First of all, I know that there's at least one more post I must publish in my "Why I Am Not a Trinitarian" series, but something is really bugging me, and I've got to get this off my chest:
Sometimes, some of my fellow liberals make me sick.
Case in point: The almost draconian measures that have had to be taken to address the problems caused by the loiterers in Los Angeles Union Station. I try to consider all sides of all issues, and to understand where people who disagree with me are coming from, but I sometimes find it really difficult to do that.
I have been a volunteer in the Information Booth inside the station for almost 20 years. Until the Travelers' Aid Society left Los Angeles almost two years ago, we were TA Volunteers, giving tourist and transit information and, when necessary, referring people to TAS social workers for needed assistance (I, personally, was a TA Volunteeer from the time I was 16 years old --- a loooong time ago). Since the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors' Bureau took over the info booth shortly after the demise of TASLA, I've been volunteering for that agency --- still dispensing tourist and transit information.
A few months ago, shortly after the Metropolitan Transit Authority bought Union Station, a really strange group of people started settling in and taking over the Union Station waiting room. SInce the property is now publicly owned, they argued, they have a right to be on the premises and to do whatever they want, since they are part of The Public.
It got bad. Really bad. People whose personal hygiene (or lack thereof) was absolutely awful started camping out all over the place; some would stretch themselves and their sleeping bags and other property across several seats, and in effect, move in. They'd crash out and sleep on the tables of the wonderful, high-end Traxx restaurant after hours. All during the day, some would pick bugs off themselves or boogers out of their noses and drop them onto the chairs next to them. One Saturday morning, I saw --- with my own eyes! --- a guy CRAP in one of the chairs, and as Security escorted him outside, he dribbled all along the floor (while he grinned like a Cheshire cat), and finished his "business" out on the sidewalk in front of the station. There was fighting. And regular threats --- to travelers, to each other, and to us volunteers. It really got worse than most Greyhound bus stations --- even worse than the truly horrific downtown L.A. Greyhound station!
So, when security officers tried to address those problems and to deal with the misbehaving people as individuals, what happened? They got stopped in their tracks. It's a publicly-owned building, insisted many of my fellow liberals, so those people had a legal right to do whatever they wanted to do in it.
Caca de toro, or however you spell it! What about the rights of the rest of us --- and of those travelers paying very good money to use that space in peace? Courthouses and post offices are also publicly-owned buildings; could the offending folks do in those places what so many of my fellow liberals have insisted they have the right to do in Union Station? Can they do it at an airport? Or even at the Greyhound Station downtown or in Hollywood? A Greyhound Station, for God's sake! It's really bad when a train terminal looks worse than a bus station!
But they're making it illegal to be poor and homeless, my fellow liberals say. B.S. (sorry, but I'm getting uncomfortably closer to using the English translation of the Spanish term I used and misspelled earlier, but I'm steamed)! For years, Security and I saw many people in those chairs who were not traveling, and we all knew it. There were even some who discreetly asked for help --- but did NOT aggressively panhandle. None of those people were usually harassed. A distinction was made between their condition (which many may not have been able to help) and antisocial behavior (which usually can be helped). But now, at the insistence of several liberal individuals and organizations (I could name some in both categories), all the poor and homeless have been lumped together as being the same --- and they're not.
I am very aware that our society is failing those who are mentally ill, and that much more needs to be done for them --- but that's a matter to be dealt with in another post, not here.
But they don't have anywhere else that they can sit and rest, some will say. I say: First, yes there are other places, even if those other places might not be ideal; secondly, they were going someplace before Metro bought Union Station; thirdly, I don't understand why you seem to think that all of the poor and homeless engage in the behaviors that I condemn so strongly, instead of seeing that most of the poor and homeless are as much victims of this antisocial behavior as the "middle-class" and "rich" you seem so to despise; and finally, if you feel so strongly that they need somewhere to go and act out, but have nowhere else to go, why don't you invite them into your neighborhood or, better, into your home?
I'm sorry for this rant, but I get very sick and tired of all the ills of society, on all levels, being thrown at the feet of those who may happen to be more conservative than we are on some issues. Sometimes, in our naivete, we don't realize that our liberal "solutions" may just be making the problems worse.
In the case of Union Station, yes --- there needs to be some provision for those who are awaiting the arrival of travelers; maybe some who just want to rest in and soak up the atmosphere of a beautiful, historic space. I'm glad I'm not the one who has to make arrangements for that; as surely as I'm old and ugly, as soon as exceptions to the strictly-enforced "No Loitering" rule are made, then everybody who wants to just sit around (or, act up in) the place will be "waiting for my friend to come in." I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that I --- and just about everybody else I know who spends time in Union Station --- support the measures that have been taken to address this horrendous problem.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Everything that I've said above is the opinion of me as an individual, and is not meant in any way to suggest the position of any agency or business entity mentioned. I am NOT a representative of any of those agencies or entities, and have only expressed my PERSONAL opinions.