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Victims of war, victims of bad choices

One of the longstanding liberal/conservative debates in the United States is in regard to the phenomenon of poverty. Liberals believe that the problems of the poor are primarily a result of circumstance, while conservatives believe that they're the result of poor choices. An article in the New York Times on Saturday, while intended (I think) to be a sob story about the harsh world actually illustrates the latter. They presented stories of two veterans; the first was Pat Tillman, killed in combat in Afghanistan, and the second is a woman who returned from Iraq and who is now homeless, with a child, in New York. I'm not sure why the Times decided to put these two stories together, but put that question aside and focus on the second story. It is a sad story when anybody is homeless, and even sadder when a veteran is. But once you get past that natural sympathetic reaction, the story becomes slightly less heart-rending.

Why homeless with a child? Well, she's unemployed (having left the military), and when she originally entered the military, she was stationed in Germany, where something happened:

A relationship with another soldier ended after she became pregnant, and in early 2003 she flew to the California home of some friends from the military - the Bronx was not an option, she says - to give birth in March of that year. A few weeks later, she did the hardest thing she has ever had to do: she left Shylah with her California friends and returned to Germany to complete her service.
Notice something -- or someone -- missing from the story? The article later discusses her $250 in unemployment benefits, but nowhere in the piece is any child support mentioned. Perhaps that's because nowhere in the piece is the child's father mentioned.

And why homeless? Well, when she got home from the military, she stayed with her mother. Briefly:

Her Army career now over, Ms. Goodwin returned to California to pick up Shylah, who looked "amazingly different," and headed to the Bronx, where her mother, two sisters and a 4-year-old nephew were now living in the two-bedroom apartment in the Patterson housing project. "We were good for a week," she said of her relationship with her mother. "But after that. . . ."
Anywhere else she could go? Yes:
Ms. Goodwin and her daughter moved in with a good friend's mother, and she began planning her next step in life, one that would provide more than the $250 a week she was receiving in unemployment benefits. But a heated argument abruptly ended the living arrangement, and late on April 6 - a little more than two months after being honorably discharged as a private, second class - a war veteran and her small child hit the darkened streets.
So, let's recap: she gets pregnant out of wedlock, has apparently no contact with the father, and whenever people let her stay with them, she gets into fights with them and gets kicked out. Oh, and from later in the story: she refuses to go back to her mother's apartment.

And now she's not doing well? Gee, what a shock. Like I said, a sad story. But more of a lesson about how not to live your life than a tale of society letting someone down.


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