Growing up as a child on the east coast there was a commercial that ran. It showed a lone Native American looking out over a land spoiled with pollution. It showed images of overflowing landfills, toxic wastes spilling into rivers, fish dying. As the commercial ended, the camera panned to show his face. A lone tear slowly made its way down his face. As a young child, fresh with the knowledge that I was part Native American, I was perplexed as to the pain on his face. I asked myself, why was he crying?
This morning was a great morning. The first day of my Thanksgiving Holiday vacation. I was looking forward to visiting with my family. Looking forward to visiting the new generation, my 5 month old nephew. Such a picture of innocence and hope. I decided to leave my home and go to my favorite breakfast spot and read the local paper.
As the waitress took my order and made small talk I opened my paper. A headline caught my eye. "Research: People become more self-sufficient and less social when they're exposed to money, experiments show."
"Interesting," I thought. As I read the article, it made several valid points which are relevant to today's societal woes. I opened to the second page and saw the next headline. "Complaints: Kaiser dumped patient. Prosecutors say HMO unit left a homeless woman on Skid Row. The hospital says she agreed to go to a shelter."
Now I have read and heard of many reports of this happening on our streets. However, something in the tone of the article made me read on. Video evidence showed this 63 year old woman wandering the streets in a sweatshirt, hospital gown and slippers. This woman suffers from dementia and was prematurely released. She was put into a taxi cab and dumped on the streets of Skid Row.
As I read this article, I felt my throat begin to tighten, my nose become moist, my eyes begin to swell. I somehow began to channel the pain and desperation of a nation. A nation of forgotten souls. A nation of discarded people, discarded for being too weak, too feeble to exist in the mainstream. These are our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children. I saw my own mother, fearfully crouching in the corner of her hospital room. Having an adverse reaction to the medication prescribed to her. As the night nurse made her rounds dressed as a devil (it was Halloween), my mother awoke and became violently paranoid. Barricading herself in her room, reciting scriptures, she was convinced that Satan himself had come for her. Had it not been for her family, she too would have been cast to the streets. As I found out later, the attending physician wanted her removed and refused any further treatment for her. Fortunately she was rescued as the hospital tried to release her.
Have we really come so far as to give less compassion to humans as we do animals? Why is there no public outcry, no marches, no protests, for the weak, the defenseless, and the frail of mind as there is for the inhumane treatment of animals. Are we so aware of our own frailty, which causes us to choose to ignore rather than embrace our fellow man? Offer them sanctuary from their demons.
As I sat at my booth, drowning in my own sea of pain, my breakfast now cold in front of me. I became aware of a lone tear making its way down my cheek. At that moment it occurred to me;
I know why the Indian cried.....