Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Monkey with the Truth

      A long time ago in a University far away a Doctor tried to quantify the nature of Love. He submitted a design for an experiment and defended it against many challengers. Finally victorious, he began his life’s work. He extracted two groups of baby monkeys from their mothers’ cages, and placed them into new cages with two statues the size of dolls. In the first group, a terrycloth doll provided no food, while a plain wire doll had a nipple fixed to a baby bottle containing milk. In the control group, the terrycloth doll gave milk, and the wire doll did not.
It was found that the young monkeys clung to the terrycloth monkey dolls whether or not they provided them with food, and that the young monkeys approached the wire doll only when necessary to obtain milk. With this result the Doctor concluded that monkeys could be fooled about Love, but not about milk.
We are reminded of a similarly heartless process wherein the County Homeless Agency informed all the police and emergency room workers that the actual count of emergency shelter beds, one measure of our collective love for the poor and previously given as 1512, was actually 889, and now about 500.
As result of these clarifications, the police continued their cities’ policies of arresting the homeless for “camping.” The staff at the county’s emergency rooms kept placing the homeless in taxis and shipping them to the corner of Third and Garfield near the Salvation Army in Santa Ana.
Even the voters seemed satisfied with the County’s fuzzy math: It made it a good deal easier to retain heartless Supervisors who “preserved” the tax dollars previous administrations had wasted on people who just “didn’t want to work.” That satisfaction peaked last year, even though by then it had become Official that half of the homeless couldn’t work, not because they lacked documents, but because they weren’t old enough.
After some measurements of our own we became concerned that the truth counted for so little a part of that particular love the County shows to the poor. We became so concerned that we refused to help the County help the poor unless they told us the truth. We insisted that the poor be given a letter stating why the County government would not assist them, and then we further insisted on meeting the poor children and parents the County would not help in the Board’s waiting area.
One week after we began to refuse, the County agreed to tell the Police and the ER staff the truth: The only beds available right away, which is what most of us think of as an emergency bed, are those few the Salvation Army offers at 2:30PM each day, perhaps eight total. Eight beds for 30,000 homeless people.
There are no such beds at all for families with more than two children, or with boys over the age of ten, or for the families of single fathers, ever. A while back, two of the people the County refused to help were a pregnant woman sent here from the jail. Her baby was too far along to enroll her in any of the pregnancy programs, and her pregnancy was too risky to keep her in jail, so they sent her to us. We got her into a hospital where an ultrasound suggested that the time was right for a Caesarian, even though the mother insisted her time had not yet come. When the baby was taken from her prematurely, it was rushed to a nearby hospital where they had a neonatal care unit. The mother was given a breast-pump and instructions not to walk or take the bus because of her stitches. She was also told that the milk for the baby was her problem.
As a Catholic convert who grew up during the superheated 70’s, I was glad I embraced the Church’s teaching about chastity after I was safely and happily married. But in a pamphlet from 1942 called “Chastity and Youth” I read a statement which could provide a role for all of us in this dilemma. A Jesuit priest talked bravely about how, were one spiritually healthy enough, one might obtain strengths and graces from marrying a sick person – provided one’s love was strong enough. You cannot now how that affirmation reached across those years to comfort me. My Church was the one where the sick were, if not healed, at least loved. We are the people who have been charged with the care of the 99th sheep, the poor, the lame and the hungry.
As fellow possessors of the fullness of faith, we Catholics know that the milk is our problem. Not the governments, not the non-profits, not even the Police or the emergency room’s problem. We are the ones who know what Love is, and no lying monkey from the County can make us believe otherwise.

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