This morning I read a tweet suggesting that if residents of Flint, Michigan, want real solutions for their contaminated water, they should stop focusing on the human element and instead post videos about dogs who are adversely affected by the dirty water. The tweet went on to suggest that white people would be enraged and immediately demand political, legal, and financial assistance. Provocative and dark, but it’s difficult to argue with. It might first lead to K9 airlifts and offers of adoption, though. (Note: I can’t remember who tweeted it. I’m not great with Twitter and am not confident in my ability to find it.)
A couple of hours after reading that I went to get coffee. A flailing/aspiring photojournalist, I take a camera everywhere. As I was waiting for the signal at Broadway, I saw a few dog walkers with an army of dogs. I love dogs. I fumbled for my camera and started taking shots, already thinking about the IG caption. I wasn’t the only one. A lot of people had their phones out, and I think a few moods were lifted by the sight of the happy dogs.
When I got home, I downloaded the photos. That’s when I noticed a man who I see on the streets almost every day. Really, almost every day for the 2 years I’ve lived in Capitol Hill. Today he was invisible to me. I only noticed the dogs. I’ve included the photo below. I used Photoshop to pixelate the faces for privacy. I think that’s frowned on in photojournalism, but it feels like the right thing to do here.
There have been other times where I haven’t seen him, and it’s rare enough that I fear the worst. My guess is that he’s homeless and dealing with a cycle of addiction. I haven’t asked him. I have spoken to him a few times. The first time was positive. He saw me taking photos and asked me to take his photo. I did. I tried to send it to him at the hotmail address he gave me, but it didn’t go through. The next few times were less pleasant. I didn’t give him money one night, and he unloaded a string of f-bombs my way.
I don’t blame him. No one chooses that life. There are a lot of people in similar circumstances in Seattle (everywhere, I know, but I’m talking about what I see with my eyes). When you’re actually looking and seeing, it can be overwhelming. We’re failing so many of our fellow citizens. I know I’m failing them. I don’t do much to help them. I’ve donated clothes here and there, I donate to the occasional GoFundMe, and I’m quick with a like on call to action social media posts. I need to do better.
A final note — I’m hesitant about sharing thoughts on these topics. Am I virtue signaling? I don’t think I am. At least not entirely. I’m actually reflecting more on how little I do for others despite professing concern for them. I should know more about the current situations in Flint and Puerto Rico. I should be following more of the photojournalists who are working there and covering the issue. I should write a letter to a representative or make a phone call.