Saturday, November 8, 2008

Parallel Worlds

Sunday, October 9, 2008

No, I'm not talking about science fiction.

As I thought about what I wrote yesterday, it occurred to me that there are always parallel worlds in our lives. The world of Roy Rogers and the world of the Sunrise State Hospital (or of the abuse which occurred in the town of Sunrise) were thousands of miles apart, not just in real distance, but even in the ability of those in each world to comprehend or understand the other.

For those of us in the middle class and above, there is an under world we almost ignore. I heard on the TV the other day that even in the United States, women are still being sold into slavery. And there are other kinds of slaves in the U.S. too.

The same is true with the mentally ill. Until there was a terrible fire recently in a Southern Missouri home for the handicapped, most of us had never thought of where the mentally handicapped and mentally ill are housed or whether or not those places are safe. In modern times, the treatment of the mentally ill has been out of sight.

In the 1950's I had the unique privilege of living in both worlds. I went with my father when he testified before the state legislature. I remember sitting on a bench which, at that time, surrounded the house chamber and watching my dad testify. He was in a different world than the world he inhabited each day.

It is hard to understand the need for justice when you don't understand what is happening in Congo or what happened on the night of breaking glass in Germany. The anniversary of the night of breaking glass is this weekend. Some say that was the beginning of the Holocaust. But I wouldn't have remembered the anniversary if Bill Tammeus had not reminded me.

In a way, I was uncomfortable with my book The Body in the Record Room. I found myself wondering how people would respond to the juxtaposition of two such different worlds.

I had a friend who used to tell a joke about a mental patient standing at the gate to the gated grounds of a mental hospital. He talked to people who went by. I don't remember what the joke was or what the patient was supposed to have said, but I do remember how I saw the joke as a kind of insult, a kind of way of saying, "Those people in there are crazy and I'm not." And yet I knew many alcoholics and other disturbed people who were prominent on the "outside." And I knew the outside world wanted to ignore the pain within the gates.

In the 1950's and before, things like clergy abuse of parishioners existed in the under world. Clergy abuse of parishioners is still not something we are comfortable talking about today. So to bring a strong icon like Roy Rogers into that world, that has to be hard for some readers, and it may be a reason some people will not read the book at all.

Each of the two worlds contains a part of the truth. And we won't begin to promote real justice until the two worlds come together.

So it's only now that I've become aware of how revolutionary (and perhaps, for some people, inappropriate) my book is.

Finally, we all have to do what Roy Rogers and Dale Evans did. Live our lives according to a code of love, peace and justice, and then if the two worlds come together, maybe the goodness of the one world will help change the other.



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