Requiem for a bum

Kate Stanley is a member of the Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial board and one of the folks who has made the Strib a national laughingstock for its thoroughgoing political correctness and zany leftism. The great Hugh Hewitt conducted a memorable interview with Stanley a while back, seeking to introduce her to a national audience as a specimen of a particularly noxious brand of solipsism cloaked in the garb of a political commentator.
Today the Strib editorial section features Stanley’s “A man outside.” The piece is a tribute to Lowell Boswell, a fellow who in days of yore would have been known as a bum. He was a homeless (by choice), alcoholic troublemaker whose kind has made urban America so unpleasant for so many law-abiding people. His recent death provides the occasion for Stanley’s piece.
More precisely, it is the indulgence of folks like Lowell Boswell by the Kate Stanleys of the world that has rendered urban America a very unpleasant place. The city of Minneapolis itself is a laboratory study in the consequences of one-party governance according to the shibboleths of Stanleyism.
“Nearly every night since he returned from Vietnam in 1974 he’d spent in a sleeping bag under the bridges and in the bushes of Minneapolis. ‘I never meant it to turn out this way,’ he said. ‘I was a good student, and spent a little time in college. But when I came home from the war, the world I knew was gone. Entirely gone.'”
Query: What was the world he knew? Stanley takes the statement at face value as self-explanatory. She doesn’t pause to expand on it or clarify what he found at home that turned him to the streets.
She continues: “So the tall man opted to live in the open air, setting up camp along the river or within sight of the Basilica — absorbing the bit of nature the city still had to offer. His way of life was mystifying to people accustomed to the world of whirlpools and white wine. But that was not the world Lowell wanted. He held to a value system he couldn’t find in Kenwood [the wealthiest neighborhood in the city], or in the bug-infested walk-ups, or in the shelters.
“‘I can’t stand the shelters,’ he said. ‘They stink. And the schizophrenics jabber all night. And besides, you can’t hear the wind.’ In all his 29 years outside, he said, he’d taken not a cent of public money — in spite of his status as a decorated Marine veteran.”
One sentence later, however, Stanley states: “Every morning he packed up his little household and carried it around on his back — taking his meals at soup kitchens and reading away his hours in churches, at libraries, in city parks. Sometimes he’d drink — enough that he’d end up in detox or the Hennepin emergency room.”
In other words, one sentence after asserting that Boswell had “not taken a cent of public money,” she observes that he lived daily on public money. In her zeal to depict Boswell as a self-sufficient nature-loving loner worthy of emulation, she forgets what she herself has just said.
The subtext of Stanley’s requiem for Lowell Boswell is a self-loving tribute to Stanely’s own liberal nihilism that brings her to celebrate the wasted life of Lowell Boswell — her own greatness, her own vision, her own compassion. The real tragedy at the heart of Stanley’s piece is the decadence masquerading as charity that facilitates the self-destruction of individuals such as Lowell Boswell.
UPDATE: Reader Alan Biesenkamp writes to add that he “also met a guy with a similar story; it just happened that the unit he claimed to have served in was the same unit I had actually served in, down to the same company. After listening to his heartbreaking tale for a while, I had to question him on a few details. His story got a little mushy after that and he faded away. He was living on VA benefits and probably never set foot in Vietnam.” Alan identifies himself as “former SP/4 Co D 1/27th INF 25th INF DIV 68-69.”

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