Other Voices

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Crimes against Humanity: Hate for the Homeless

Genocide has a familiar taste to the palate of many Americans. Often regarded as the “Dark side” or “Shadow” of one's personality, this evil appears in many guises. Whether we like it or not, everyone seems to own one of these evil “shadows,” and some people call it meeting their devils. This so-called dark side of human nature can be defined as the intention to do harm to another individual. But the shadow is not only an individual problem. Groups, communities, cities, and countries can manifest a collective shadow that may lead to dangerous actions such as scapegoating, discrimination, racist attacks, and even the potential destruction and elimination of our own species, as in war.

We can try to run from the fact that America was built on the genocide or destruction of the Native American peoples and cultures. For example, we can pretend we don't know that less than 200 years ago California was paying a bounty for Native American scalps. But at the same time we seem to be running out of answers to our present-day problems in America and the world. We certainly have imagined a better life, and many have followed allegedly “enlightened” gurus, priests, and politicians who tell us exactly what we want to hear, although they don't seem to be able to walk their own talk. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by accepting and making the darkness an integral part of oneself. We all have a dark side, but many don't want to see it.

America has become a stage for this collective shadow. The 2010 August report from the National Coalition for the Homeless stated: “Violent, often fatal, attacks on homeless Americans now outnumber all other categories of hate crimes combined.” In Redding, California, three boys beat a homeless man to death with metal pipes and baseball bats, thereby reminding us that hate, prejudice, and racism are taught at home by parents who pass these attitudes on to their children. The most common victim of hate crimes against the homeless is alleged to be a middle-aged man between 40 and 60 years of age.

If this is too difficult to imagine, let's bring it closer to home and look inside our own micro community. There are reported hate crimes against the homeless happening right here in our very own Nevada City. As you may know, I have been an advocate for the local homeless population for over five years. Through these years I have received many reports from the homeless concerning the seizure and disposal of their personal property, along with news of harassment and physical violence perpetrated against them by local authorities. While these crimes are being investigated, we now also have the death of local citizen William “Billy” Kelly, which is under investigation. There is a lot to be concerned about.

Nevada City is mostly a community of white, Christian, middle-class folk. And yet, was Jesus not a homeless person? If you are still not satisfied that there is a widespread dislike for homeless people, just go into our local newspaper web site, “The Union,” and click on “homeless” or on my last name “Streicher,” and read all the insulting, negative comments (if still available). You may be appalled by the apathy concerning the meek and poor who the Bible states will someday inherit the Earth. You could have also attended the Nevada City Council meetings on homeless issues and gotten a good taste of what the dark side can look like in public, at the same time that the free meal program for the homeless was shut down (re-runs available on TV). If you are really brave, put on your backpack and spend a few nights trying to survive under the local bridges. I once tried sleeping in my car in a church parking lot to get a feel for being homeless, but I was rudely awakened at 1:00 a.m. by a policeman holding a glaring flashlight in my eyes. No at all friendly, he told me to “get up and out.” I have no criminal record (which could be verified by my license plate), and I was not causing a disturbance.

To some fanatical Muslims, America is the great Satan. To radical Nazi adherents, the Jews are thought of as better dead than alive. To certain devout Christian monks, shamans are considered in league with the devil. To American members of the Ku Klux Klan, Blacks are depicted as subhuman. And, now it seems that some residents of Nevada City are characterizing the homeless in a similarly despicable manner.

Consider this: Years ago I recall visiting a famous zoo in the heartland of America in which one of the cages featured a large mirror for people to look at themselves. Underneath the mirror was a warning that read: “The Most Dangerous Animal on Earth.” The wild savage in us is very much alive—just caged most of the time. A goal of meeting the shadow is to develop an ongoing relationship with it. We may think that the shadow contains only darkness and evil, but, as Carl Jung has stated, its essence is “pure gold,” because it allows us finally to acknowledge those dark parts of ourselves and bring them into consciousness. Maybe this is what the “Gold Country” is all about. I have always enjoyed this quote by Lee Salk, “When it gets dark enough, you can see the stars.” When I glance at the dark evening sky over Nevada City, I see a lot of stars.

Thomas J. Streicher, Ph.D.

August 20, 2010

Nevada City Council
317 Broad Street
Nevada City, California


I am writing this letter in strong support of Dr. Thomas Streicher, and his caring for and feeding of the homeless and hungry in our community through Divine Spark. As you know he uses the Veterans Hall on Pine Street five days a week in this endeavor. Having expanded to these five days has been an economic strain for the organization, but simultaneously an amazing boon to the community & our downtown environment. Suffice it to say that when you are not hungry you can be less disruptive and over time more productive. This is the mission of Divine Spark.

Our cafe has been supportive of Divine Spark for years. I've encouraged Thomas in his expansion to providing hot meals more often. It would be a great pity if this program had to shrink due to financial difficulties. In this regard, you as Council members can continue to help the populace of this city by reducing the rent at the Veterans Hall to a level that enables Divine Spark to continue this work.

Very sincerely,
William R. "Buzz" Crouch,

New Moon Cafe
203 York St.
Nevada City, California 95959

The Homogeneous Grand Finale:
The Attempted Economic Cleansing of Nevada City

Nevada City mayor Robert Bergman attracted many voters with his proposed clean-up of Callahan Park campaign. Mr. Bergman also made it perfectly clear that he no longer wanted me to leave food for the homeless in the park. Moreover, the entire Nevada City Council unanimously voted to end the free meal program for the in-need poor people of our community. This may be considered a clean sweep. But to some people, it was just another disguise for what can be considered to be the attempted economic cleansing of Nevada City. I use this term to refer to the methods used by government or the dominant majority to make unwanted poor people get up and move away from their geographic area. The Nevada City Police Chief has even suggested that we round up all the homeless people and drop them off in the desert somewhere. The cleansing has begun.

This is not a new tactic, and our small town is just a micro example of what's going on in the bigger picture of our nation. Throughout history dominant groups have tried to take control of their territory by forcing out unwanted “others.” It could be done through police force or intimidation, higher property assessments, higher costs for food and shelter, or higher costs for water. Remember all those new downtown Nevada City water meters that were installed recently? Along with those new meters came a hefty rate hike.

Consider the Gypsies, whose fate is similar to that of our local homeless or other unwanted poor people. The Gypsies live a similar lifestyle, involving no permanent residence. Many struggle to live and earn money to buy food. People are distrustful of Gypsies simply because they live a nomadic lifestyle. They move around a lot, which can bring fear to a society where being settled reigns superior over the nomadic culture. Is no compromise possible? A quick and easy answer could come from the original peoples of this country, the nomadic Native Americans, who were eventually forced to live on reservations. Many of the Native Americans such as the Sioux were nomadic tribes that flourished as they followed the buffalo herds around our great nation. American history has pointed out that, when a group becomes marginalized, the perceived solution tends to be integration. But what if the unwanted members of society don't want to become part of the dominant culture? Forced integration? Starvation? Death?

Divine Spark, Inc. is currently serving more than 100 local homeless people, and the numbers are growing. If you can find the courage, go out and investigate what happened to that nice little family that use to live next door---you know, where the vacant and “foreclosed” sign is currently posted. This is economic cleansing in action, where low-income families are being forced out of their neighborhoods and into the street. It's hard to accept our current economic crises, isn't it?

There is much that you can do, and you don't need to have a Ph.D. to do it. Simply start by opening-up your own hearts and pocket books. I am not seeking your donation. I am asking you to go directly to the people who need help in your community and give them a sandwich if they're hungry, or offer a ride if you see them walking. Be a kind and gentle listener, and invite them to tell their stories of how they got to where they are now. We really are all connected, and you will see that, by opening your heart and giving more, you will receive much more in return.

Thomas J. Streicher, Ph.D.

Inattentional Blindness

The great American love affair with capitalism has caused an overemphasis on material possessions. Now, too many Americans are losing their houses, cars, and jobs to what could be considered the great shift. As you know, shift happens. We all know it, and most of us feel it. So what can we do about it? We can always pretend that change is not really happening, and stick our heads in the sand like an ostrich. But we will pay a price for that denial, which comes with big mistakes resulting from not seeing what is actually there. This is the case with inattentional blindness, where people actually fail to see what is beyond their focus of attention. For example, lifeguards are so conditioned to observe people struggling on the surface of the water that they sometimes do not see people lying unconscious on the bottom of the pool. Are you struggling right now, or could you already be suffering, from inattentional blindness?

If you are sleeping through all this, I hope you will be waking up soon, because we need all the help we can get. As history has a tendency to repeat itself, I compare these days to the days of old. For example, you might recall reading how the early natives of the Americas did not know what they were seeing when they first observed the huge European warships approaching their land mass. Some of these gigantic European ships, such as the Spanish galleon, weighed 400 tons, were equipped with 40 cannons, reached three stories in height, and carried up to 12 horses, which were also alien to the natives. For many of them, the huge ships may have been an unimaginable sight, so unimaginable that they might have appeared as a moving mountain, a sea serpent, or maybe nothing comprehensible at all, as these people were familiar only with dugout canoes at the time.

Our attachment to capitalism and materialism has made us blind, as if we covered our eyes so we can't see the truth. We are being conquered, and we just don't see it. We don't see it because we are like rats on a sinking ship, scurrying to stay alive while trying to make sense of it all. The stress and denial are running rampant. You might remember denial if at one time you had the experience of refusing to acknowledge an addiction, a partner's infidelity, or a terminal illness. If that's not enough, we are continually being bamboozled by political leaders who can't stop spending our money and making poor decisions with it. Oh, by the way, who gave them permission to do so? Because of their negligence and irresponsibility, our country is facing financial Armageddon. We seem to be in denial of it, and the ship is sinking quickly. One may prefer to call this “Death by Debt,” as many still focus on gaining more material possessions even while facing financial disaster. Now would be a good time for all of us to take back our personal power instead of giving it away to poor leadership. If we don't wake up soon, we could become prime targets for what's to come.

Before we know it, we could be facing another type of inattentional blindness that some have already noticed and others have not. Let's just suppose for a moment that there is other intelligent life in the universe. Like my former example of how lots of indigenous people did not recognize the huge ships coming in to their land mass, how many people would actually “see” galactic spaceships the size of football fields lurking in the sky behind a pillar of clouds? Or how about the smaller cigar-shaped ones that could fly into your living room while you are hypnotized watching the best of “Oprah”? Is this too unrealistic for you? Maybe it would have been 50 years ago, but by now there have been too many sightings of UFOs and reported contacts with extraterrestrial beings to be fully discounted. Even Vatican astronomers admit that extraterrestrial life is a valid area of investigation for the Catholic Church. We should remember that many scientific “facts” widely accepted in the past, such as the Earth being the center of the universe, were later proven to be false.

Let's take a moment to consider what might happen if the extraterrestrial origin of the UFOs should be confirmed. First of all, what this would mean for humanity would be unimaginable for most. We would have been discovered and colonized, and that would be enough to result in sheer worldwide panic, as we realized that our science and technology were useless to protect us. Our military and advanced weaponry would appear like cave people with clubs to such an advanced and superior scientific civilization. The new arrivals would probably be shocked by our habit of deliberately killing members of our own species along with every other living thing on this planet. Perhaps we can hope that they would be compassionate and try to help.

“There is nothing to fear, but fear itself” comes into my mind. Maybe we will surprise ourselves and become wiser by continuing to explore this area with an open mind. Or maybe we will need another wake-up call at a later date. Shall I set the alarm now?

Thomas J. Streicher, Ph.D.

August 20, 2010

Nevada City Council
317 Broad Street
Nevada City, California

Dear City Council Members,

This letter is submitted in support of the weekly free meal program for the homeless/poor people of Nevada City. These meals are being sponsored by our local non-profit organization called Divine Spark at our local Veterans Hall. For the past four years we have supported Dr. Thomas Streicher, founder and director of Divine Spark, for his ongoing efforts in maintaining a free weekly meal program here in our city.

As a Nevada City restaurant owner, I am aware of the complexities existing in feeding the poor, and have experienced homeless people asking us for food in the past. This situation can be stressful for a business owner, as myself, for the situation can place my customers in an awkward and unwanted situation. The free meal program has helped us with this potential problem, as we now can suggest and invite the homeless to the free meal program at the Veterans Hall in Nevada City and relieving us of a potentially stressful situation.

Please support Dr. Thomas Streicher and Divine Spark in their continuing efforts with the free meal program by granting a rent reduction at our local Veterans Hall facility. I think this would be a step in a positive direction by making this more of a community responsibility where we can contribute to positive community change in making Nevada City a great city that cares for their homeless and poor people. Thank you very much.

Las Katarina's Mexican Restaurant
311 Broad Street
Nevada City, CA 95959

The Greatest Stories Ever ‘Sold’

Great stories have made billions. Most people tend to enjoy a good story once in a while, and there are some great ones out there. Although not necessarily based on facts, these great stories have even greater significance in people's lives, for they can give greater meaning to a seemingly meaningless world. For instance, let's consider the biblical story of Jesus Christ, which over 3 billion Christians believe to be authentic. Talk about the sale of a great story – try to beat that one! Sure sounds good, but based on facts? Or let's consider science and its story of how Earth and we humans got their start. You know, that one called the “Big Bang,” where all of a sudden out of absolute nothingness there was stuff, and then humans supposedly emerged from the organic soup cooking on the Earth's surface. Oh yeah, and how about the story that denied that rocks could fall from the sky, now called meteorites, or the one that insisted nothing could move faster than the speed of light. All these so-called facts have been proven false by loads of disconfirming evidence. For the grand finale and final discussion, let's talk about another great story for sale. You may have already read it, but it concerns how our government wants us to feel protected and safe within its walls of prevailing authority. If you didn't buy it, you might agree that it was just too much to pay for this fraud known as comfort, safety, and security. If you did buy it, maybe you can get a refund.

My question is, just how much disconfirming evidence does it take before people change their opinion, mind, or belief? Okay, I think you can see where I'm trying to go with this. Will we continue to be a desperate people who rely on feelings of comfort instead of hammering out the facts? I think our problem has been that we rely too much on comfort and security levels, and this distracts us from getting to know the deeper parts of ourselves. There are great stories like how the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights were written, but are the authorities truly paying attention? Like the temple priests of the past, they have protected their stories, and attacked and ridiculed others who tried to shatter their altars: believe me, I know this to be true from experience. Let's get even more specific and talk about the local government right here in Nevada City, in particular the issue of the violations of civil rights, particularly those of the homeless. As you may be aware, there are investigations going on right now concerning our governing authorities and the reported abuse of the homeless that might help us understand what kind of story we bought into. Are you ready for a shift in consciousness that will challenge the ruling authorities? If so, read on. The new story could begin here.

First off, it doesn't cost much money to buy into the greatest story ever sold. But you may have to sell your heart and soul in the process of initiation. If you just keep doing what you're told to do, things start to fall right into place. Before you know it, you will be condemning people who don't live up to your standards, such as those who are indigent, don't vote, don't believe in the Christian God, don't pay taxes, or don't look like, or live, or work the same way you do. If you want to get down to the real nitty-gritty, Nevada City is mainly a White, Christian town with White-Christian values that could mean you might be shunned or demonized for conflicting views and beliefs. I myself have experienced this. Now there are a lot of stories that go with those beliefs and behaviors, but let's try to stay on track by focusing on such local government issues as poverty, homelessness, and civil rights violations. We could also keep in mind how this micro example can be projected onto the macro condition of our nation as a whole.

As we focus on the depths of poverty, we can definitely see where our help is needed. You may remember seeing me on your T.V. as an advocate for our local homeless population at the Nevada City Council meetings, where I was continually challenged by local authorities. My work with poverty issues goes back over 10 years, when I started working on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, considered to be one of the poorest communities in our nation. What I am trying to say is that I do not get intimidated very easily by authority figures discrediting civil rights issues. On the contrary, I have challenged the local ruling authorities such as the City Manager and the entire City Council to step forward and be accountable for the alleged abuse of fellow Nevada City homeless citizens in regard to reported civil rights violations. But I was ignored, ridiculed, attacked, and punished for my attempts to question the ruling class and status quo. Of course, I was just getting started, although maybe the ruling authorities thought they were finished with me and the issues at hand. Now that the initial Grand Jury investigations are confirming some of my reports, you can hear a pin drop in front of City Hall. Could this mean that we have been bamboozled once again and the wool pulled over our eyes, so that we could seemingly bask in the sun of our own comfort and security? Yikes! What a mistake!

Thomas J. Streicher, Ph.D.

We Are Fortunate... by Cheryl Zellers

We are fortunate to live in the community in which we live. As a community we have a growing love and respect for diversity, an awareness of the importance to be integral players in the many facets crucial to the development of an integrated community, we are in some respects moving towards localizing commerce and thereby becoming empowered towards taking care of ourselves as a community. In our quest for community development we must not forget those of us who are less fortunate. We call them the homeless; when we meet on the street we label them with any number of titles, we turn our heads as if to shun them from our sight, or at worst we work at ridding them from our community. We do not even begin to see the population that we have labeled the homeless. In our busy days and peripherally we see those who have enough courage to face our community. We do not see the invisible--the families, the women and children who are less able to withstand the stigma-but they are there.

Dear to my heart and for many years has been the plight of those who are less fortunate. For most of these years I have had this love/fear affair from a distance. It is only recently and through the efforts of Divine Spark that I have actually moved into relationship with the homeless and the less fortunate in a vital to our community way, which is simply to do something. I spent last year on the board of trustees of Divine Spark and while my experiences have been rich in many ways I primarily want to speak to the importance of becoming involved. There are many levels at which one can become involved and each and every one is valid, immensely helpful and fulfilling. Executive Director Tomas Streicher has through Divine Spark provided a service in our community and abroad-we must not forget the divine inspiration for his non profit organization-South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation – this local service however provides opportunity for those in our community who wish to experience making a difference and provides a bit of respite and community atmosphere for those who are less fortunate.

There was a time when I walked by our homeless with compassion in my heart but fear in my mind. This is not effective or congruent behavior and my greatest learning has been to drop the fear of those who mirror to us our greatest fears and to move into right relationship with this population. Divine Spark has been a playground of growth for me in many areas. These range from being involved as board member in the necessary mechanics of group dynamics of effective communication to developing hands on report with the clients that are served by Divine Spark. We as human beings have many opportunities to learn through service-perhaps I am most appreciative of the respectful and safe environment that Divine Spark affords this population through the Lunch Program. I am as well a large proponent of self development through what is most simple and most needed now in the ongoing evolutionary process of humanity-We do to feel, meaning that if we get involved we can loose ourselves in the process allowing a greater propensity to feel, which then allows us to drop preconceived judgments, and experience each other as the community of human beings that we are.
Cheryl Zellers
Former Divine Spark Boardmember, January 2010