“East Bound and Down”: A Homeless March on Washington

David Swanson, Washington director of Democrats.com and a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, recently issued a call to every American to migrate to Washington, D.C. and protest if John McCain steals the coming election. I do empathize with Swanson’s concern and his call for a rally. Nobody was more upset than me over the past two presidential elections — stolen fair and square by George W. Bush and his wealthy cohorts.

But how can Americans who still hold their jobs and who still own their homes possibly respond to this urgent call for justice? Doesn’t the newly declared “American Homeless” sector seem far more qualified for Swanson’s job description? Perhaps this is true — but only with community support — and what community wants to support a “vagrant” or a “bum” who can’t even hold a job or make the house payments?

Moreover, doesn’t all the above indicate deeper structural problems than just a “stolen election”? Isn’t there something a little bigger than this to fight about — regardless of who gets “elected” on November 4, 2008?

Here’s what Swanson said:

“If your television declares John McCain the president elect on the evening of November 4th, your television will be lying. You should immediately pick up your pre-packed bags and head straight to the White House in Washington, DC, which we will surround and shut down until this attempt at a third illegitimate presidency is reversed. We may be there for days or weeks or months. But we must be there. We must be there by the millions. We must show each other, and the nation, and the world that we have had enough, that we will not stand for one more stolen election, that we will not give in to fear, lies, theft, and intimidation.”Swanson, David (10/20/2008). “A McCain ‘Win’ Will Be Theft, Resistance Is Planned,” OpEdNews.

Unfortunately, most Americans cannot respond to such a call, as they still have jobs and homes and families to tend to — at “home.” But a growing portion of the U.S. population, recently disenfranchised by their leaders in Washington, D.C., have already lost their jobs and their homes and in some cases much more.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 760,000 American workers have already lost their jobs this year alone.Bureau of Labor Statistics (10/03/2008). “Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary: September 2008,” U.S. Department of Labor. Other reports indicate a slightly greater number of homeowners will receive a foreclosure notice from the bank before this year ends.Associated Press (10/23/2008). “Foreclosure activity rises 71 percent,” MSNBC. So who is better qualified to head and maintain a march on Washington than the growing number of “American Homeless Ambassadors”, who have been forced to literally take residence in the middle of “Main Street”?

This article is not an attempt to change the minds of those who generally maintain a dim view of homelessness and/or unemployment. This article is intended to propose an action plan for those who already understand the underlying causes of the problem and its paralyzing affects. This article is intended to mobilize those who are already willing and able to move into action — “East Bound and Down”. This includes both homeless and non-homeless members of every community throughout the United States.

Regardless of who is elected on November 4, “deep structural change” achieved through community cooperative alliance is needed to prevent the chaos of unemployment and homelessness from ever happening again.
[4] King, Dr. Martin Luther (1968). Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community? New York, NY: Beacon Press, pg 150.
The job-description outlined by David Swanson seems a perfect fit for millions of recently unemployed and homeless citizens from coast to coast. Likewise, the initiation and maintenance of this plan relies on non-homeless individuals and businesses nationwide who need to make their voices heard in Washington, even as they “hold down the fort” in their own communities. Overall, “East Bound and Down” seems like a latent opportunity just waiting for American communities to seize the day.

So here’s what we do:

Within each community nationwide, a standard flyer is distributed amongst the homeless that outlines the overall program, including the availability of “X” number of Greyhound bus tickets to Washington, D.C. Interested homeless individuals get their names placed into a drawing. Based on the results of the drawing, participating businesses and non-homeless individuals pool their funds to purchase bus tickets — and care-packages — and the “winners” of the drawing are suddenly on their way to a new “home” in Washington, D.C. Participating communities could hold this drawing monthly, to ensure that Washington, D.C. gets a fresh shipment of homelessness every 30 days or so.

The “care-package” highlighted above is essential. Without it, the whole program becomes little more than abuse. In addition to non-perishable food and other basic necessities, this care-package should include a debit-card, loaded once per week by the supporting community to keep the homeless participant fed and clothed properly during their indefinite stay in Washington. A return trip from Washington should also be a consideration, but none of the above should be guaranteed. All participation is voluntary and there are no contracts or guarantees. In fact, a signed disclaimer seems advisable to prevent any sort of legal liability.

While the plan is purely voluntary from every perspective, at least some level of discretion and common sense should be applied. In particular, interested communities should distinguish between 1) long-term chronic “vagrants” with a long history of “No Fixed Abode” (NFA), and 2) individuals who find themselves “homeless” as a result of recent economic events beyond their control. There are some obvious differences between these two sets of individuals, and the latter set are the people who need an opportunity to protest in Washington.

Some candidates are more qualified than others, and each community only needs to send a few volunteers per month to Washington, D.C. At least two per month (never just one) seems advisable regarding the “buddy-system” of safety. Over time, the limit for each community depends on the availability of funding and the “success” of the project overall. Anything more than ten might seem unmanageable, depending on the characteristics of the community and individual participants. But even with all of the above in place, a “Homeless March on Washington, D.C.” seems meaningless without an overarching “purpose”.

“What do all these homeless people want?” will be the first question from the White House.

While the answer to this question might seem obvious, and David Swanson’s “stolen election” might seem a good initial motivator, the polls tend to predict an Obama landslide. After eight years of Republican abuse, a Democratic landslide victory hardly seems surprising. Still, enormous socioeconomic problems remain, and neither presidential candidate proposes an effective “emergency plan” to rectify the damage done by “Wall Street” to the daily inhabitants of “Main Street”.

But an emergency plan to save the American economy has indeed been proposed, though largely ignored by power structures in Washington. After 21-years as senior policy analyst for the U.S. Treasury Department, Richard C. CookCook, Richard C. (06/05/2008). “Crisis in America: Personal Reflections,” Global Research. has outlined a plan that provides every adult U.S. citizen with non-taxable vouchers issued at the rate of $1,000 per month and $500 per month per child. These vouchers are to be issued regardless of employment status, and may be used for food, housing, fuel, communications media, utilities, and educational services.Cook, Richard C. (10/10/2008). “How to Save the U.S. Economy,” Global Research. These are the nuts & bolts of the “Cook Plan” to resuscitate our failing economy with “purchasing power.” Details will be discussed in later installments of this series.

Meanwhile, if our “leaders” simply will not respond to any viable program for economic recovery, then a ready-made opportunity presents itself for millions of Americans to join forces — homeless and non-homeless together — to remind our leaders in Washington who it is they serve. No, it is not just the wealthy Wall Street tycoons and bankers. Rather it is every American citizen who is at risk from a series of bad policies, judgments, and wrongdoing on Wall Street advocated by irresponsible leadership in Washington, D.C.

The “inconvenient truth” is that growing numbers of jobless and homeless Americans happen to be available to get this job done. Nobody needs to leave job or home or family to participate in a “Homeless March on Washington”. Communities must simply coordinate their interests, their efforts and their people to get the job done. This in mind, let’s begin working together now to bring our leaders in Washington, DC, back to their senses, regardless of who gets elected on November 4. As Americans, we owe nothing less to ourselves, our families and communities, and to our country as a whole.

As singer-songwriter Jerry Reed suggests:

“East bound and down, loaded up and truckin’,
We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done.
We got a long way to go, and a short time to get there.
Well, I’m eastbound, jus’ watch ol’ Bandit run!!”Reed, Jerry (1977). “East Bound and Down,” Nashville, TN: RCA.

David Kendall lives in WA and deeply cares about the future of our world. He can be reached at: davidlkendall@comcast.net. Read other articles by David, or visit David's website.