So I’m sitting here re-reading Mayor Carlisle’s recent comments about homeless people being worse than an infestation of rats.

I’ve been trying to come up with something eloquent to say that sums up just how wrong this is, and I’ve got to say I’m stumped. Unfortunately, I can’t just start swearing here either. So you’ll just have to imagine your own string of obscenities on my behalf. Go ahead, it’s OK, as I’m sure I’ve thought it already.

I’ve also been wondering when being a moron became political clout, and when invective speech substituted for critical thinking. I wonder these things because not having met Carlisle I would have assumed him to be an intelligent man given his political post. But these words paint a picture of the worst kind of public servant I can imagine: callous and ill-formed thought as to the repercussions of his quick words. Of course I also had similar wonderings about Gov. Abercrombie after likening the feeding of homelessness to criminal activity.

Is it that these guys give so many speeches that it all becomes a blur? Do they forget where they are, like people in a restaurant who forget to use their “inside, quiet voice?” I can forgive that any politician endures the crushing weight of having to work with diverse views from the public realm, but come on!! This isn’t even in the realm of constructive in any language or culture. Our political leaders are supposed to be our inspirations, not our embarrassments.

What’s sad to me is that having spoken to so many friends who work for the city and state, so many of them tell me that excess and broken bureaucracies are the chief obstacles to success in many of the social programs out there. Drugs are definitely an issue, and so is mental illness, as causes in homeless circumstances. But the people charged with carrying out the solutions can’t go and become new problems.

The Mayor made this statement about cleaning up homeless debris: “…you had to wash for two days before you felt that you’d gotten all the stuff that you’d gotten all over you.” When I read this, I imagined a time when hateful speech like that would have gotten another type of washing… one that included soap and mouth. Maybe the Mayor will need just that after his foot is removed.

I wrote these alternative “9 Points” back when I was struggling with my own homeless identity issues and the Governor was putting some pretty lame statements out to the public. Now that I’ve been re-homed for a bit they seem even more poignant to ponder what a “home” means. I’d like to share it again to remind the Mayor of some of these ideas.

A home is:

  1. Sanctuary – a place of refuge and retreat
  2. Safety – a state of feeling secure and protected
  3. Boundary – something that buffers the outer world as well as the inner
  4. Memory – a place to store and build a life
  5. Nostalgia – a need to return to a source, and the fulfillment of that need
  6. Dignity – an innate right as a human being, flawed or not
  7. Independence – a chance to be free within and among the rest of the world
  8. Control – the chance to decide whether the toilet seat stays up or goes down
  9. A state of mind – an inner recognition that can’t be simply enforced through dictate

Maybe it will be helpful for all those who are engaged in the realm of solutions to put thought to these points. Though there are many more you could put in, I can vouch for the fact that if you work toward these as goals, somehow people will follow you. If you can remain human, then people will respond eventually.

So to Mayor Carlisle I have this to say:

  1. Remember that people in need are your constituents too.
  2. If the people you seek to serve don’t trust you, then you’ll never be a help to them.
  3. If you don’t have the capacity for compassion and care, and cooties are that icky to you, then I suggest you work in the private sector where you can post signs claiming your “Right to refuse service.”

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About the Author

  • Joe Bright
    Joe Bright is a graduate of Iolani School and went on to study art at The Cooper Union School of Art in New York City, and later Chinese medicine at The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco. Joe currently runs a small acupuncture clinic, Kama’aina Acupuncture in Kapahulu as the first dedicated low-cost “community acupuncture” clinic in Honolulu. Joe has a varied background that has included working as a bicycle mechanic, freelance artist, teaching calligraphy and Tai Chi, a nanny, and even a CEO of a small entrepreneurial company. He continues to create art, even having work recently appear at the Honolulu Academy of Arts as well the Bishop Museum. He also continues with entrepreneurial projects when possible and serves on the Board of Directors for a local Buddhist meditation organization, Vipassana Hawai’i.