Thursday, June 02, 2005

Remember when "mean spirited" was a bad thing?

The City of Austin, which, by the way is a liberal city, for Texas, has just evicted 13 tenants in public housing for their incomes being larger, or the number of members of their family being smaller, than the specified guidelines. OK, I can understand that. Housing for poor people is hard to find, and since there are after all, degrees of poverty, scarce assistance funds should go to the most needful.

But, not content with evicting them, the city has arrested them as well.
The 13 people accused of lying about housing application information were charged with tampering with government records, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.--Austin American Statesman

I dunno, there's just something that doesn't add up here, rationally, or for that matter, morally.

For one thing, this seems like a calculated effort to add to the homeless problem. If these people had jobs, as well as housing, before being arrested, very likely they will have neither after falling into the maw of the criminal justice system. When they emerge, naturally, they will probably fall within the guidelines--except that, (and I am just guessing here, based on a gut instinct) they will likely be blacklisted, and ineligible to even to go to the back of the line for public housing. Hence, homeless.

Hopefully, they will have family members or friends of a more charitable mind-set than the government's.

Moreover, if we-the-people actually send these criminals to jail for two years, we are will have to build new jails--our present ones are full. I wonder why. A very expensive form of public housing, that.

But really, it isn't the irrationality of this that gets me. It's the plain raw meanness of it. I mean, some of these criminals will spend more time in the clutches of the law than Ken Lay has, or will. For what? Lying, to find a place to _live_.

Well, most people would lie, if need be, to find a place out of the rain for their children, if not for themselves. These are all people with families. I know I would. There are ten rules we Zen Buddhists are supposed to live by, one of which is "don't lie." All ten rules spring out of a more general precept that says "do good, not evil." Your understanding of the ten rules has to be tempered by your understanding of that underlying precept. So, as a good Buddhist, I would certainly break the "don't lie" precept in order to uphold the greater "don't do evil" precept, thus keeping my children from living in the street, if it came to that.

Wouldn't you? Wouldn't most people? I guess the answer, if you are a Republican, is "I would just never be poor. And you shouldn't be either." And it looks like the Republican answer is now the American answer, even in liberal cities.

And man, that sucks.

No comments: