It’s a very nice story. A cop buys a homeless guy some shoes. A tourist catches the exchange on video. The NYPD gets an image makeover. Voila. So neat and tidy.
This story is making the rounds, and my facebook friends have gone all gooey over it. And I, parade-rainer extraordinaire, have thus far managed to maintain my silence. But I saw yet another link today to this ubiquitous vid, and I feel like okay. Enough already.
How many homeless guys has this cop seen? How many homeless people, in compromising situations, do beat cops see every single day? How many homeless people are all over the city, not being bought boots?
Better question: why, in one of the richest cities in the world, do we have so many homeless? And how is it, that while so many of them are not being bought boots, we allow ourselves to feel so goddamned happy about the one who was gifted boots? One little instance. Where the guy turned out to not even be homeless. (Which on its own does not, of course, mean he doesn’t need boots…)
HuffPo – whose tone and style I’m not usually fond of – did a pretty good follow up of this story. Writer Paul Brandeis Raushenbush came to a conclusion that struck me the first time this story passed my way. Which is, although buying someone some boots is all well and good, it solves nothing. A couple of days later, the guy wasn’t even wearing the boots any more. But more than that, it’s actually counter productive that half a million people were able to sit in their comfortable homes, and watch a story on their fancy video-watching machines. A story that made them feel good about someone else, somewhere, doing something nice.
One of my recent posts is called “Sometimes It’s Hard to Like a Good Thing“. It’s about so called “Small Business Saturday”, brought to you by American Express™. I think this story falls in the same category for me. I know, I know, I’m such a barrel of laughs; it’s really fun to read my blog and be criticized for nothing. What’s so bad about feeling good about human nature, right? What’s so bad about having a little faith restored in the humans who make up Bloomberg’s personal army, the NYPD™? It feels so much better to feel really good about a NYC police offer, than to feel afraid of them. It feels good to see one man do a kindness to another. But really, I feel like…fuck that. If there’s a whole picture out there, this isn’t even a sliver of it. This story is an atom in the cosmos of homelessness in NYC, the image of cops everywhere, and especially about the NYPD in general. It’s nothing at all.