I just saw a video experiment. A young man dressed like a street person, then acted like he was terribly sick. He fell to the crowded sidewalk, begging for help. Nobody assisted him. He then showered and shaved and changed into a suit. Same scenario, only this time multiple people stopped to help.
There was a lady who used to sit in front of the city market house. She wore lipstick on her forehead and she talked to herself. People made a big arc around her to avoid getting too close when they passed by. The Avoiders were usually people who weren’t from the city, as pretty much all of the regulars there knew her. Instead of making the arc of avoidance, they merely ignored her. I smiled and said Hello and commented on the weather, and she looked like she was going to cry because someone actually spoke to her like she was a human being.
My dear friend was the subject of cruel gossip in her small town. She was The Hoarder. She “looked like a Goddamned bag lady”. After her rather sad and tragic death, one good neighbor commented that she was glad The Bag Lady was dead. She actually smiled and clapped her hands.
It’s typical to hear comments about kids who wear their pants hanging down over the butts with their boxer shorts exposed. I mean, sure it looks incredibly stupid. But is it really all that different from the “hippie freaks” of our day? “Pull your pants up!” sounds pretty much like, “Cut your hair, you hippie freak!”
I heard some of the older folks make rude comments about “the guy with the green hair” at a social event I attended. Who could this loser possibly be? Well, he was a family friend, a graduate student who scored at the top of his class.
There’s a fear factor about anyone who looks or behaves differently.
AND…… there seems to be this horrible idea that some lives are worth more than others because they are more important; more respectable.
Years ago, I listened as the keynote speaker told a group of first year medical students this: “If you can distinguish between a diplomat and a homeless person, if you see more value in the life of a famous/wealthy/successful person than you see in the life of an indigent person who is found in an alleyway, then please feel free to leave. This is not the profession for you.”
Sure, most of us want to present ourselves in a certain way. But perhaps we need to remember that one of the most important men who ever walked the face of this earth did so bearded and barefoot, hair hanging to his shoulders. With his dark Middle Eastern looks, had he lived in this modern world he very well may have been stopped for questioning in any airport in America.