Begging is not exactly something new in the USA. We have lots of various private charitable organizations asking for money, and we all give to some of them. What is still new in my experience is panhandling, more appropriately called begging.
I am a senior citizen. I don’t personally remember George Washington, but I do remember the sexual revolution, the assassination of JFK, the moon landings, and the endless political bickering during the Vietnam War. Back then panhandlers — beggars — were rare. Homelessness was also unusual. What happened?
It seems to me that back then Americans institutionalized those who could not take care of themselves, especially the mentally ill, and our charitable organizations, both private and government, were relatively effective in aiding the poor. How did we lose the capacity to deal with these problems?
Now, even though unemployment is at record lows, panhandling — begging — seems to be rapidly on the increase. Panhandlers on street corners are commonplace. It is no longer unusual to be accosted between our cars and the entrance of a store and asked for money.
Moreover, venues for begging seem to be expanding. Recently, when I was sitting in a restaurant, a lady came up to me and shoved her little piece of wrinkled paper at me. As usual, the writing was in bold print. She wanted a handout. I looked to her right. She had a little girl’s hand in her hand.
What should I do? Since the lady was Hispanic, I could not question her. Was the child hers? Or had she just acquired the little girl to gain the sympathy of potential marks? Who had put her up to this? Was she also being used?
I still don’t know the answers to those questions. I just know that the advice on the Internet for dealing with panhandlers — beggars — is useless. We still have organizations for helping the poor, but why don’t the websites that give advice on panhandling mention them?
What do I know? I know beggars were once rare in the USA. Instead of letting problems related to poverty fester, previous generations dealt with them.
Now? Now we have opened our borders and invited the world’s poor to descend upon us and beg from us while we eat. Stupid! Who but the devil gains by making a problem worse?