I met a man recently who had spent more than a year dragging the rotting corpse of his arm barely attached to the rest of his body.
His limb carried such a pungent malodor he’d stopped eating months ago because the noxious stench of his own dripping pus made him perpetually nauseous.
A former handyman, he had jimmied up a poor-man’s sling with a tattered Hanes undershirt. It too was crusted in a mix of sweat and pus, maggot eggs embedded in the curdled bodily fluid.
Pretty bad. He’d come some time earlier, had “eloped” from the hospital to escape amputation because it meant cutting off his heroin. Had finally returned because his dealers wouldn’t sell him any more heroin because he smelled so bad.
Million stories in the naked city, this is one of them. But wait. Doctor Ho, the writer, gets past the horrible parts and asks:
What am I to do? I can fix the medical, a metaphoric Band-Aid slapped on a literal amputation. What I do, however, will do nothing to address the complex web of political, social, economic and often psychological factors that landed this man in front of me in the first place.
Sad but true, as ever. She offers more in that vein, including a turn toward her readers, or maybe her co-workers, not clear:
When [what she described] happens, we are forced to reconcile the society we live in, the one where we preach about equality and minimizing the wealth gap, with the one we work in, where we are confronted with the deviants we’ve passively made castaways in our regular lives.
“Passively made” makes me actively wonder. And “in our regular lives” even more so.
We have made them “repulsive and foul,” so that “our politely socialized minds” boggle. “Poor, desperate or mentally ill” we can understand enough and “attempt to mobilize around” them. Not such “deviants” as this. Instead, instead embracing “ignorance as bliss.” (“’tis folly to be wise,” said the poet.)
Furthermore, “we espouse grandiose themes of egalitarianism for the classes we can label and identify, and leave those at the extreme fringe unacknowledged.”