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January 14, 2005
We Deserve Better From Us

Bert was a nice man. He was a funny man. He had a carefully made sign to notify people passing by that he was collecting money to build a rocket that would take him to the moon. He was fed up with George Bush, so he was leaving the planet.

Every day we used to have a chat when I went for my morning coffee. We'd talk about the progress he was making on the engine and about how when he got to the moon, he was going to be president and then things would be better, and then I'd give him a dollar toward the project.

I don't know how Bert wound up panhandling on street corners...maybe he had a drinking problem or something, you can't tell these things from a few seconds of conversation with someone as you wait for a green light, but I know that Bert was a nice man whose family couldn't take care of him.

So, Bert took care of himself. Bert had a job. His job was standing on that street corner every day, collecting enough change to buy him a couple of meals. And it was hard work. He was there in the rain and the snow. He was there when it was 98 in the shade and he was there when the wind chill was ten below zero.

But Bert didn't have anywhere to go at night, when the cars stopped passing and the rest of us were tucked up under blankets in our centrally heated houses. He didn't have anywhere to go when it snowed or when the temperature dropped to five degrees.

Our society doesn't provide these things. We don't value people who can't contribute to the corporate bottom line. If you can't hold down a 9-5 job so that you can shop at WhateverMart and keep money cycling into the corporate coffers, you're of no use to us.

One night Bert went to sleep in the shelter of a concrete retaining wall and then Bert died.

And I am angry.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:44 PM


Bert, the nice black gentleman who always had a kind word for me? Bert, the wonderful soul, who even on the coldests days had a smile for everyone who passed him?

Please tell me that I am wrong...

Posted by: T-Square at January 20, 2005 02:44 PM

No, you're not wrong. That was Bert, the man with the big smile and the happy disposition.

I miss Bert.

Posted by: Anne at January 20, 2005 03:46 PM