The staggering logic of the Dnews' panhandling editorial | Buzz Blog

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The staggering logic of the Dnews' panhandling editorial

Posted By on October 14, 2010, 2:03 PM

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“When it comes to panhandling, the line that separates free speech from robbery is fine” according to the Dnews editorial. And then my head explodes.---

Really Dnews? I mean, really? I think it’s hard to say there’s a fine line between robbery and anything. Robbery is straight robbery isn’t it? As in someone sticks a gun or a knife in your face and yells “stick em up!” That’s robbery. Or the would-be robber at least elaborates on how they’ll stomp you into jelly if you don’t hand over the wallet—that’s robbery.

It’s kind of hard to see how a smelly guy asking for change is attempted robbery. But then again perhaps now that the Church has complete control over the Dnews they allow their columnists to use the church leaders’ secret catacomb of tunnels underneath the city streets to more easily traverse downtown, thus completely bypassing the city’s panhandlers. The anonymous Dnews staffer elaborates on how this could ever be compared to robbery.

“It's the difference between saying, "Could you give me some money?" and saying, "Give me your money!" But it's also more than that. It's the difference in how the person being solicited feels. Even if the words a panhandler uses are benign, other factors may combine to make a person feel uncomfortable or intimidated.”

Interesting… So to parse this out, the staffer here blurs together two widely different scenarios. One where a panhandler ostensibly yells “Give me some money!” clearly a threat and clearly something that will already get a panhandler arrested under current laws, and an example of someone politely soliciting for money. And then the writer segues into how it’s not just how the panhandler makes the request but a “combination of other factors” and how they affect the person being solicited.

So we get to the heart of this argument. It doesn’t matter if a panhandler politely asks for change or even just holds a sign and doesn’t say anything--so long as they make somebody uncomfortable or intimidated, then according to the editorial the panhandler could be on par with a mugger.

So now what we’re talking about is policing comfort. And to be clear—not everyone’s comfort--but the comfort of people who shop downtown. People who are so incredibly passive-aggressive that instead of saying “No, can’t help you” to a panhandler they instead feel like they’re being robbed at gunpoint and have to either awkwardly speed- walk away in terror, or begrudgingly hand over some cash. Money they earned damnit! And now these smelly socialists are using their cardboard signs to steal it away from them!

To the editorial’s credit they also speak well of the ideas of job creation programs and other possible remedies but only after a strong enforcement measure. Which apparently the city’s proposed ordinance is supposed to accomplish…

More clarity from the editorial comes when the author writes “the answer to the problem of aggressive panhandling lies in enforcement.” Skip down a bit and the author speaks of the ordinance’s proposed 10-foot-barrier to keep panhandlers away from people at ATM’s, train stations and lines for events, to which the author writes: “A 10-foot barrier may be hard to estimate, let alone enforce, but this would give police an important enforcement tool in situations that clearly makes visitors and other people uncomfortable.”

Hmm an “enforcement tool” you can’t really use effectively? Makes perfect sense to me.

Let’s face it--this is about people who “have not” that make other people who “have” uncomfortable and forcing people who are elected by the “haves” to police the “have-nots” better. Frankly, that’s what makes me uncomfortable.

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