Sunday, September 07, 2008

McCain for the homeless

There are days when I feel like I'm losing the struggle to keep myself from slipping away into abject cynicism. Today was one of those days.

I was in Long Beach visiting one of the subjects of my film. I don't want to say too much about the circumstances of my visit because I think there's a new surprise ending brewing, but suffice it to say that the building I was in was charging below-market rents thanks in large measure to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's section 8 rental voucher program.

It was a pretty nice building as such buildings go. In the past two years I have seen much, much worse. This building is walking distance from the beach (or at least from the touristy Long Beach waterfront -- there's not actually much of a beach there). It's 11 stories high. On the top floor is a common area with a library, a pool table, several computers, and a high-definition big-screen TV, on which I would be showing my movie if the elusive remote control for the DVD player could be located. (If I had my way, any manufacturer who makes a DVD player without an "ENTER" button on the front panel would be drawn and quartered.)

I was waiting around for someone to return from the front desk and I happened to overhear a snippet of conversation triggered by the news that a movie about homeless people was about to be shown. The speaker was clearly a resident of the building. He comported himself as someone intimately familiar with the hardships of homelessness, and I had no reason to doubt him. He started into a tirade that I have heard a time or twenty, about how horrible the homelessness problem is in this country, how somebody should do something, yada yada yada. And then he said this, word for word:

"Things will get better if McCain gets in. He's a true Christian."


I resisted the urge to ask the speaker if he thought George Bush was a "true Christian," and if that had helped make the situation any better over the last eight years. And then the urge just went away and was replaced by utter despair. Because I suddenly realized that it would do no good. However this man got to this place, to be off the street thanks only to a federal government program started by Franklin D. Roosevelt, a program that is the very model, according to Republicans, of all that is wrong with modern liberalism, and yet still believe that John McCain is the only savior for his brethren still out on the streets, I was convinced that there was nothing I could do or say in that moment that would change his mind.

And so I said nothing.

The remote was located. The screening was begun. Half way through someone came over and asked how much longer it would be going on. The Dodger game was about to begin.

I stopped the movie. I try not to lose sight of what really matters in life, and in this case it was clear: what really matters is baseball.

There are days when I feel like I'm losing the struggle to keep myself from slipping away into abject cynicism. Today was one of those days.

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