There’s a kind of crocodile-wildebeest attitude that those who are part of the System have toward those who are outside of it, I notice, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I feel instinctively that it’s a heartless thing. We are here to witness and document your defeat, but we cannot help you. That would be enabling your mistakes, which are numerous and which have put you in danger in the first place. So the weak, enfeebled wildebeests fall prey to the crocs, every time. Because, that’s life. Or that’s how you learn, or something. If you saved them once, you’d have to save them every time. Hakuna matata, dude.
Of course, treating someone like a grown up person who can make her own decisions isn’t at all a bad thing, whereas treating someone like a dumb infant sometimes is. American culture is all about the tough love (á là Intervention: “You wanna go get high? Fine, but don’t expect us to be here for you when you get back.”). But it’s also, I want to say, about infantilizing adults as much as possible: TV, religion, Snuggies. Goddamn it, fucking Snuggies. What is the Snuggie if not our warm, fleecy route back to the womb?
What American culture is sadly not about is treating people sympathetically when they most need it. I get it. We don’t want to encourage drug addicts. We don’t want to waste precious resources on the homeless. But why does this manner of dealing with people always feel to me like we’ve decided that some people are fine to deal with and some people are beneath our notice? I guess what I’m really asking is what’s wrong with saying, “We understand that you have two competing needs right now. Go take care of the one, and come back. We want to help you. You are worth helping.”
Probably once I’ve been doing this a little longer, I’ll realize that everyone’s a schemer, and then I’ll wonder what the point is, even—why I’m even bothering to go to the hospital at 3 a.m. to help some damn person who doesn’t really want the help I am allowed to give her.
At one point tonight, I realized that what this all comes down to, what we’re really talking about, is privilege. Before I started doing this work, I couldn’t have comprehended someone not wanting to report a rape because she was afraid her only clothes would be taken away. But it happens all the time. It breaks my heart. Oh, all the things that happen that break my heart—little dignities that we take for granted, withheld.
So while I was appalled to hear Rihanna’s interview about her attack, I have to say, I’m even more appalled at things that happen every day, in my town, to people who we’ve decided don’t really matter, and can leave without a good plan about how they will stay safe, and if they show up on our door later on, we have already told them that we will not help them.