I am reading a disturbing book. I do not usually pick
this type of reading material. My
general ‘go to’ books tend to those written by L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen and
Dorothy Canfield Fisher. You finish them smiling. On the non-fiction front, I recently
loved Moonwalking with Einstein,
which stimulated my thought processes. Disturbing books are not my favorite
Nonetheless, a dinner companion recommended Breakfast
at Sally’s, the story of a once successful businessman who ended up
homeless on the streets of Bremerton, WA. The Sally in the title is a nickname
for the Salvation Army, one of the many locations where he regularly ate.
Having not finished the book, I still don’t understand
why the author’s family and friends rejected him when he most needed them.
Whatever the reasons that propelled him to the street, he has used his talents
to paint a sad and desperate picture of a large and lost population. Although
he differs from most of his homeless companions in his lack of drug and alcohol
abuse, he does introduce the reader to many sympathetic characters.
Why is the book so depressing? Aside from being a window
into a world that is bleak and shows no signs of shrinking, for me the book is
a booming indictment of both the Democrat and Republican parties. Already
disheartened by the last election cycle –by both parties’ words and
actions—this book is exacerbating my feelings of hopelessness and reinforcing
my concerns that only a huge, and by definition disruptive and disturbing
upheaval, can reverse this country’s downward course.
What do I mean? Author Richard LeMieux and his fellow
homeless are understandably bitter when they see government money going towards
stadiums and fancy buildings, while they, many of whom saw active duty in our
nation’s military, have no shelter. A quote from a man known only as ‘C.’,
however, reveals why the Democrat Party’s lofty promises will get votes while
not solving any problems.
be so, so, so easy to fix poverty in this country. Just give each of those
people a hundred thousand dollars… That’s how much the IRS estimates is stashed
away in offshore accounts by American businesses to avoid taxes…”
C. is a homeless hero of the book. Gentle, giving, well
read and intelligent, he certainly refutes the image of the dangerous, violent
homeless male. Yet, his theme, which repeats throughout the book, that if only
the rich had less or if the government played Robin Hood, stealing from the
rich to give to the poor, everyone would be well fed and happy, is sadly
quixotic and untrue. Aside from numerous other flaws in that thinking, many people
would quickly run through a hundred thousand dollars and be no better off.
Having money does not automatically free people from addictions or keep them free
from others taking advantage of them; it does not feed souls and teach people to
use money wisely; it does not provide loving relationships and the self-respect
that working provides. As too many lottery winners have found out, getting money
handed to you is not a panacea.
Meanwhile the Republican Party, with its inability to
winningly articulate or take principled stands for what should be one its core
principles, that all human beings are created in the image of God, will
likewise bring no relief. Too many Republican “leaders” don’t actually believe
in the foundations of the Party or the greatness of the human soul. Despite the
fact that studies show that those with conservative politics proportionally
give more in both dollars and time to charity that those with liberal politics
do, that benevolence often seems disconnected from politician’s statements and
Frankly, both parties have too many entrenched
politicians who have lived too long in, and benefit too greatly from, the
corrupt bog that politics has become.Government programs and proposals will not, in my opinion, be the solution.
(End of Part One)