I usually enjoy being a bleeding-heart liberal. Showing concern for progressive issues makes me feel better about myself and expressing contempt for President Bush is downright fun. If I stand in front of the mirror and spew socially conscious affirmations at myself (“Yes Dave, you DO believe that the plight of the downtrodden is a real buzzkill”), I can walk out the door confident that I am an enlightened champion of all humankind.
Then I get panhandled.
If I were richer, I wouldn’t have to worry about people begging. I still wouldn’t give the bums any money, mostly because they would be nowhere to be found. I’d live in a neighborhood where a little police brutality goes a long way toward keeping the property values high. The only poor folks would be on the TV screen, half a world away, flashing cute toothless smiles as flies crawled around the corners of their mouths.
Instead, I approach the BART station at 24th and Mission where I am set upon by a surly alcoholic with psychiatric problems, a pant load, or both. The path of least resistance, and the one I invariably choose, is to avoid eye contact and pretend I don’t notice the scumbag shaking a paper cup at me with a few coins of primer change clanging around at the bottom.
This daily ritual makes me guilty not of only being a selfish bastard, but a cowardly one as well. If am so intent on hanging onto my money, I should least have the requisite pluck to say “Get a job, lumpen dude. Haven’t you read Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism? Neither have I, but I did take a peek at the Cliff Notes and so should you.”