This piece was first published on 9/24/15 by Brother Francisco as Galtisalie for the I ♥ Democratic Socialism group at Daily Kos. Some of the comments there are touching, highly informative, and also “Socratic” and “prophetic” as Cornel West uses the terms, by which we are tearful and mindful of the oppressed in our questioning and answering, and don’t fail to cry out in the wilderness for them.
I saw the man sitting there, shaking like an alcoholic experiencing horrible DTs–and this false appearance is part of the horror of advanced Huntington’s disease. Twice in the last few months, he has been unable to perform the simple act of taking a long bus ride across the south to get to one of his children. He just wants to live out his days near family. But I gather, they may not want to have much to do with him anymore.
I mention him and that disease because it is the latest horror story I have seen with my own eyes because the U.S. does not have a proactive social safety net for people with disabilities. I am not at all an expert in this disease or in disability in the U.S., but I know what I saw, and I know what I heard, and it was all horror and sadness. Horror and sadness on the face of a human being, and horror and sadness of those he comes into contact with of his dire situation and needs, and the utter mismatch of the social safety net to that situation and needs.
It should not be the case in any place on the earth, but especially in the richest nation on its face, the arrogant nation with the earth’s global reserve currency and the evil priority of having the earth’s largest military-industrial complex so that we can keep the world safe for capitalism, making defense contractors rich, and the perpetuation of injustice like that happening to this pitiful man, unable to walk, only able to shake and fight to say a few words about how he got here and where he is trying to go.
In the U.S. we set up our social safety net for people under 65 as a set of flaming hoops. If you can jump through the flaming hoops, you can maybe get enough money and other assistance to live in poverty. If you can’t jump through any one of the flaming hoops set up for you to fail, you do not get coverage and you live in extreme poverty with little or no assistance. And if your disease is of a “progressive” nature and its pace of progression exceeds your inability to get back in and get through the flaming hoops another time, you can remain stuck with the previous low, and now clearly inadequate, benefits level.
So that man sits shaking horribly and without the increase in disability assistance to which he probably is entitled. He will probably live out his painful days with a feeling of utter loneliness and abandonment in a series of psych wards and mental health facilities. No human being deserves to end that way.
We need to have a social safety net with social workers who are ombudspersons combing the streets in search of the lost sheep. They are not hard to find–the lost sheep that is. Instead we leave the lost sheep to die lonely deaths, without even the measly government assistance to which they are entitled.
I have seen someone in horrible physical and mental anguish, without anything, without even the active compassion of a nation that supposedly cares about justice for all. The Pope said yesterday God “bless” America. I am reminded of another verb another religious leader used. He was being not a traitor but the prophetic voice of one crying out in the wilderness.