Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What, or Who, Do You See?

By Charles Moncrief

You knew him as Crocodile Dundee. Maybe you knew him when he offered to "put a shrimp on the barbee" if you would go to visit Australia. Here is a clip from "Almost an Angel," a flop at the box office but a pretty good piece of work.

The clip is 9:57 long. I'd invite your attention to a segment from 3:27 to 7:00.

Terry Dean, played by Hogan, has drifted into a particular town.
While sitting in a bar he notices Steve, a man in a wheelchair with a chip on his shoulder. The two of them get into an altercation, during which the other men in the bar attempt to rescue Steve.
When he waves them off, they say, "Come on Steve, you're a cripple."
Steve turns to Terry and asks, "What do you see?"
Terry says, "I see a man in a wheelchair...."
Later, Steve says to Terry, "You don't see a cripple. You see a man in a wheelchair."

What would you see? What would I see? Would we tend to see a wheelchair with a crippled person in it? Or could we honestly say we see a person in a wheelchair?

Yet, when we look at a person in any of a number of conditions, we attach labels.

A person whose sexual construct dominates toward homosexuality is "a gay" or "a homosexual."

A person who is in this country illegally is "an illegal."

Maybe you have your own examples, maybe you will if you reflect on the idea for a while.

We just recently discovered the mayor of Coppell, Texas dead in her home. Her nineteen-year-old daughter was also dead, both from gunshot wounds. Police, as of this writing, have not yet ruled the event a "murder-suicide." And yet, the public, consciously or unconsciously, has already attached the term "murder-suicide" to the two women! The mayor and her daughter are a "murder-suicide"!

Thank God we have very few people today who see someone on crutches or in a wheelchair and call that person "a cripple."

Whether you are heterosexual, homosexual, or gay-friendly is not at issue here. What matters is the image in your heart and mind whenever you encounter the subject of homosexuality.

Whatever side of the nation's immigration questions you find yourself on, what matters is whether you see the humanity of those who have entered the country illegally.

Whatever you feel about the tragedies involved when a person kills another and then himself or herself, what matters is that you see in your heart and mind that the lives of two human beings have ended.

Several years ago I remember an experience from my pastoral care education in a hospital. We were told that we weren’t allowed to mention “the broken leg in room 603.” In the emergency room we were never to talk about “the stab wound in exam room B.” Our directors were quite pointed when they reminded us that these were human beings with the applicable injuries, but they were in all cases human beings.

Could it be possible for us to change the hearts of society, so that the humanity of those in our lives might again be honored? No, of course not. But we can make a start just by changing our own hearts.

Will changing the names we associate with people in segments of society accomplish this? I believe it will, or at least it's worth a try.

If we do change our own hearts, will it help in the long term to reduce crime or domestic violence? Probably not to any noticeable degree. But maybe it could be a start. And maybe it could snowball.

Grace and Peace,
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