Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hatred Hits Home. Please Don't Let It Hit Yours.

Please pardon this detour. This post has nothing to do with writing, editing, or publishing in health care education, but it does have to do with the humanity needed to care for others and the inhumanity some people needlessly endure.

My niece, let's call her Aubrey, and nephew, let's call him Taylor, recently suffered a nearly unimaginable tragedy, the death of their son at 6 months of age from a congential heart defect. They were at Ollie's beside every day, loving him, nurturing him, giving him as much of themselves as they could in his short time on this Earth. Worse, Taylor had lost his beloved father in 9/11, a victim of the attack on Two World Trade Center. Despite all that, they are two of the sweetest, most loving people I've ever known.

But here's the thing.

Taylor is white. His delightful, intelligent, and enormously unselfish wife is black.

Taylor's mother, the woman who gave him birth and helped raise him to the compassionate soul his is today, has never once spoken his son's name. She has never spoken his wife's name.

Because Aubrey is black, and because Ollie was mixed-race.

Last week, the mother called Taylor to ask him how he was dealing with "your son's" death. Mom, why can't you say his name?

"Because," the woman said, "I've never said your wife's name. Why on earth would you think I would say his name?"


His 6-month-old, horrendously sick, now dead son. Someone who, in her estimation, warranted barely a pronoun.

The woman then asked Taylor how he was dealing with the debt that his "son's" illness incurred. She said that if the debt ever became too much, he "knew what to do."


"All you have to do is divorce her and I'll take care of all your bills."

Now, this is evil I can't understand. This is hatred the depth of which appalls me. I am angry and hurt and simply, mightily bewildered.

How can this person, how can any parent, treat someone this way? How can any human feel so much anger, so much hatred, so much pure evil toward another human, especially someone as sweet as this particular niece and this particular nephew — especially and conspicuously after all the trauma they have seen, felt, and survived?

I don't understand it.

I should, I suppose. It's not like it doesn't happen every day. It's not like that kind of hatred doesn't exist in thousands of people in this country.

I can understand it clinically, yes. The incomplete personality. The learned behaviors. The influence of misguided mentors.

But on a gut level? No, I just can't get there.

It seems to me that a parent, of all the many kinds of caregivers in this world, would have at least a modicum of compassion, at least a tiny amount of understanding, just a microscopic bit of humanity for the human they birthed.

I hope with every fiber of my being that everyone who cares for other people possesses not a whit, not a solitary atom of that woman's rancor, that woman's bitterness, that woman's unabashed prejudice.

I want so much to think we're better than that.

That we're nicer, more reasonable, more human.

I know we are, I absolutely know it. This woman is an aberration, an anomaly, a deviation so far from normal that she and her disgusting ilk will eventually disappear in disgrace.

We in health care, we who care for others, everyday, in an innumerable variety of ways, are better than that. We must be better. We are, I believe, preternaturally determined to be better.

We see beyond color, beyond internal prejudices, beyond disfigurements, beyond the surface. We see the person. The human. The soul.

Please keep seeing those things. Please keep looking past all of those things that, really, when it comes down to it, don't matter a damn bit.

You and I are better than that, and for that I am eternally grateful.