Monday, September 8, 2014

Morally Corrupt Ordinace To Criminalize Charitable Folks

There comes a time when something so ridiculous comes to light and you wonder what are the real motives behind such horrible proposals. Well, the award for most infringement on civil liberties and basic human morality this year goes to San Antonio Police Department's Chief William McManus. His proposal before City Council will criminalize the giving of money to panhandlers. The "logic" behind it is to dissuade people (regardless of circumstance) from begging for money on the streets and public areas. He generalizes by saying that this money is being spent on drugs and alcohol. Apparently, he hasn't spoken to any of these people before because if he had, he'd hear stories as varied as there are dire circumstances plaguing our city's poor.

In the year and a half that I've been back in one of the friendliest cities in the nation, I've listened to stories of people in need begging for money on the street corner. Just here in my neighborhood at the big intersections of Military and Zarzamora, and Military and I35 you see a variety of needy people. The most heart-breaking is the families who are in need of covering medical costs and funerals. They hold up poster board signs with photos. Mothers, brothers, sisters, children all gathered near their pickup trucks at the Walgreens directing family members to stand on either of the street medians.

I walked into a chain restaurant to watch an elderly woman count her change and order a senior coffee then realizing that she didn't have enough for a burger. She didn't ask but I offered to pay for her meal. She told me she didn't like to beg because people assume she's going to use it for drugs. "Yo deje de hacer drogas hace mucho tiempo. Ahora solo vengo por un cafe y algo para comer," she said. Perhaps she made bad decisions in life but that doesn't mean we should continue to punish her and avoid her like the plague because the SAPD gestapo is watching citizens like a hawk to see what we do with the five dollar bill in our hands. The city will be like a spoiled child asking to be paid 100 times over in the form of a fine because I decided to give a needy person money. We're not handing out $100 bills here. We're talking pocket change, but the city wants to criminalize us and charge us a steep fine. If I wanted to donate money to the city I would but it will happen when I say so, not when it enacts an ordinance that violates my rights as a decent human being. Where is the morality in this? There is none. It's business and it's ugly.

One night my friend was waiting for me out near a local business when a man approached him telling him how he found a job in the city but not before he ran out of money for a cheap motel room for the night. Mother and little kids were sitting inside the car filled with their belongings unsure of where they were going to sleep that evening. My friend gave him enough to make the man crack a smile and bless him many times over. Did my friend think that money was going to drugs and alcohol? Of course not. Then there's the military veteran that can't bend his knees when he walks. He's young enough but you know that he's not all there mentally. You can only imagine what he has been through to get to this point. I haven't given him any money because he is a bit intimidating in his camouflage but I believe he has a right to stand there on that street corner and show us his battle scars. We may not want to see it. Could that be the reason for the ordinance? Make them all go away because they shed light on where we have failed them as a society?  It's already a crime to panhandle if you can believe that.

Just the other day, an elderly man approached me at the gas station. He walked with a limp and showed me the few coins he had in his hand. He wanted to buy a taco. At first I said I didn't have any change and he left. When I was done pumping gas, I felt something inside me that said I needed to help him. He was elderly and we in this country, don't treat our elders with the respect they deserve. I'm sure it was difficult for him to approach me, a younger lady, to ask for money. He probably grew up in a time when men where the bread winners and women stayed home raising children. Times have changed and I didn't want him to feel any worse than he probably already did. I tracked him down and gave him some money. The smile on his face, his apologetic acceptance of it, and amount of blessings he showered me with made me feel incredible. There's a wonderful sense of respect and divinity in this one exchange. It's special. The saying is true, it is better to give than to receive. I just don't need the government overstepping it's bounds and chastising actions that are born from my heart and consciousness. If this ordinance passes, we are headed down a dark and evil road. San Antonio, with it's spiritual, generous people and great amount of need won't stand for that chief.

Sign the petition here!