By Dumpsta Love
On August 22 2014 Andrew Kerezman of the “traveling community” — nomadic punks carrying large backpacks who trainhop and hitchhike across the land — was struck by a truck while crossing the street in Grand Junction, Colorado and mortally injured. Immediately, everything seemed wrong at the scene of the accident. Witnesses reported that the truck was going extremely fast when Andrew was hit, but the police at the scene acted as if they didn’t care at all. Andrew’s friends asked the cops to test the driver for alcohol, but the police refused. Instead, they screamed profanities at us because of our tattered clothes and non-mainstream appearance.
The police formed a physical barrier between us and the driver while the driver remained in his truck for a long while and wasn’t asked anything. Andrew lay dying in the street, his face covered in blood. Why weren’t the cops acting as if they cared at all? Andrew was a human being wasn’t he? His clothes and appearance indicated to the police that he was destitute, but money isn’t what gives a human life value.
Society looks at members of the traveling community like garbage because of the way we dress and because we sit in public places. But while we may not have a big car, a house, or an office job, we have freedom that mainstream people can only dream about. We’re not blinded by the illusion that money will bring us happiness. Many of us have endured hardships and lived as outcasts our whole lives, constantly profiled and treated poorly by those who conform to society’s norms. We travel as a means of knowing the world in which we live, meeting new people and visiting old friends, having unforeseen adventures and persevering the difficulties, spreading happiness and love, sharing art and music, being intimate with other cultures and spiritual beliefs, and sometimes just to escape. Though not all travelers are the same, there is an overarching community of compassion and caring. We all share the value of love over money.
We endure burning summers and frozen winters, holding cardboard signs and pointing thumbs. Dirt from the ground we sleep on sifts through everything and covers our skin, like the Earth itself is leaving her mark on us to wear everywhere we go. The natural smells of our bodies are not disdained in our culture. While many of us are reasonable with our hygiene, we don’t obey the standards of poison associated with deodorants, perfumes, soaps, etc. Everything we need is contained in the heavy packs we carry. Our clothes are few and thoroughly used. We lead a nomadic lifestyle. Travelers are not opposed to working, but we do not resign to a 9-5 mindset and deferred retirement as an acceptable lifestyle. Andrew was a member of this lifestyle –- this culture, our culture.
After he died, we had a sincere and heartfelt memorial for Andrew burning candles and throwing flowers in the river under the train track trestles. On the road you get to know people’s natures very quickly, but a lot of time you know little else. Life isn’t cheap on the road –- it’s priceless.
Mainstream society discriminates against many minority cultures — abuse by the police against people of color is in the news every day. Misinformation created by church, state, and media creates an atmosphere of aggression toward any belief that isn’t part of a system such as Anarchy, Atheism, or self sustained living, to name just a few. We are often treated as ‘lesser than’ by the majority of establishments we encounter, even those places we spend money. People assume we don’t matter and will yell profanities at us, attempt to cause us harm, and treat us with general indifference. We are people too and should be treated with basic human decency — home or no home, money or no money. Andrew Kerezman was a person, too.