The Bum, the Cop and the Facts

This is about the barefoot Times Square bum bestowed with a pair of boots on a cold November night by a policeman whose act of charity was photographed by an Arizona tourist. The bum, it turns out, was seen last Sunday on the Upper West Side. The new boots, valued at $100, were nowhere to be seen. The policeman, an earnest young man, has been praised by the New York Police Department and people across the nation for his touching act of benevolence. The photograph, which was shared upon request by the tourist with the NYPD and promptly distributed across multiple media platforms, like other images to spread quickly around the Internet, such as the snapshot of the Vancouver kiss, suggests something about the culture – something more than simply being moved by an act of kindness toward a 54-year-old homeless man by a cop half his age.

The lessons are informed by what we know by now. Though the picture seems clear that there’s a white person in a position of authority administering for reasons of his own to a less fortunate black man in tattered clothes, less than a month later we know that the black man, for reasons of his own, and his brother tells the press that his brother’s homelessness is a personal choice, has chosen to go barefoot, hiding the hundred dollar boots by his account, because the now famous boots are “worth a lot of money” and he could lose his life. We also know that the police officer is a former history teacher who still lives with his parents. So the man on the ground has the primary power over his own life, as if we need to be reminded, and the man crouching down is arguably not as fortunate as he might appear to be. After all, he is young, and he is among the first generations in U.S. history to be likely to be worse off – much worse off – than his parents. If he’d called into a Suze Orman show, knowing that he may not be able to afford a home of his own, she might admonish him about his generous expenditure: “You cannot afford that!”

Based on what we know, she would probably be right, not that his act of charity – and that’s what it is – is not kind and thoughtful and possibly even as rewarding as the young cop says it is. Spending $100 on a pair of boots for a stranger who chooses to go without shoes is not the best investment. So, in the context of today’s difficult times, the act – and the positive response to the act – remind us that sacrifice of self is admired. Our soldiers are sacrificed for the sake of nothing in wars that are not waged as war, coming home with bloody stumps or in body bags that no one talks about. Our policemen, like our soldiers, performing a legitimate function of government, struggle to make a living. Young people are forced to pay for older people as they are herded into economic and political slavery to serve Barack Obama’s huge confiscation and redistribution of wealth.

Race is relevant in the sense that we’re pummeled with the fallacy that whites are inherently and unfairly advantaged over – and unjust to – blacks and that any dissent by whites to a view held by someone, such as Obama or Susan Rice, who is (or merely claims to be) black is instantly smeared as racism. Any random act of hatred by whites toward blacks is magnified in the media. But race is rarely an issue when there’s any random act of kindness by whites toward blacks as is the case here, and, if it is, it’s usually another reason to say that whites are better off than blacks, never mind facts and causes. And never mind that the most charitable people on earth – the rich – are being singled out for persecution as I write this. How many millions of hardworking rich capitalists and Wall Street and business executives – so vilified, envied and detested by mobs of Americans and their re-elected deity – have performed countless acts of productivity (not to mention charity) that enrich the lives of both these men incalculably more than anything depicted here? Yet the rich are being stripped of their rights and enslaved by laws enforced by this policeman that redistribute their wealth to people like this bum. There is only injustice in that.

There’s nothing wrong with giving a pair of shoes to a bum – not if it’s your money and your choice. Increasingly, and rapidly, it isn’t, which makes this a picture of an act of charity by another victim of wealth redistribution. Given what he told the media about his new pair of boots, the bum, who has expressed gratitude to the policeman, seems to be the person most urgently aware that what he owns belongs to him.