Wednesday, July 05, 2006

mistaken identity

I think one of the hardest things for me to face in everything that happened with my son is that we are now identified with a group of people that is marginal and unacceptable in normal society. We became subject to the authorities and our lives open to the most severe files, personal belongings, our home, all laid out for an army of police, detectives and experts to scrutinize like being made to lay naked on an examination table without question or redress. And then the public itself invited in through the eyes of the press, to judge, gawk and think the worst of whatever words on paper a stranger deemed worthy of print to describe my son, his situation and our family. The outside world imprinted a new identity onto us-the unworthy.

Then the institutions made to deal with those who cannot seem to live properly in society further attached a new dimension to our lives, as we tried to walk the halls of a hospital and then a prison, like this was completely normal. My brain would scream out as we walked past the failed suicide attempts, the children who cut themselves, the ones who couldn't make it through even a day without being watched 24/7, "We do not belong here. Our son is fine. This is a mistake..." when he was the one being watched most closely and everyone knew it. And to be treated as though this were all normal, all ok, everything will be ok, prison will be a place he'll be medicated properly, he'll learn things and be churned right back out into society like nothing happened. Once again, a new identity was pasted on as we hoped this was true and continually realized it is not from the professionals who really can't change anything-the hopeless.

And in prison, understanding that our son is now the property of an institution and a number, subject to any treatment the guards think appropriate for human refuse, yet more change happened. I realized this when a distraught mother came in, frantically crying, beggin to see her boy, who was in "the hole". When you are there you can't be visited by anyone. Part of me longed to hold and comfort her, and part of me scorned her weakness. I was becoming used to the new place I had-the hardened.

My art teacher used to say that it isn't the huge anomalies in the human appearance that make monsters of it. It's the slightly off, like 6 fingers, too-large eyes, improperly set ears. But in time the monstrous becomes the accepted. The same is true of our beliefs about life and ourselves if we aren't careful.


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