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Well here’s something that doesn’t happen in my little corner of the world every day: A corpse was found in the woods just behind our house by a neighbor out walking his dog the other evening.   From the local papers and the email traffic bouncing around the neighborhood, apparently the guy was found in an old tent surrounded by beer cans and had been dead a couple weeks.  Of course, people had seen the tent before, but apparently everyone just assumed it had been put up by kids to play in.   Needless to say, the long dormant neighborhood watch committee is suddenly springing back into hawk-like vigilence.

Poor fellah.  I don’t know anything about him except that the police are calling him “homeless” and think there was no foul play involved.  I expect he just wandered in (Lord knows from where – there isn’t any kind of public transportation line within three or four miles of us), hunkered down and keeled over.  What an awful end.

I hate that euphemism “homeless,” by the way.  It carries (deliberately, in my view), connotations of Snidely Whiplash and the little guys who can’t pay the rent, people chewed up and spit out by this heartless “civilization” of ours and by golly, it’s your fault, too, Mr & Mrs. Bourgeoisie!! 

While there certainly is some of that, my experience has been that most of the people out wandering the streets – and, I expect, this fellah – are what in the old days used to be called lunatics, people who simply do not have the mental capacity to take care of themselves.  I am quite old enough to remember the Carter-Era revelation that keeping such people locked up where they could be looked after and required to take their meds was a paternalistic denial of their God-given right to self-determination, and that it was much better to turn them loose and let them make their own decisions (or, to use another word I cannot stand, to “empower” them).  I am reminded of the wisdom of this policy every time I see the cops standing around watching a bum lying in the gutter peeing on himself and ranting about space aliens, powerless to take him in without his consent.  I was also reminded of it again when I heard about the body in the tent.



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September 2009