Monster liberation

Those poor monsters. Stuck on movie posters, caged in TV scripts, flattened on soda cups.

And the villains. They’re all packaged and sold too. The latest threat from a far off land, the neighbor or worker who turned crazy, or simply random undesirables – these appear safely in the paper or on TV, alongside ads for more entertainment and security alarms.

In our guts we know there’s more to the monster myth than consumer products and entertainment venues.

The scary things are tethered, but not entirely. Our fears are misplaced, and they need realignment

Perhaps our liberation is bound up with the monsters.

Vagrancy was outlawed back in 16th-Century England. Wanderers made officials nervous in those days of settled domesticity, writes Linda Woodbridge in an article, “Imposters, Monsters and Spies.” A first offence of vagrancy warranted whipping, a third merited death. “For many people, identity was no longer comfortably tethered to a village, a trade, a niche in a well-established social hierarchy, and the psychic disturbances occasioned by this instability were … projected onto the most visibly untethered, vagrants.”

Panhandling “affects the economy of our city, the desirability of people to come here, for people to return,” said Tom Carr, a city attorney in Seattle. “We have people who need help, and we’re not helping them with loose change, which leads to crack or a can of beer,” said Carr. It’s against the law in Seattle for beggars to obstruct or intimidate people to get money, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. About 100 other cities in the United States have similar ordinances against panhandling.

Hollywood Presbyterian hospital discharged a parapalegic man onto skid row in February this year. The 54-year-old man “was crawling with his hands in human wastes, with his entire possessions in a bag clinched between his teeth,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. “The very people who are charged with delivering individuals from their darkest hour are actually taking them into their darkest hour,” he said to USA Today. (The hospital has since pledged to be more humane to patients.)

Issue 7

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 7, Fall 2007, Monsters in Our Midst.

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Issue 7, Fall 2007

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