how cheap is life?

Posted on August 10, 2007


Geraldine BeasleyTo murderer Geraldine Beasley of 2500 block of Victory Parkway, even the phantom of an imaginary quarter she might give away was worth more to her than the life of 44 year old Donald Francis.

He asked her for a quarter.

She shot him dead.

Donald Francis, who police believe was homeless, stood outside a gas station late Monday asking people for money. Geraldine Beasley had complained about Francis to someone else, and when he approached her she pulled out a gun and shot him, police said.

Francis, 44, died at the scene.

Bear with me now, for I’m going off into unexplored territory here. You won’t find a million websites agreeing with me, because this doesn’t seem to have occurred to them, and not because bloggers are evil or selfish; it’s just that it takes something like this before a panhandler impacts the media consciousness.

Here in Vancouver, when a squeegee man attacked a woman the City banned squeegee men.

Yet, when a stockbroker attacks a woman, the City does not ban stockbroking.

A truly Civil City is one where all human lives are respected, and people are treated as equal under the law. Given that we have laws against assault and murder, let them be applied equally to all transgressors, regardless of their professions.

We got rid of the aristocracy because we believed that all citizens were equal. Let us live that ancient dream; it’s within our hands.

A panhandler is nothing more nor less than a businessperson. Less obstructive than a hot dog cart, and frequently able to give directions or hold doors or otherwise make themselves useful, they are offering an opportunity: give me some of your money, or not. Buy these things I have found, or don’t. These are the same transactions that are available inside any storefront or at any ice cream truck; that they take place on the sidewalk does not alter their nature.

I suggest that, instead of viewing this city’s several hundred panhandlers as interlopers, we realize that panhandling has been carried out in this city continuously for over one hundred years, forming a pre-existing condition of Vancouverdom, that it offers the free opportunity for the pursuit of commerce as do so many other professions (stockbroking among them), and that its practitioners are due all the protection that the law provides to those who practice alternative occupations.

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