Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Unique Situation

I have recently had an utterly, to me at least, unique experience through my job. Due to the confidentiality issues that obviously go with my current profession (home care), there is only so much I am allowed to say. I probably should not be writing about this at all, but it is something I need to voice in some way, and hearing other opinions would help me understand my own reaction.

Through my job, I have a number of different clients, varying widely in age, gender, medical needs, income, etc. The only thing they do not seem to vary in is race - Maine is as white of a state as I have ever seen, which is odd for someone from New York. Most of the people I see are quite elderly, as one might expect, but one was less so. [From this point on, I will be intentionally vague in my story, which I am sure will be less than illuminating, but is necessary considering my job].

Morgan* is a very pleasant individual, who needs not much more than housekeeping help. I enjoyed the talks we had, and had looked forward to seeing Morgan for quite some time. I went to Morgan's house one morning to work, and my calls went unanswered. This is always worrying for someone in my field - as we see many people who are very elderly or in ill health, no answer automatically leads to some amount of panic.

As I was to learn, Morgan was in no personal ill health. Morgan's child, however, had been killed a few days earlier in a shooting.

This news was staggering. The last time I had seen Morgan, I had heard numerous stories about this child - how proud Morgan was of the child and other typical parental statements. Which is what made it so shocking to hear that this person had been killed, and more than that, killed by police after exhibiting threatening behavior.

I have since read numerous articles about the event, which are more or less informative, but the part that really got to me were the comments. As with news stories about a friend of mine who committed suicide a few years ago, the comments, 95% of the time from perfect strangers, were almost always damaging and cruel.

In the case of the friend of mine, comments ranged from "people who commit suicide will go to hell" to "glad they rid the world of one useless individual". These made an already tragic occurrence even more horrible. This was a person I had known for years, who I shared laughs with, who I had never known to be mean to another person, and who was, in death, slandered by people who had never had the honor of knowing them.

In the case of the shooting, there are two types of comments. Every single one I have read, and there have been many, falls into one of these two categories: 1) "People who try to attack police deserve to be killed/deserve what they get/can't suffer enough, etc." or 2) "The police shouldn't have shot to kill/they are gun happy/the police should be shot, etc".

In a normal case, and by normal, I mean one with which I have no connection what so ever, I would be more on the side of the first group of commentators: while I would not advocate the immediate execution of someone who threatens police, I am certainly of the opinion that one does not advance on them with weapons.

My connection with this person, however, gives my a more unique outlook. Rather than some wacko I am reading about in the paper, this person is someone's child, someone I have heard stories about, someone whose baby pictures I have seen. This connection changed the incident from an 'event' to a 'tragedy' for me. It is a slim connection, yes, but it is one, and that makes the comments from outsiders hurtful to me as well.

I do not expect to see Morgan again, as I have not since the incident. I think about the family often, and know there is nothing at all I can do to help. What surprised me the most was the way a random incident becomes very personal, even through the smallest of connections.

*an intentionally gender-neutral pseudonym

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