Who am I kidding? Who wants to read about drooling? It's pathetic no matter how you look at it, right?
Well, some of us don't have so much choice in the matter. I write this as a plea for compassion, to a country and a world that doesn't have nearly enough.
What would you think if you were at the office, or the store, or on the bus, and you saw someone who was drooling? How do you think you would react? Would you find it disgusting? Would you think the person had a mental problem? Would you want to talk to them? Touch them? How do you think other people would react? If a ten year old child at the playground was drooling, how do you think the other children would react? What might they say to the drooling child?
Think honestly about this.
Horror? Fear? Pity?
Now, what if you were the one who was drooling? If you were the child who just got a wet chin whenever you were paying attention to something else? You couldn't escape; that's not an option. You must endure it. How would you feel?
And if this were in the 1970's, when people barely understood "rights of the disabled", much less sympathized?
It's not cheerful. I certainly didn't enjoy it.
And what's so awful about a little saliva? Oh, sure, the mouth is clearly the filthiest orifice in the human body (ask any doctor), but who really finds that revolting when it's your own mouth?
I can hardly stand to write this myself; it seems kind of pathetic even to me. Why am I bothering? Am I just depressed? Resentful? Why do I write in this interrogative style? English teachers everywhere are horrified by this, I suppose.
OK, what do I want from you? Just compassion, I think. Not for me, I've already been wounded by hatred, and I am healing from it, slowly. But consider the consequences of your words and actions. Ask your children to do the same. Insist on it, everywhere and all the time. Examine your feelings, and understand them, so that they will not dominate you and thereby make you thoughtless. If compassion isn't your number-one goal every day, ask yourself why.
Compassion isn't pity. Pity is assuming there is something awful about the experience of drooling, and that you should be extra sugary to somehow "make up for it". Compassion is not giving someone a cold shoulder or a false smile because you don't want to confront your own feelings. Compassion is noticing when you're uncomfortable with someone, and taking it as a hint that you have a problem that you're ignoring, and not simply a signal to fight or flee. Compassion is getting righteously angry at people and governments that are being incompassionate -- yet trying to be compassionate even to them, for they are human, too, if perhaps more ignorant or selfish.
So just be compassionate. The alternatives are meaner.
January 26, 2001