Thursday, April 15, 2010

Yabba! Yabba! Merry Christmas, Baby!

Or, What are the limits of Tolerance? 

Here in the little town of Felton is a half-way house. A parade of inmates from the half-way house trek from the house to the small downtown area of Felton every day. Most are obvious victims of the drug culture, people with brains modified through the wonders of modern chemistry. A less generous person might call them "burn outs," but that would be contrary to our theme of tolerance.

This particular half-way house has been in operation for a number of years. It seems that the parade of burn-outs, I mean "victims," has been a fixture of Felton for quite some time. Long enough that it seems just another part of the town, like the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park or the Roaring Camp Railroads. OK, maybe not quite all that, but something similar.

Walking in the park near our covered bridge my wife Linda encountered one of the inmates. Upon greeting him as she passed she received the reply, "Yabba! Yabba! Yabba! Merry Christmas!" from the otherwise stoical gentleman. On a subsequent day my daughter Beth was walking in that same park, pushing my granddaughter Abigail in a stroller. She was greeted with, "Yabba! Yabba! Yabba! Merry Christmas, Baby!"

Neither my wife nor my daughter found this experience particularly pleasant. Though not overtly threatening, it was none-the-less disconcerting. Walks in that particular park have become much less attractive. Since the person in question is most likely a resident in a long-time half-way house, the probability of that person being unusually violent is low. A respectable facility screens candidates and simply will not house an overtly violent person in an open facility.

There was a time in our culture when this man would have been locked away in a secured facility, and none of the more respectable members of our society would have been greeted with, "Yabba! Yabba!" It would have not been tolerated behavior, and the aberration would have been neatly locked away. That, or "Yabba! Yabba!" would have been driven to the frontier, to shout his greeting to the rocks and trees until such time as a hungry bear might come along and solve the problem.

Now we live in a time when we have little in the way of convenient frontiers, cannot afford to lock up our less-violent social embarrassments, and must learn to live with them in tolerance. I sometimes wonder if our greater promoters of tolerance happen to live near anything that needs tolerating, but I haven't the patience to research that particular aspect of toleration.

I do suspect, however, that in neighborhoods where average incomes are in the higher six-figure realm Mr. "Yabba! Yabba!" would conveniently be found committing some crime or other and whisked away to someplace else. Like Felton. This may simply be a bit of prejudiced opinion and speculation on my part. It probably is. I have no real facts to back it up.

Intolerance would be the intentional harassment of people like Mr. "Yabba! Yabba!" Whatever the events that lead to his current condition, it seems reasonable to allow him to enjoy a public park. Still, his rather strange greeting issuing from a patently strange individual can be disconcerting to more average citizens also enjoying the park.

There are no easy answers on the road to tolerance. My daughter is contemplating getting some pepper spray, just in case.

These days, even a walk in the park is no walk in the park.

1 comment:

mac said...

I wold think one could tolerate another's eccentricities as long as they did no harm.

As to not being in a more affluent neighborhood, that always smacks of NIMBY to me. Sure we all want to speak of tolerance. But, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of it we all cry "Not In My Back Yard!"

I suppose it could be worse, Mike. You could live next door to a biker, like my neighbor does ;-)