Monday, March 27, 2006


This past week my attention has been consumed by two news stories.

The first is about the 31 year old pastor who was shot, allegedly by his wife, in Tenesee. She was searched for and found far away with the couple's children. She was arrested, and she has tearfully apologized to her family, friends and community.

This story has been everywhere--CNN, our local news, the radio, and the newspaper. It is the type of sad, shocking story that leaves everyone shaking their heads.

The second is about Rutherford "Rudy" Wallace, a 35 year old man who, while under medical care, was badly scalded, allegedly neglected for at least an hour, and then died 6 days later in St. Louis. Accidents happened, perhaps policies were not followed, and there are allegations of attempted cover-up or ineptitude. There has been no word of any search or arrest and no tearful apology to his friends, family or community.

This story was nowhere--not on CNN, not on our local news, not on the radio, nor the newspaper. In fact, if it weren't for the internet and Partners in Policymaking, I would not have heard about it at all. This is the type of sad, shocking story that no one ever hears about.

I want to know why the first story is tearing up the airwaves and the second isn't.

Two young men, both living in situations considered safe--one within his church, the other within a state institution for people with disabilities. Of course neither one was safe. Evil and errors are part of life, and as my dad reminds me frequently, "The death rate remains one per capita."

So why does one of these guys' death inspire national mourning and the other nothing more than a weak beaurocratic response from his state government and his mother's heartwrenching advocacy????

There will be arguments that one of the men was just more valuable than the other, but both have been described as loving by those that knew them. The difference is in who knew them, and what was expected of each.

One gentleman's institution, the church, was active in the life of the community and people expected to see him and be part of his life--they miss him. The other genteleman's institution was separate from the life of the community and people who never really knew him expected him to live and die there--which he did.

Safety is an illusion--both men died tragically. One man was valued and is missed--the people that cared about him make heartfelt testimonies. The other was unknown in his community (he reportedly was one of 300+ in his home) and officials issue statements (or don't!)

As the Partner that sent the story out said, "Give me community!"

I know that large institutions are de rigeur all around the country, in many places there are no other options. But separation and annonymity do not breed any more safety than anywhere else--it is clear that all of us will die, some of us tragically. Isolation and depersonalization do not solve this...

Let me and my children live within a community that knows us and, because they know us, can value us--and, if they have to, will cry when we die.


Laila said...

While I was reading your article, a student I know asked me for some references or resources to help her complete a paper she wants to write regarding the discrimination of people with disabilities in our society. I shared your post with her. It was shocking to see the comparison. She told me she would not have thought to connect these two events, and by doing so, you made a strong, valid point. She said it is sad to think that the value of a person’s life is so depended upon his abilities or disabilities.
By the way, I also enjoyed reading your other two posts, “Grateful” and “Tomato Sauce.” Thank you for your insight.

lmf2 said...

I am outraged over the loss of Rudy.
No one is "safe", but by not being seen as part of the "whole" makes for predatory behavior.

We are one human community, Right?