“There is only one rule that binds all people. One governing principle that defines every relationship on God’s green earth: The weak are meat, and the strong do eat.”
“Christine, poor people must exist, because without them, there can’t be rich people.”
It may have been the Morning Edition that was playing on NPR when I thought I had to have misheard this ‘expert’ of some sort talk very authoritatively about Germany’s announcement to take in 800,000 refugees. I was wondering if she, the collective national she that is, may be feeling the need to atone for deeds done past when I heard:
“These are educated people: doctors and lawyers and such. We’re not talking about the bottom of the barrel…”
Those words hit me like a punch in the gut. Because these kinds of terms reflect a sickness that seems to have infected so many people – people who make judgments on others based on what they studied, or didn’t study, what they wear or how they look, or even what they eat or what they have in their possession.
I hear this type of message each and every day, on the radio, online, in my neighborhood, and even in my own family.
I may have gotten a glimpse into how it feels to be treated this way. I’ve seen the sickness and apathy actually seeping out through their eyes…the same kind of apathy and ignorance I heard on the radio…
One quiet, sunny, Sunday afternoon, I was wandering alone in Pioneer Square.
I was turning the corner at First and Washington when I came upon a woman who was sobbing in a doorway. I mean she was really losing it. She was in a very bad place.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“No, I’m not,” she sobbed.
She stood up and came toward me. She had desperation in her eyes. She didn’t seem to be an addict, but I am really blind to that kind of stuff, so who knows. I got the impression that she had ‘mental’ issues, which is extremely likely.
She was a very skinny black woman who may have been in her thirties or forties, but she looked about seventy-five.
She grabbed my arms. “Please help me!” She was still sobbing and could barely talk.
I looked into her eyes and saw that she meant me no harm. She was simply a human being who had reached her limit.
“What do you need?” I asked.
She pulled me toward her and I tried to pull away. She smelled like she hadn’t bathed in many months and the odor was almost unbearable.
She pleaded with me, “Please, I’m sorry ma’am, please: may I ask you: do you have any change that you can spare?”
That ma’am nonsense always makes me feel horrible. Even though I did live in the south for a very short time…
I stopped and listened to what she had to say. She leaned toward me and whispered,
“I need to get some women things! I won’t spend it on booze, ma’am, please believe me, I just need to get me some women things!”
I finally noticed that she was kind of bouncing and crossing her legs.
I gave her all the cash I had, which was only five or ten bucks, and she looked deeply into my eyes, then hugged me again.
She and I shared a very deep connection.
I turned to walk away and standing there, with mouths agape, was a well dressed, upwardly mobile urban family: a mom and dad with a couple of kids and a dog or two. And a baby in an SUV-sized stroller.
It was the man that caught my eye. He was staring at me like I was some kind of alien behind a window in a lab. His face wore an expression of sick fascination.
He had no idea what had taken place, but I could see that he, an educated, young, white, male, urban professional, had assessed the unusual occurrence from his narrow and entitled point of view and was already giving it a label and mentally writing his Facebook post:
“The homeless are out of control!” or something equally inane and incorrect.
He himself would have never gotten involved.
I saw that revulsion as clearly as I see the clothes he was wearing as I passed him. He seemed to almost jump away from me.
I felt like he had backed away so that I didn’t infect him.
It is absolutely amazing, the ability in human beings not to see the world as it is. We create nice versions of it in our minds and ignore the ugliness, unless it affects us directly.
Every single one of us is capable of being inhumane and apathetic. In fact, I submit that by not doing anything, we are just as culpable as those who are pulling the trigger, or building giant walls to make sure that those without don’t take what’s ‘ours.’
I saw a meme that is staying with me all week. It stated that we should be building “longer tables, not higher fences.”
I agree wholeheartedly.
*It’s time for us to have a real representation of human being in charge so that women and people of color can earn the same wages as white men and not get arrested for no reason, or denied access to contraceptives – or even to have control over our own bodies – or raped or shot on the streets, or left homeless, which is becoming an epidemic…we need real people in charge, not the rich, corporate puppets that we currently have, who look upon the hundreds of thousands of homeless refugees as just another ‘casualty of war.’