Our text for today concerns ignorance and comes from Stave 3 "The Second of the Three Spirits" from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
From the foldings of its robe, [the Ghost of Christmas Present] brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.
"Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost.
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
"Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.
"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom . . .
Last evening, in Seymour south of here, people gathered, in the Education Center, appropriately, to observe World Aids Day with remembrance and hope and learning. There were two ministers, not from the town; and our honored speaker, a distinguished doctor from the Indiana State Department of Health, an expert in epidemics; the mayor of the town; representatives from the American Red Cross and the Community Health Center together with other citizens. There was no one from the local hospital because, against all professional advice and strictures, they prefer to remain silent about HIV/AIDS rather than to do their duty to educate the population about this health risk or even support in any way others who would do so.
The Schneck Medical Center web site proclaims:
This web site will provide you with information about Schneck Medical Center and also serve as a health information resource for you and your family. Schneck Medical Center is dedicated to its patients in the communities we serve. We view every situation as a precious opportunity to provide a sincere and individualized approach to each patient and each family. The physicians and staff believe this and practice it daily. Schneck Medical Center knows that when someone really cares, it makes a big difference."
Perhaps, (in fairness there is much that is admirable about the Center), only no education about HIV/AIDS. Americans like to think that the crisis in South Africa, where over 30% of the population is infected with HIV, is an example of third-world ignorance and denial, and so it is. The culture that refuses to recognize the epidemic, and its causes or to educate the population about how to fight back, is largely responsible for what appears to be the immanent death of that nation. We are horrified that they would prefer to honor their cultural beliefs rather than to save the lives of their people. And yet, Dr Mangle, our speaker who is a native of South Africa, confided in me that he encounters the same willful blindness, the same preference for "tradition" over science and good medical practices right here in Indiana. Right in Seymour and among the leaders of the medical profession, so it would seem.
As I said, there is much to admire about Schneck, friends of mine have received caring and to all appearances successful treatment for a variety of complaints. But when such an organizations reveals that there are silent limits to its adherence to good medical practice; that there are people or diseases that they would rather avoid than treat, what confidence can one have in the whole enterprise? When they boast that they provide the information you need to keep yourself and your family well, while trying to bury information about one of the greatest health risks in the world, how can you rely on them?
In preparation for this year's World AIDS day event, the organizers invited the Schneck Hospital Foundation, as well as the Medical Center, to endorse or sponsor the event; to participate in an event designed to further the education of the community about the pandemic: an event endorsed by the American Red Cross, the Indiana AIDS Fund and other organizations and featuring a speaker from the Indiana Department of Health, recommended by the new Health Commissioner, when she could not, as planned, attend herself. An event designed to educate the people of Seymour and Jackson county. The board of the Foundation met, deliberated, and voted to "pass. . . by on the other side".
To everyone who came out to help and participate, thank you. To the mayor of Seymour, and to all the sponsors: to AIDS Action of Columbus; to the American Red Cross; to Dr Kenneth Bobb; to the Community Health Center; to Immanuel United Church of Christ of Crothersville, Reverend Bud Walther, pastor; to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus, Reverend Dennis McCarty minister, and most of all to the Indiana AIDS Fund who have supported us over the years and toiled to alleviate this scourge in this state, thank you. I know I speak for the board and membership of the Seymour Chapter of PFLAG when I say: thank you, and to all who came and to all who tried, but could not make it, thank you.