It is funny how the only thing I could think about when the mayor came to talk to our social policy class a few weeks ago was Jon Stewart. They re- ally have very little in common, except maybe the same taste in ties.
I guess hearing the comedian’s voice in my head was just a reaction to some pretty dualistic terms the mayor was using. Mayor Byrd was very personable and gracious. He shared his opinion freely and asked for our input into social policy, as well.
It was only when he offered his opinion on procedure regarding the local homeless population that I was taken back to the Rally to Restore Sanity.
Policy regarding homelessness in Harrisonburg has been a topic of interest for me since I was required to volunteer in the Point-in-Time survey earlier in the semester. The survey sends staff and volunteers to various locations in the city at different times throughout the day in an attempt to accurately count the number of people who consider themselves homeless and to get an idea of the services they use.
Just among the few people I surveyed—each with an amazing life story—I got the sense that the most useful and valuable services were emergency and thermal shelters such as Our Community Place (OCP) and the Harrisonburg and Rockingham Thermal Shelter (HARTS).
But the mayor had critical things to say about those programs. When he discussed homelessness policy changes he suggested downsizing resources run by volunteers (like both OCP and HARTS) and turning over shelters to government authority.
I was not fond of this idea, seeing as all of the people I had surveyed said that they appreciated volunteer-run re- sources the most.
The other option he gave was to do essentially nothing, despite the growing homeless population. It sounded to me like he was saying we have two options: either we throw away the entire system and rebuild everything, or things stay exactly the way they are right now—flaws and all.
And I feel like this is not the first place I have heard this. I am no great follower of politics (full disclosure: my main news source is, in fact, the Daily Show—judge me as you see fit), but it seems that dualism is a pretty common mindset.
We think we only have two options, when in reality, there is always a third way. There are probably fourth and fifth ways, too.
I think dualism, while not altogether harmful, shows a lack of creativity, and a lack of innovation on our part. Surely in creating social policy we can sit down together, brainstorm numer- ous ideas, and come up with a solution that works well for everyone—without resorting to dualistic thinking.
Mila Litchfield is a Junior Social Work major who was once so inept at politics that she thought Monica Lewinsky was a character on Friends.