As I was entering the Wake County Courthouse last Friday morning, I noticed an obviously homeless man sitting on a bench along Salisbury Street. He didn't seem to notice the hustle and bustle going on around him.
When I left the courthouse about 10 minutes later, he was still there, so I joined him on the bench. I introduced myself, shook his fat, calloused hand, and we chatted. George Batten, his face full of about a week's worth of gray whiskers, told me he lived on the streets near the McDonald's on Peace Street.
He was wearing a silver-colored high school-like jacket with the name "Leigh Ann" embroidered in black thread. When I mentioned the girl's name, he glanced at it, only noticing for the first time that his jacket included his niece's name. George told me his brother in Concord had given him the jacket.
George also told me he recently had vascular surgery on his legs at UNC Hospitals, but he didn't have the TTA bus fare to make it to Chapel Hill for his doctor's appointment that day. I told him I could give him the bus fare.
George pulled some medical papers out of his pocket from the hospital. Next to the words "Address of Patient," the form stated: "Streets of Raleigh (hmless)." George has applied for disability, but he told me he expects to be dead before he gets it.
Near where we were sitting, I noticed the top headline in The News & Observer paper box: "'We will not be terrorized,'" a reference to the horrific terrorist bombings the previous day in London.
Like New Yorkers in the wake of 9/11, Londoners may show resolve and perseverance in the face of the attacks, but few will likely be moved to explore the realities behind the surge in global terrorism, much of directed against the haves by the have-nots.
I remember a stark photo seen around the world in the days immediately following 9/11 of three Pakistani men standing in front of a banner that read: "Americans, Think! Why are you hated all over the world?"
Few First World people would be willing to radically change their over-consumptive lifestyles in order to give a larger piece of the pie to the poor. Few First World people would choose bread over bombs in the war on terrorism.
World and local events don't happen in a vacuum. The web of life is intricately interconnected.
What happens to George Batten and what happens to Iraqi families has far more to do with our security than all the bombs and guns of George W. Bush and Tony Blair.