I live close enough to Rochester, New Hampshire so that two members of my immediate family were locked down in the schools and a number of friends were directly effected by the hostage crisis at Hillary Clinton’s headquarters. From what is known now, the local and State Police handled the crisis very professionally and I thank them for that. Even if it had happened thousands of miles away, their not attempting to become media personalities during the standoff is very much appreciated. The hyper-hype that the cabloids and broadcast impose on situations like this is more of an incentive to crack-pots and marginal personalities in search of attention than it is useful to the People. As if the media are in the business of providing people with useful information instead of sensational ratings fodder. While nothing can be done about the shameless and irresponsible media spreading every last rumor and air-filling lie, it’s not something that the police and others are required to participate in. The time to give the public the facts is when those are known. Until the crisis is over, the police have work other than to provide CNN with something to fill in between commercials.
Someone I talked to this morning wondered where Anderson Cooper and the other media people were going to spend the night. As luck would have it, I intended to write about Rochester today anyway. This article by Conor Makem from the Rochester Times earlier last month is about the mostly unremarked crisis in homelessness and hunger in one of the more well-off areas of the country.
ROCHESTER It's 3 p.m. and Nancy Lawrence is calming down one of her volunteers over the phone. The residents of the Homeless Center for Strafford County are beginning to show up for the evening. The parking lot is full.
Lawrence, the executive director, is frazzled. The center has never been this full so early in the season. They opened Oct. 1 and were full three days later. Normally they don't have this many residents until after Thanksgiving. There are 10 adults and 10 children, aged 1 to 11 years.
"I turn away two to five families a day," she said. "I've turned away a few people before, but never like this."
She notes that every homeless shelter in the area is full. Lawrence is housing a pregnant woman due within days, she has fewer volunteers than in recent years and she has taken to loaning money out of her pocket to residents. She expects it to get worse.
"Our food pantry is wicked low," she said.
No one really expected the national media that descends on New Hampshire every Presidential election, to cover every hot dog eaten by the candidates to find this story, now, did we. How often do they report on destitution in their own towns?
Rochester and the surrounding towns aren’t in particularly bad economic condition. Since homelessness and hunger are that bad in Rochester and the surrounding towns it’s certainly a lot worse in most places. I don’t know if there is a tie in with the hostage-taking and bomb threat to be made but there could be. The suspect is known in the area, there was at least one rather marginally rational letter printed in a local paper and there have been enough domestic and other incidents with police to have gotten his name in the news. I think he’s probably been in rather disparate need of some kind of psychiatric help for a while now, his neighbors say he’s been unemployed for months. His wife had just filed for divorce last week so it’s quite possible that he or she would soon have ended up homeless. A lot of people have fallen from father up the economic scale than they were. There are a lot of people just barely holding on by their fingernails even in relatively well off places.
The backlash against people who were living on the street and very conspicuously not those in a position to house them was some of the foul gas that fueled the rise of Rudolph Giuliani, objectively the seamiest and most compromised major candidate in the race. Not that the delicate noses of the DC based press can smell the taint. How much do you want to bet that somehow, Hillary Clinton will be made to pay more of a price for the incident in Rochester than Giuliani will have to for his associations with criminals and sleaze. Not that anyone here would take that bet. None of us is going to be surprised when it turns out to be her fault, I’m sure that some hate-talk personality has already floated the soon-to-be reported as having-been-said lie that she planned it as a campaign stunt. Some things are a sure bet.
More about this later.