Jolene McGowan is neither for nor against panhandlers, but “just needs to talk about them” (“Port City City Post: In our most livable city, signs of the times held by panhandlers,” March 22). She does so in a way that I find very offensive, and it is difficult to choose what is most troubling in her column.
Is it her contemptuous judgment of panhandlers? Her ranking of some as worthy if she can relate to them? Her blithe assurance to her daughter that all panhandlers are not homeless? Or just her general lack of compassion for fellow human beings experiencing hard times?
Her piece ends with a critique by McGowan and her daughter of signs people use to ask for money. Really? That’s what she wants to teach her daughter: to question people’s right to panhandle and the quality of their signs?
If I were to talk to her daughter, I would emphasize that the people behind the signs are experiencing difficulties such as poverty, homelessness, illness and addiction; that the discomfort we feel when we drive by a panhandler is just one symptom of the larger problem of income inequality in this country; and that whether we’re on our way to school, work or yoga class, it’s always good to be reminded of our privilege.
While McGowan acknowledges that she is lucky and comfortable, her questions about panhandling add nothing to the discussion of the problems facing the disadvantaged in Portland.