Friday, December 30, 2005

Can you spare some change or a vote

There is no doubt in my mind that this banner will offend some and some will think it is a joke and this campaign is a joke and others may think it is inventive and creative.

But the reality is you need money to run a campaign and I tried to think up a way to go "begging" for money.

In the Anchorage Daily News, Hilary Morgan wrote an opinion piece titled Panhandling ban rife with hypocrisy.

The opinion piece can be found here.

There were portions of her article that I did not agree with and there were other parts I did. She opened off with the obvious then moved into the political arena.

The most common visual that comes to mind when we mention panhandling is the homeless person with a cardboard sign asking for money. However, we have many forms of panhandling in our community.

Our politicians panhandle for votes when they stand on the corners holding their cardboard signs on Election Day. Our firefighters panhandle aggressively during the "boot" campaign for muscular dystrophy as they walk in traffic knocking on car windows asking for money. Children hold cardboard signs on street corners with the inscription "car wash" collecting money for their church or soccer league. Which cause is more "worthy"? And who gets to decide?

I don't agree with the comparison made between campaigning and panhandling, because while you are "begging" for votes, you are not "begging" for money. There is a difference.

But still, she hit on a point. Politicians/candidates have to go "begging" for money.

She goes on.

I began to wonder. When did panhandling become synonymous with homeless indigents? The definition of panhandling in the dictionary is "to beg money from strangers," "to get by begging" or "to ask people that you do not know for money, especially in a public place." All these definitions certainly apply to my presentation and the examples noted above. I was interested to note that none of these definitions implied judgment on the act or the person asking.

I looked up the word "begging." I came up with a multitude of words that suggested a desperate plea; suppliant, pleading, beseeching, imploring, entreating, prayerful and petitioning. Hmm.

Clearly the act of begging was not negative.

Then she defines the panhandlers.

Who panhandles? You do. I do. As Alaskans, we panhandle for public money on a consistent basis, yet we judge our poor with intolerance when they panhandle.

And this is where she is right. Some people are offended by the panhandler on the street but some people are also offended by the politician who panhandles. So in that spirit, I came up with the banner.

It is not to make a political statement on homelessness, it is a statement about politics and what drives elections. Money. And ultimately, the voter is influenced by the message.

But in the end, it is the one who has the most money who has the loudest voice. Unless your name is Obermeyer.

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