Judgment and Acceptance
As we have all heard many times, and possibly said before, it is wrong to judge others.
It is certainly a noble pursuit not to judge, but in reality we do it, and in my view we do it as part of being human. One could argue that judging others harshly is unfair, and most would agree, but in what I have seen we have all judged others in one form or another. Perhaps it is an ancient and instinctive thing we do without even thinking about why.
Whatever the roots are, and some are based in truly awful beliefs, we do it from time to time.
As I have written about many times before, stigma is what judgment looks like too often with HCV, and in general it is from outside, but there is judgment within the hepatitis c community as well.
I came up against something that illustrates this when someone who is younger and works in the young drug using community said to me that baby boomers were just dying anyway, possibly in response to my presence and being an older person. It sounded to me like what she was saying is why should we bother to treat older people who are living with hepatitis c because they were just dying. The message as I took it was that we should focus our resources and attention on the younger population and not older people in the HCV community. I think it was a narrow view of the overall HCV community, and maybe it was simple emotion or anger about there being poor resources available for her own work. I never asked.
Curiously, I have also had people tell me about how they were infected through medical procedures like transfusions or other means, making sure I knew they never used drugs. Fear of judgment from me perhaps, or maybe they were simply sensitive because of the general stigma that has surrounded HCV for so very long.
Some people are open and forthright about their drug use in the past. Does it matter? I am always uncomfortable when people want to ask me about how I was infected, or in the case of members of the media who want to focus on their own agenda. Their agenda appears to be about the connection between drug use and HCV, and with the celebrities that we hear about it is almost always about their drug use and the story of their recovery or death, or both. Is this because they like sensational stories of perceived mistakes or bad choices?
As it turns out we judge and marginalize each other as a community.
Is it surprising to me? Not really, and I base this opinion on my own belief that people will judge, regardless of whether we believe it is right or wrong to do so. Nature or nurture some may ponder, and I think both are true. It does not matter what age or demographic we look at; whether it is the co-infected with HIV, drug users current or past, baby boomers, immigrants or any other distinct population, we all deserve to have compassion and dignity, but I suspect we will always measure and judge one another.
It is my hope that in the months and years ahead we can gain more capacity for acceptance with one another within and without the HCV community. We may use judgments, but if we use it to further marginalize people and determine whether people deserve support, care, or empathy, it is wrong in my mind.
Allowing for differences is a good thing, and surely we will continue to say and do things that are not always as correct as others would wish, but hopefully we can allow others the same latitude and leeway, if their intent and actions are not meant to cause harm.