National Security

A 93-year-old veteran.

Schur lived by himself. His wife died nearly two years ago, and the couple had no children.

The city had placed the power device on his home Jan. 13. Four days later, his frozen body was discovered by a neighbor.

Among
the issues being investigated by authorities was whether Schur suffered
from dementia. They’re checking to see if he was treated by doctors for
the disease.

When Schur’s body was discovered, his unpaid power bills sat on a kitchen table inside the house.

Clipped to the bills was cash that he was going to use to pay them.

We live in a country of assholes, we really do:

In Bay City, City Manager Robert Belleman said the city would review its use of the equipment in the wake of Schur’s death.

Belleman and Schur’s neighbors got into a war of words over who was responsible for the death.

Neighbors
said they didn’t believe the city had explained to Schur that he could
reset the device. And even if it did, Schur might suffer from dementia
and have trouble following directions, they said.

“We’re a small enough town where someone like Marvin should get a little bit extra care,” said neighbor Jim Hernden.

But Belleman said neighbors should have contacted the city if they were concerned about Schur.

“I’ve said this before and some of my colleagues have said this: Neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors,” he said.

Schur had owed more than $1,000 in unpaid electricity bills, Belleman said.

Really, neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors? Really? Because honest to fucking God what on earth about this country would ever give anybody the idea that that would be an answer to any question anybody could ever ask? I don’t know about all of you out there in real America with your small town values and your bootstraps and shit, but the overwhelming response to a neighbor’s plight in my entire lifetime has been “oh well, too bad, he should have paid his bills, he should have done this, he should have done that, I’m not responsible, if only he’d have saved money, somebody else should have handled it, not my problem, don’t make me give a damn, stop whining, whatever.”

Fucking assholes. I keep hearing about back in the good old days neighbors would take care of neighbors, just like the city manager says. I keep hearing about how in little towns and real neighborhoods where people do shots with their beer people do take care of each other. “When my grandma was a kid …” And then something like this happens and the response in the newspaper comment sectionsis shit like this:

Old people always die eventually anyway. What’s the big deal?

I don’t think the City did anything wrong. If this poor man chose to
live an isolated life, had so few social contacts, no agencies were
involved and this is an isolated incident, this sad case is not the
fault of the utility company. Some people choose to be hermits and
disregard the financial responsibilites, his age certainly was not an
assest to choosing to live alone.

A little Global Warming would have helped.

Sometimes the elderly are so stubborn and refuse help from anyone…unfortunately in this case it was fatal.

Let this be a lesson to all of you who think you don’t have to pay your bills. It doesn’t matter how old and ancient you are.

Que sera…

ASSHOLES. I’m sorry, I don’t have much more than that. This man was a veteran of World War II. This man came home from Bastogne or Iwo Jima or whatever, I don’t care if he sat at a desk in Kentucky, this man put on a uniform and this is what he gets? Fuck this bullshit, really. Eight solid years of jawing about terrorists under the bed, another three or four decades about welfare babies and people needing to do for themselves, and this isn’t about what government did or didn’t do in this one particular case, this is about what we wound up as, which is this. THIS.

Neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors. For what it’s worth, I agree. Here’s the thing, though, the real question, that I’m going to phrase this way because Mom dragged me to church and I listened for a while: Who’s my neighbor? If this man is my neighbor how do I keep an eye on him, how do I care for him? How do I keep an eye on my neighbor halfway across the country, a man who already sacrificed for me, kept an eye on me, how do I keep an eye on him? Tell me this is a Christian nation, how do we care for one another? This way?

Take all the things the supposedly moral values party tells us and turn them on this case: This man was a veteran. Freedom isn’t free, right? Apparently it costs $1,000.

A.

19 thoughts on “National Security

  1. I see a lot of stuff like these comments on my local paper’s website.
    What I wouldn’t give for a communicable virus that causes self-awareness, empathy, and shame.

  2. Scott, I don’t know what it is with newspapers’ comment sections. They’re worse than Freeperville. No matter WHAT the story is about, it turns into a hatefest on somebody, usually black people, though the poor are always fair game.
    A.

  3. It’s absolutely maddening.
    ‘Round here, better’n 95% of the population claims to be Christian, and while I’d love it if they got their words read back to them in church and forced to confront their blatantly anti-christlike attitudes, I also assume that most of their fellow parishioners would say “That’s okay, I hate those poor/black/gay/female bastards, too.” That’s just the kind of country we’ve evolved into. :/

  4. Oh my god, this is my hometown. This is so horrifying and shameful, and I haven’t lived there in 25 years or even set foot in the place in nearly 12 years. I just don’t even know what to think — was I just blind to how awful and callous the people who live there were when I was growing up, or has it just got objectively meaner over the last decade or so?

  5. 1. I thought the way we kept an eye on each other WAS government. I guess Ron Reagan didn’t straighten me out.
    2. A huge proportion of our fellow Americans are assholes. Over history, the percentage ebbs and flows. It’s been flowing for 50 years now, and we all hope that Jan 20, 2009 is a pivot back to ebbing. Which might be true or not, and even if it is true, it’s going to take some time to see any appreciable effect, and even then, there are a lot of assholes in the US (as there are, as far as I can tell, everywhere else in the world).
    Wonderful rant on a tragic and humiliating story.

  6. Athenae, you are absolutely right–although it isn’t limited to newspaper comment sections–the teevee news web comment sections teem with hate and assholery.
    You know, in France, the utilities are forbidden to turn off the heat on ANYONE in the winter. Damn socialism…

  7. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Jeebus. You’d think that these people would read the story of Cain and Abel and think, “Well, hey, Abel kinda brought it on himself.”
    Shit. I’m pretty much an agnostic, and *I* know Jesus would expect more of us than this.

  8. I thought legally heat could not be turned off between November and March. Maybe just in Wisconsin? Maybe just in my municipality? And hey voters, next time you vote for a candidate who promises to cut “waste”, you can almost guarantee that the waste he or she targets will include social services. The type of social services that might send someone to check in on an old veteran. Gone. But it’s ok as long as it doesn’t affect you personally, right? When it’s not you the outcome is deserved. When it is you, you deserve the help because you’re a taxpayer.

  9. “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love by our love yes they will know we are Christians by our loveeeee.”
    Freedom isn’t Free. Apparently compassion and empathy aren’t free either.
    Right now on “24” they are trying to set up the new President as a good person with values, but we know that by the time the script calls for it she will be as blood thirsty and a pro-torture as Dick Cheney. This is their way to show that liberalism doesn’t work “in the real world” aka “24”.
    They put all the worst straw man arguments in the mouths of the puny liberals so that when the time comes to make the case for torture they can show that the liberal method doesn’t work but the torture method does! QED Freedom demands a few stupid right broken for the greater good.

  10. Can’t fathom this shit. Really, letting a veteran freeze to death for a thousand bucks. Yes, I blame the fucking utility. They turned off the goddamn heat.
    For a goddamn thousand dollars. Hell, the head of that utility probably wore a suit worth that much the day he had his goons shut off the power. Fuck them all.
    We read this shit daily. Putting Obama in the Big Chair isn’t going to change a damn thing. This shit changes when WE take charge of the streets. The neighbors of this man should gather together and march on the City Hall with drums, horns, pots, pans, torches and pitchforks. Make a BIG noise. Bring the worthless media into the mix. Shit, march on the TV station too.
    Protest don’t work any more. This is from someone who took a face full of pepper spray at the WTO tupperware party in Seattle. They only work if you make a BIG NOISE.
    Maybe if we chain a few naked CEO’s to lampposts the message will get through to the Powers that Be that we are fucking fed up!

  11. This is what comes of “faith based” community service. You have faith that somebody else will worry about the old, the poor the infirm. This is why we form governments.

  12. A, I shake my head in incredulity at this story – it strikes me as little different than the Kitty Genovese case from NYC in ’64 – a woman brutally attacked and killed while dozens within earshot did nothing.
    But what IS different is relevant. First, the action was taken BY A GOVERNMENT AGENCY. That agency CANNOT STATE WITH ANY CERTAINTY that they actually spoke with Mr. Schur.
    And those who take actions should be accountable for those actions.
    Second, the attitude of the City Manager seems to be that the citizens in the neighborhood are responsible for watching over their neighbors. But unlike a screaming woman, how does one know an elderly man is freezing to death? Isn’t there a societal assumption that a power company will continue to supply power in the coldest weather of the year? And just who goes out in winter to see if there’s a limiter placed on a neighbor’s utility meter – especially when such meters are usually placed on the side or in back of houses?
    And if the City Manager continues to hide behind his transparent self-protection braggadocio that all but says ‘every man for himself’ – Well, does this apply to fire protection? Police? EMS?
    Thing is, if you pay taxes for government services, the societal obligation is that those services will be delivered. And in 2009, those services include municipal or county-level social workers being consulted about the welfare of a 93-year-old about to lose his power in the dead of winter.
    The neighbors assumed the social service system was working. It didn’t. So it’s their fault that they didn’t track every dollar of their taxes? I thought that was more the responsibility of someone like…a City Manager.
    This is a horrible example not just of failure from everybody empowered, but also the arrogant attitude from those who preach Ayn Rand self-reliance. Such individuals may want to think how self-reliant they are if ever their house catches on fire, or they fall and break a leg in their backyard, out of sight from anyone else.
    Or, as should be the case with this City Manager, they’re out of a job without any unemployment benefits due – and facing significant legal jeopardy.
    Thanks for letting me hiss and spit.

  13. It sounds incredible. Did the power company know that he was 93 years old? Did they have any way to find out? What method should they have used to decide that this veteran was not paying his electric bill for reasons that may have been related to age or need for social services rather than desire to defraud the power company. There are plenty of folks who are perfectly happy not to pay their electric bills, and everyone else has to pick up the slack.
    There are some serious issues of privacy and autonomy that have to be addressed. My power company knows jiminy squat about me beyond my name, address and credit card number. They also know how much power I use.
    You would think that the power company would have made some effort to find out what was going on, perhaps doing a credit check or calling in a social worker or a private detective, but they have to balance people’s privacy against their desire to avoid this kind of horror. I can imagine what would happen if the power company started running its own census and asking for a list of residents, how old they are, whether they might be having mental problems.
    I wish there were a perfectly obvious solution, or perhaps that electricity was too cheap to bother metering. I’ve seen friends try to help a parent with dementia, and even the social workers, and the police once they’ve gotten involved because the parent violently threatened a neighbor, have limits on what they can do without going through the court system and weighing rights against needs. The end result isn’t always pretty. The good news is that it is harder for your husband to get you put in the loony bin when you ask for a divorce, and the power company can’t demand a larger deposit because you are black, but it is also harder to help people in need.

  14. Kaleberg, it seems to me that there ought to be somebody in the power company who is charged with making sure that when the power is getting shut off, this sort of thing doesn’t happen. When you are offering a commodity that people’s lives depend on, it is incumbent on you to make sure that lives aren’t lost when you deprive them of that commodity, even when it’s for a very good reason.
    It wouldn’t have taken much to find out that this was a dangerous situation. They knew they were shutting off this guy’s power. A phone call, a visit to the house–knock on the door, ask if there’s anything you can do to help, a payment plan, hook the guy up with public assistance, whatever. One day’s work by one person could have avoided all of this. That’s not an invasion of privacy–it’s good business. It’s kinda hard to make money off a dead guy. (Sorry, but sometimes you have to put it in terms a fucking business school moron could understand, and it seems like those power company officials are just that kind of moron.) If you can afford to pay a guy to go out and put the cutoff meter on, you can pay somebody to go out and talk to the guy. Hell, my credit card company just LOVES to call me.

  15. There is areason why Wisconsin has outlawed turning off heat in the winter months. I didn’t know other states had not.
    At Least We Give a Damn about our residents.
    We May Be Corrupt in other area’s, every state is now-a-days. But at least we aren’t trying to murder our elderly and then passing it off as “Oh, it was his fault, he shoulda paid his damn bills on time.”
    What a Heart-Wrenching story.
    No. Cut that. What a Stomach-Turning, Heart-Wrenching, Soul-Murdering Story.
    Why didn’t anyone from THE COMPANY talk to him? EXPLAIN TO HIM what was going to happen, in a NICE way. Try to HELP him.
    WHY?
    Because we are AMERICANS! You know, America, Home of the GREEDY, Home of the DECEITFUL, Home of the IMMORAL and SELFISH?
    No, Not Everyone is like that. But Unfourtunatly alot of the Higher-Up’s are.
    [/Ranting and Raving.]

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