I think I’m angry. I’m not sure of the emotion because I’ve tried for years not to get mad. See, anger is useless and uses up most, if not all, of the energy needed to correct the problem that made someone angry in the first place.
Keith Shaw, a motivational speaker and author of “How To Get What You Want, When You Want It,” says that only 3 percent of us achieve what we want because 90 percent of us never know what we wanted in the first place. We don’t set goals and therefore we simply don’t achieve them.
I guess that’s why I’m mad. I’m not one of those goal-less people. I know what I want but hard as I try I can’t correct the problems at hand, the issues persist, and all that’s left for me to do is fume. See, my goal’s so large that I need others to have the same goal — like a political agenda — and without that coordinated effort, I’m chipping away at only one small piece of the problem.
Maybe I should tell you what set me off this week.
I have a dear friend. He’s a poet and a warrior. He got shot at and he killed people back in the 1960s, and now he writes poems about it so he can exorcise the ghosts the Vietnam War left in his head. Actually, they’re ghosts that United States foreign policy left in his head. After all, he didn’t get to Vietnam without being part of a very big goal belonging to someone else.
If Shaw’s book, “How To Get What You Want, When You Want It,” existed back when the feds were drafting guys like my friend — I’ll call him Pete — Pete might have selected a strategy that avoided war and consequently the bloodstains on his memory. But like so many other kids his age, he went along with the 3 percent of people who had defined goals, and he continues to pay the price.
This month Pete is paying again to meet the goals of others: The U.S.’ priorities are still war and Wall Street and not folks like him, so 40 years later, Pete is still disposable. Pete now lives in a homeless shelter. Not surprising, as the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans website states that “107,000 veterans are homeless” any given night and “about 1.5 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness.”
I guess it was just his turn.
Pete’s about 60. As a young man, he served eight years in the military and was honorably discharged. Now he lives in a shelter, which isn’t staffed during the day so he has to leave by 8 a.m. and his curfew demands he return by 6 p.m. or he’ll lose his bed to someone else.
Oh yeah, and he has the No. 1 complaint that homeless veterans share — again from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans — he needs a job. I wonder if a retailer hired him if they’d want him to work evenings through the holiday season, because a job like that will cost him his shelter.
He could move south where he would at least be warmer while he’s outside during the day, but he had surgery at Togus and has a follow-up on Friday. If he moves he’ll lose the doctor he trusts. I don’t know that even a motivational speaker could help Pete “get what he wants, when he wants it.”
This brings me back to why I’m angry.
Every two years I write a political column that appears the day after our semiannual national elections even though I don’t know the outcome because my deadline is actually the day before it goes to print.
But if predictions are correct, the Democrats lost ground yesterday. And it’s because they have no goals; they have rhetoric but no goals. In 2008, the Democrats promised things that sounded like goals: protecting the environment, ending the wars, public option health care, helping veterans. But once elected they proved their real objectives were appeasing the powerful few that rule regardless of which party’s in power.
And today the country remains — like my friend — unrepresented without hope of things improving.
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@ hotmail.com.