Friday, January 18, 2008

Neglect is Neglect...Regardless

In any developed country, this would be considered elder abuse.

A white-haired man, in a wheelchair, strapped down with rope, being hauled in the tray of a truck. Think of the many risks involved. Think of all the things that could possibly go wrong. Would you do this to your grandfather? The answer is clearly, "No".

I don't know this man. I don't know the circumstances that led to him being strapped down with a rope in a wheelchair and being hauled like cargo in the tray of a truck. I don't know if his relatives perhaps considered their limited options and decided that this was the only way to get grandpa home. After all, it's a fair day in Trinidad, and apart from having to swallow a few flies and gnats, and get a suntan that he probably did not need, it's quite possible that grandpa made it safely home.

It's easy to denounce the people hauling grandpa and exposing him to a myriad of risks. But are they any different from Britney Spears - one of the wealthiest women in the world - who last year placed her baby, then a few months old, on her lap in front of the steering wheel of her car as she drove blithely down a California roadway?

Both of these situations involve taking a helpless and dependent individual and exposing them to untold risk. Both define a form of neglect.

But in one, I assume that individuals lacking the appropriate resources, decided to strap grandpa firmly into his wheelchair in the tray of a truck and haul him home. In the other, a young woman with all of the resources in the world decides to endanger the life of her child just so that she could get a fix of her dual addictions to Starbucks coffee and paparazzo attention.

I'm not saying that the risk is any less to the helpless person in either of these situations. I'm also not intending to imply that the consequences for the perpetrators should be any less stern. What I am saying is that I see a huge difference between an attempt to develop a makeshift solution to a human dilemma on a small Caribbean island, and the mindless narcissism of a young woman who has been given so much and to whom it would never occur to make the gift of an ambulance or three for use by the elderly and poor in a developing country.

Poor judgment is poor judgment regardless of race, wealth, or circumstances. But if I had to choose which one of those helpless individuals I'd rather be -- go ahead, strap me down in a wheelchair on a bright sunny day and drive me home. But next time, please at least remember to put a hat on my head. And put some sunscreen on my exposed parts. And use a chain instead of rope. And ask for a police escort so they can haul your ass off to jail after I am safely home.


movement difficult
strapped into his chair he feels
the wind rushing by

hoping to get there
in one piece, safe and sound
praying please, no rain

long gone are the days
when he felt like the master
of all he surveyed


miko said...

breaks my heart. :-(

helen said...

...too sad...could hardly look at the photos

MK said...

love the haiku. very poignant.