There’s something surreal about watching Ted Williams, the “golden-voiced homeless man,” recite corporate slogans on the morning news. It’s the perfect rags-to-riches story for the Wall Street age: you, too, can find redemption hawking Kraft mac’n’cheese, Hershey’s Kisses, and AT&T cell plans! Yes, even the chronically homeless have a valuable role to play in modern capitalism. Huzzah.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled Williams’ life has taken a 180; it’s hard not to shed a tear watching him reunite with his mother. But while we break our arms patting ourselves on the back for bringing in one homeless man from the cold, let’s not forget the hundreds of thousands of other people — including veterans, children, senior citizens, and the disabled — who remain on the streets at any given time. And by all means, let’s not overlook Williams’ partially-blind ex-wife who raised his five children — including the son he had with another woman — while Williams was AWOL. This woman is every bit the hero that Williams is, perhaps more so. It annoys me that she’s getting so little attention.
There’s a “treasure among the trash” quality to the way look at homelessness in this country. Maybe every journalist in America will sit down for a chat with the man or woman holding the “Will Work For Food” sign by the side of the interstate. Ya think? And maybe they’ll find that Juilliard-trained cellist pushing a shopping cart or stock broker in training sleeping in the public restroom.
Then again, they’re just as likely to find the psychotic who can’t or won’t stay on their meds, the person who refuses to go to a shelter for whatever reason, the addict, the Iraq war veteran or the single mother. There are as many ways to be homeless and reasons for being homeless as there are homeless people. Every story is unique. And all I’m saying is, every person deserves to be treated with dignity, whether they have a golden voice or not. I’m glad for Ted Williams but I’m also worried for him, and I’m worried for the thousands of people who weren’t lucky enough to catch the attention of a local news videographer.
So, now that corporate America and the corporate media have stepped in to help this one homeless man, what about the rest? Could Kraft Foods make a nice, long-term commitment to the nation’s homeless — maybe by supporting some homeless advocacy groups?
Could the corporate media maybe stop covering bullshit stories like Sarah Palin’s re-Tweets and maybe devote more than just casual attention to this issue?
Could those of us touched by Ted Williams’ story volunteer at a homeless shelter or, at the very least, pick up a copy of The Contributor?
Just something to ponder.