Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Note to Seeman's Critics

Jeff Seemann, Democratic candidate for Congress (Ohio, 16th Dist.) is doing something I think is quite remarkable period, much less for a would-be politician.

From his own diary of last Friday:

Most people do not understand the difficulties that our neediest Americans have each and every day. It's hard to fully comprehend issues until you've personally tackled them...and that's what I intend to do.


In two days, I'll be going homeless. I'll be out on the streets for 100 hours, learning the harsh lessons that countless people go through every day of their lives. I believe that this is the best way to represent people...by walking a mile in their shoes.

Starting this Sunday, I will spend 100 hours homeless in Stark County, Ohio. From Sunday afternoon until late Thursday evening, I'll disappear into the city. No cell phone, no hot shower in the morning, no evenings with my girlfriend, no money in my pocket, and no Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I believe I need to immerse myself into the life with no cheating. If I want to understand what homelessness is like (and how to confront it legislatively), I need to experience it for myself.

Every day, I will make one phone call so I can check in with one friend. That friend will post my experiences online, and I will personally post a recap at the end of the 100 hours.

I will NOT be notifying the local media of this experience until it is complete. I do not view this as a photo-op or a hot story, and I do not want any reporters looking for me while I'm trying to learn from experience. Also, this is no joke and I am not trying to gain anything from the plight of homelessness, except an understanding of what it takes to survive...

Evidently he's checking in by telephone (with change he manages to scrounge up off the street) with his friend Michelle, who's been relaying his experience on several blogs (dKos links here, here and here).

Generally, most of the comments from readers are supportive, and rightfully so. It's one thing to work on behalf of charitable organizations, but it's another thing altogether to actually walk in the shoes of those you wish to help, no matter how temporarily. His exercise is clearly one of perspective-broadening, with the intent of bringing that viewpoint to bear on his future work as a legislator.

The reason I mention it here, beyond simply bringing it to your attention, is to scold the (admittedly small) number of people that reply with any number of ridiculous comments -- that he's going this primarily as a fundraising exercise, that he's just trying to evoke sentiment from the bleeding-heart-liberal crowd, and that he can't possibly ever REALLY know what it's like to be homeless what with a finite cap on his tenure on the street.

The first two claims sound like dismissiveness run amok, and while the third may have some merit, I have to ask this: Could you imagine, say, Tom Delay getting out there and doing such a thing? How about Hillary Clinton? Bill Frist? Nancy Pelosi? Sam Brownback?

HA! Never. Never in a million years. Not if their very re-elections depended on it.

But just imagine if they did. Imagine that, in a parallel world, every member of Congress were required to do something like this before taking office. How much attention and effort do you then think they'd put into addressing the multitude of problems plaguing our social services? Do you think their detached apathy would last beyond the first night? Do you think any of them would have the nerve to suggest that people ever CHOOSE to be homeless? Do you think they'd be so eager to cut support program funding at every opportunity?

Back in the real world, where such Congressional passage rites don't happen, these critics need to pull their heads out of their asses for a minute and consider this:

You don't get to bitch, moan and whine about how out-of-touch politicians are, and then condemn their efforts to get IN touch. You don't get to piss all over an effort like Jeff's when you've been screaming incessantly about the chronic ambivalence of career politicians.

Get it?? You can't have it both ways, kids. Grow the fuck up and understand that, especially now, ANY candidate that shows an interest in walking his talk should be supported, praised and respected, without reservation. Period. Full stop.


Renee said...

Could this be the start of the tipping point Democratic so desperatly need?

Cantankerous Bitch said...

In keeping with the small ripples make big waves principle, I suppose anything's possible. Ultimately, I would hope that his example proves inspirational for other district candidates. After all, we don't end up with a Congress full of corrupt members because they were all made so only after taking their seats. If anything, Mr. Seemann, and those like him, just may show that good people can, indeed, get elected and affect positive change.