Easier Said Than Done: When PC Equals BS
My first leper: I was riding in a cab in crawling traffic from the airport into Calcutta, India, thrilled to be there and mesmerized by the sensory overload I was experiencing.
I’d been in India all of 20 minutes when I saw him: a small man, sitting by the road, his feet stretched out almost into traffic. My first impression was that something was wrong with the shape of his face — as if one eye and the cheek below had been scooped away. Then my gaze was drawn to his foot. Swollen, mottled pink, surrounded by a visible cloud of flies. It looked not at all like a foot, more like an underinflated football, oozing, with toenails sticking out of it like blades.
He was probably three feet away from me. Then traffic moved again, and he was out of my sight.
In India, you see a lot of things that you never see in other places. Disfigured, suffering lepers are a fairly common sight, and the shock eventually fades.
But another shock comes when you find out that leprosy is completely treatable and curable. It’s not even expensive. There doesn’t need to be even one leper like those you see in India or anywhere else. If you or I were somehow to contract leprosy, it wouldn’t be a problem; we’d walk away unscarred, with little more than a wild anecdote for our more edgy friends: “Hey, you won’t believe this, but I actually once had leprosy!” “No way, dude!”
Say. The. Words.
Some years after that trip to India, I got the chance to work with an organization dedicated to fighting leprosy. Sign me up, I thought. As causes go, you can hardly beat that one.
Problem was, the leadership of that organization was dedicated to removing the word “leprosy” from its vocabulary in favor of “Hansen’s disease,” the condition’s medical name.