expedientially since big corporations started outsourcing jobs overseas.


You can’t believe the government reports that say jobless numbers have fallen. These statistics are based on population estimates and the numbers drawing unemployment benefits. A lot of people have gone so long without work they have fallen off the unemployment count. They are drawing welfare or are eating in public soup kitchens if they get any help at all.


Consider how this kind of work environment looks to the youth of America. They are not stupid. They see that they have no future. Even if they find a job, there will be no insurance benefits and after working all of their lives, they have no hope of retirement benefits. Even Social Security seems to be threatened.


That critical time during and after high school is when the youth are anxious to get out on their own. It is common for them to move out of the nest and try their wings. Without good prospects for work they quickly run into trouble. And if they aren’t making a business out of selling drugs or prostitution, they are panhandling.


Whatever our young people are doing, they are destined to eventually clash with the police.


As already explained, the panhandling law isn’t going to be a threat for the old drifter that has lost all hope. He will see this as a good thing and probably find a way to quickly take advantage of it. If I am right, however, the police may be leaving him alone.


But there is a devious trap building out there for the drifting young man who has no job and isn’t getting any support at home. I believe this law is designed to force our wandering youth right into the military.


Think of it. A young boy has left home to find his way in the world, but he is soon down on his luck. He has no place to stay. He is in the street and hungry. Out of desperation he asks a stranger for help. Suddenly a police officer has him handcuffed and he is being booked for committing a crime. He has just panhandled without getting a license to do it. (That's right, some of the laws require a license to panhandle.)


The stigma attached to getting arrested to a young person with no life experience can be staggering. If he calls his parents for help, the whole family is suddenly caught up in a drama at the police station. Everybody is worried about the boy's future now that he has a police record. That is the way the system works. We are all brainwashed to believe it.


When the youth gets to court, the judge will give him an option. In my years of court reporting I have seen this happen even in times when the military wasn’t scrambling for manpower. The judge will tell him he can go to jail, or join the army and wipe his slate clean. He has a choice.


Judges think that youths who are first-time offenders can get their lives straightened out if they join the military and learn self discipline. 


What do you think this young man is going to choose?


In the old days, when the British Navy grabbed young boys on the street and tossed them into the brigs of ships until the vessels sailed, it was called the press. When Shanghai was a British colony, the snatching of men for service to the crown there was called being Shanghaied.


In effect, the panhandler laws appear to be a form of pressing our young men into military service. 


For the young, the solution to this is to choose jail time. From my vantage point, a few days in the clink is better than four years or longer of getting shot at or your feet blown out from under you. And face it, how can time in jail wreck a career today? Unless you have connections or come from a wealthy family, there are no careers for most young men and women. Nothing the courts do to you because you were homeless will make life any worse.


If enough “convicted panhandlers” take the jail option, they will overcrowd the jails. There won’t be room left for the marijuana smokers.


But then, if you agree that capturing control of oil is truly vital to national security, then join up and fight. Don’t bother panhandling at all. The army will fix you right up.

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