But then, my blogging friend Naomi Baltuck (whose awesome blog, Writing Between The Lines, is very much worth checking out!), left the following comment on that post:
This is a gorgeous photo! I love the color and composition! Very artful.
I know. Sweet, and a wonderful compliment, right?
Truth is, I can’t, with a clear conscience, accept the compliment, because…the photo is a fraud.
You see, there’s nothing gorgeous, colorful, or artful about the fact that, just out of frame, several buildings down, there was a line of people two blocks long at the Portland Rescue Mission.
We’d been warned by a Portlander, at a streetcar stop on the south side of the Willamette River, that our plan to walk over the Burnside Bridge wasn’t the greatest, that there were several buses we could take across, that the neighborhood just on the other side of the bridge was, he said, “…unpleasant. Not unsafe. You won’t get mugged or anything. It’s just unpleasant.”
I had a feeling I knew what he was referring to. My wife and 15-year old son had seen numerous homeless people on our walking excursions throughout the city. But, nothing had prepared me for the sight of so many people lined up at the mission on a cold night, nearly a stone’s throw away from one of Portland’s proudest achievements, the Pearl District, a section of downtown that had once been a crumbling mess of urban industrial decay, transformed in the late 1990s into an upscale neighborhood of pricey restaurants, shops, and condominium complexes.
So, the Portlander we spoke to was right, it was unpleasant, but not for the reasons I’m almost certain he was hinting at.
There was nothing unpleasant about the people who were lined up at the mission.
No, the unpleasantness, for me, was that they served as a stark reminder that we continue to allow, in our country, 1% of the population to hoard unthinkable amounts of wealth, living in decadent luxury, while the middle class is shrinking, and poverty is on the rise.
It’s a national disgrace.
Here’s a photo taken outside of the Portland Rescue Mission…
…in the late 1940s, during the post-WWII economic boom.
So much has changed since then, but sadly, some things have stayed the same.