Here’s a little story about what a weird town Bloomington is. In fact, we may take this to another level and count it as an indictment of liberals in generals. Loyal Pencillistas, natch, know I’m about as liberal as liberal gets. By that, I’m referring to the old 1960s definition of the term, not the newish-slash-retro def. that equates liberalism with the excesses of late-day American capitalism. I don’t know much about that; I leave it to economics majors, philosophy buffs, and other navel gazers to champion that particular usage.
When I say I’m liberal, it means:
- I stand four-square against the military-industrial complex (which, BTW, is the real, honest-to-gosh incarnation of today’s American economy, with Hollywood, fossil fuels, and the gun industry playing slightly smaller roles in the scheme of things);
- I long for the day when the wealth gap is dramatically narrowed. I believe billionaires are not to be revered but, instead, seen as they really are: ruthless, soulless, aggressive, likely borderline sociopathic acquisitors of more dough and things than they or their descendants will ever, ever, ever, ever need;
- We, the richest society in the history of the human species, should care for the weakest, least fortunate of our brethren and sisteren;
- Health care is a right and should be paid for by our tax dollars;
- Abortion, too, is a right;
- As are education, housing, food, water, and mobility;
- Gun ownership should be highly regulated, as called for in the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution;
- White America must make amends, proportionally, to black Americans and all people of color for the benefits of empire we enjoy, an empire built on their backs;
- Public schools, a free and vibrant press, literacy, scientific awareness, rational and critical thinking, and political engagement are the pillars upon which a thriving democracy stands;
- Rights and responsibilities are equally essential in a free society;
- We, both individuals and effective government regulators, must watch corporations like hawks;
- We must embrace The Other, all Others, and keep our doors open to the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse, the homeless, and the tempest-tossed, as Emma Lazarus so eloquently put it.
I’m sure there are more identifiers for What A Good Liberal Should Be but these dozen ought to do for now.
That all said, I realize even those who buy into these bullet points can be as dopey as many of the Republican, conservative, obsessive free marketeers who’ve somehow wormed their way into federal and state power around the country despite the general electorate being, according to a lot of polls, attuned to the liberal, progressive agenda. How that happened would take six volumes to explain, but it did.
Anyway, dopey liberals. We have ’em here in Bloomington in excess, as this tale will illustrate.
A business owner I know, a downtown retailer, found himself in a pickle the other day. A clearly deranged man stood outside the retailer’s establishment, verbally harassing passing women, threatening them with rape, going into excruciating details about what he’d do to them in the process of raping them, spitting, cursing, and otherwise scaring the crap out of pedestrians and shoppers.
The man might have been dangerous so, rather than confront him, the retailer called the cops, figuring they’d tell the man to take a hike at the very least.
Instead, the retailer was told by the police dispatcher that there was nothing the cops could do about the situation. Which, by the way, had gotten so bad that customers in the store had to be allowed to exit in the rear so as to avoid the threatening man.
The retailer couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Here was a clearly deranged soul causing a disturbance on the street, interfering with commerce and free access to the sidewalks, and actually vowing to visit violence upon the citizenry. Certainly something in the law covered that.
But no, the retailer, was told, the city’s and the police department’s hands were tied. As long as the man wasn’t actually whacking a woman on the head or grabbing her pussy or whatever sick misogynists wish to do, he was violating no laws.
Not even disturbing the peace? the retailer asked. Sorry, no.
The retailer told the dispatcher he didn’t believe it. So the dispatcher promised some functionary from city hall would call him to explain further. Twenty minutes later, the phone rang. It was the functionary who sang a tale of helplessness. The law says…, the functionary explained, our hands are tied, the city council, lawyers, the homeless situation, and so many other rationalizations for inaction that the phone call lasted a good 25 minutes.
To which the retailer commented, bullshit.
The city of Bloomington, indeed, has been grappling with the problem of homelessness, mainly by doing everything it can to make sure the homeless stay out of sight. And the shouting man in front of the store exhibited all the signs of being, himself, homeless.
College students and activist (read: liberals) have screamed bloody murder about the homeless in Bloomington for years now. The city has responded, when not coming up with ways to make the homeless invisible, by granting the homeless extraordinary leeway in their behavior on the streets. The college students and activists see this as a victory, albeit small, despite the fact that nothing, really, has been done to find the homeless homes, to get them health care, to remedy the mentally ill among them.
An aside: the other day I saw an obviously homeless man laying on the sidewalk, blocking the crosswalk at College and 1st streets. I called 911 to report a man being down. The dispatcher told me nothing could be done. I wasn’t surprised.
Anyway, the upshot to all the screaming bloody murder by college students and activists has been the homeless of Bloomington are now able to plop down in the middle of the sidewalk, unmolested by the authorities, or can promise female passersby the worst methods of sexual assault. Yet, the homeless remain without homes, health care, mental health treatment, dignity, security, and safety.
But the screaming bloody murder college students and activists have got the cops to leave them alone.