Stigmatized (a poem)

Who is that person there behaving erratically?
Why doesn’t he get his act together?
Who is that pathetic man staring at me in the mirror?
Why doesn’t he learn to act normal?
Why can’t they just get a job?
Why are they mooching on the rest of society?
Why can’t they pull themselves up by the bootstraps?
Why can’t they become investment bankers like you?
Why can’t they act out the fantasy lives of social media influencers?
Who is that woman in the psychiatric unit, the one with the scars on her wrist and sad smile and the far-away look in her eyes?
Why can’t she pull herself together?
Who is that man who committed suicide last week, hung himself in the basement and left a note saying how sorry he was?
Didn’t he know the pain he would cause others?
Why can’t they all just toughen up?
Don’t they know this world is divided into winners and losers?
Don’t they know compassion and equality is for whiny liberals?
Don’t they know that the world is mean?
Don’t they know?

Well, yes, they know all this
It plays like a tape recording in their minds
Internalized and permanently sequestered
An inner-shame and (sometimes) invisible pain
And most of them don’t expect you to change
But, if you can, be kind enough to admit the fact that
There are many of us stigmatized and demonized
And we’re not exactly asking you to shift the blame
Maybe just recognize we exist, and the problems are real
And we can work out a solution

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