Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Plato and the Parable of the Table

The clients at the drop-in center for the dual diagnosed (persons with mental and drug problems) asked me to come share. When I arrived and told them I was a former client, they corrected me by saying I am still a client. There was a conference table in the meeting room so I told them to sit at the conference table but several refused. I thought by raising my voice they would follow my command but several still refused. I had no idea why they would not sit at the table. But after the meeting at which I shared my writings and had them do a call and response reading of my poem "What If," it dawned on me why they might have refused to sit at the table. What if the table reminded them of the table when they sat before the parole board, or maybe it was the table when they were sent to foster care as a child, or the table that threw them out of a drug problem or sent them to a mental ward where they were tortured into the night or sexually abused.
Yes, maybe one of them was raped on that table while visiting their therapist. All these possibilities came to me and I was ashamed I had been so adamant they sit at the table.

It was clear to me the clients were people who had been crushed by the world of white supremacy, their hearts, minds, souls, bodies, crushed into tables like the one I had demanded they sit at. How could I be so insensitive, so rude, so ignorant not to immediately understand their resistance to the table, their fear and loathing of that piece of furniture. What horrors inhabited that piece of wood constructed to represent authority and power? Why would the powerless rush to such a device of destruction and inhumanity? Yes, the table had been an evil force in their lives, so even in their wretchedness, they had enough sense to stay away from it. So they had listened to me from afar, hearing every word I said, even joining with me in reciting lines from my poem. But they knew not to come near the table.
--Dr. M

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