Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Two Good Men

On this Thanksgiving Eve, I was looking, as the Marines say, for a few good men for which to be thankful. (Besides Patrick Fitzgerald, of course.) So, in that spririt, here are two good men. Good Man #1: Jacques Gaillot was, up until ten years ago, the Bishop of a Parisian suburb. But he cared a bit too much about the poor and downtrodden -- meaning that he wanted to see actual societal change that would help the poor and might inconvenience the very rich. What's more, he also was in favor of married priests and -- quel horreur! -- condom usage. So of course somebody (most likely then-Cardinal Ratzinger) persuaded the then-pope John Paul II to move this meddlesome priest out of his diocese and into the long-vacant diocese of Partenia. Since "Partenia", a location in what is now present-day Algeria, hadn't been a functional diocese for about fifteen hundred years, this was obviously intended as both a punishment and a way to deprive Bishop Gaillot of a platform from which to reach his flock. They reckoned without some computer-literate friends of the Bishop's, who talked him into creating the world's first virtual diocese, Partenia not only was the world's first virtual diocese, it was online well before the Vatican's own website. In fact, I suspect that it was the fact that Partenia was online that caused the Vatican to go online in the first place! (However, I seriously doubt that the Vatican's website will ever have an online forum, much less a chat room, as does Partenia.) Bishop Gaillot continues to speak out on issues concerning the poor and the marginalized, both in France and in places like New Orleans. And Partenia will celebrate its eleventh birthday in January. Good Man #2: Jeff Seemann is running for Congress next year as the Democratic candidate for Ohio's sixteenth district. He's also concerned, like Bishop Gaillot, with the plight of those who are marginalized in society. Recently, he decided that in order to help the homeless and the working poor, he had to know about how they lived their lives: what survival skills they used, how they got by, what people or groups helped them. And the only way to do that was to actually be homeless for a while:

Starting this Sunday, I will spend 100 hours homeless in Stark County, Ohio. From Sunday afternoon until late Thursday evening, I'll disappear into the city. No cell phone, no hot shower in the morning, no evenings with my girlfriend, no money in my pocket, and no Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I believe I need to immerse myself into the life with no cheating. If I want to understand what homelessness is like (and how to confront it legislatively), I need to experience it for myself. Every day, I will make one phone call so I can check in with one friend. That friend will post my experiences online, and I will personally post a recap at the end of the 100 hours. I will NOT be notifying the local media of this experience until it is complete. I do not view this as a photo-op or a hot story, and I do not want any reporters looking for me while I'm trying to learn from experience. Also, this is no joke and I am not trying to gain anything from the plight of homelessness, except an understanding of what it takes to survive. I ran this idea past several people to get their take on it....and it's been almost unanimously supported. Christy Harvey of the Center For American Progress actually said it "had a Morgan Spurlock feel to it", which completely flatters me. When the experience is all over, I will be summarizing who treated me the best, which agencies need to work on their community outreach, and which shelters (if any) can make the best with a little more funding. And when it's done, the agency/shelter which most deserves the support will get a check from my campaign for 10% of everything we raise from now until the end of the 100 hours.
Thus began this week an experience that has been detailed here, here, here, and here. (Oh, and did I mention that he was doing this in sub-freezing temperatures?) As promised, he talks of who helped and who didn't -- and of how his experience ended (he was picked up for vagrancy and decided to go home rather than spend a night in jail; remember, he was doing this without telling the media or the authorities what he was doing). And he has a lot of pertinent suggestions and ideas, most of them having to do with long-term care for the homeless, in which this country is sorely lacking.

I would like to add a #3. Michael Moore spoke to the local community college at Flint, Michigan, and he impressed me in a way he never has before.

For one, he shaved and dressed for the event. That always helps. But he was also more passionate than he has been in the past. He had been to Mass and, as is appropriate for a time when most people are indulging in excess, he preached the message of the Sermon on the Mount (or more precisely, Matthew 25:31 ff).

And I think he hit it exactly right. Unless you pay some real cost to help the poor, your religion doesn't count.

Writing checks costs almost nothing. Caring for people who are not very attractive costs more. Doing what Jeff Seeman did and tasting what poverty is about is starting to look like the real deal. And finally, if you let go of all of your possessions and accept the lot of the poor, you have paid the price of entry into heaven.

Most important, Moore reached out to a Republican who sat at his table, and to every Republican and independent viewer and invited them to join with those among the Democrats who are trying to save this country. He roasted the Debt Slavery Act Dems.

For me, offering a hand to Republicans is actually harder than offering a hand to the poor. Republicans smell bad in a way that no wino ever will. So, I might be only one-quarter sheep and remain three-quarter goat.But Michael Moore was, for me tonight, a good example.
Thank you, Phoenix Woman. I appreciate your kind words.

There were many who attacked me from the start, claiming that it was nothing more than a political stunt. They're certainly welcome to their opinions, but I felt that many people didn't see that I was trying to understand not only the plights of the homeless, but the faults in the system that purports to help the problem, yet can't seem to pull anybody out of the lifestyle.

I'll have a final update written tomorrow, and trust me, this issue will not be on the back-burner of my campaign.

Thanks again,
Jeff Seemann

P.S. I found your blog through the visitor stats/referring address stats on my blog.
Charles, I think the reason that the right wing and their media allies have worked so hard to demonize Michael Moore is precisely because he is so very good at reaching into the right-wing's base and coming back with more than a few converts. Dale Earnhardt Jr. urged his pit crew to see Fahrenheit 9/11, and he was by no means the only non-lefty to promote the film.

Jeff: Wow! It's an honor to hear from you. Thanks for doing everything that you do. That's all I can say for now -- other than to wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.
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