Day 21 – This is Worse
I’ve reset the blog clock based on the day when our stuff arrived at our Milwaukie place and we officially began “living” here. Before March 10th, 2015, we were just visiting.
Now, let’s get to it.
A lifetime ago in Columbus, Ohio I was fortunate to meet an unusual individual named Dale Marsh. Dale was, and probably still is, a kind of uber-man. “Gifted” is the term. When I met him I was in the masters program in photography and he was working on an MFA in the newly-minted “Expanded Arts Program” after completing a masters degree in chemistry or some pre-med field at the Ohio State University, graduating with a 4.0 (or damn close) GPA. His intention was to enter medical school and would be a desirable candidate by any measure. I mean, the guy was (again, still is) a fucking genius.
I get fuzzy on the timeline, but the following events unfold as I describe. At some point, either before he finished his masters degree or shortly thereafter he became aware of Michael Swango and was deeply, deeply affected by the discovery that a health care provider could also be a serial killer. Sitting here today I don’t recall whether he was already “taking a break” and working toward his MFA, or if the revelation of Swango’s actions prompted him to try a new direction before heading to medical school. Either way Dale produced a series of videos and performance art pieces that were jaw dropping. Dale was (again, probably still is) a master craftsman with, even when working with chemicals in the photo darkroom, the hands of a world-class surgeon. His photos, videos and performances were clinically precise and, critics would say, somewhat sterile. And just about everything he did was a means to try and deal with the crushing realization a person tasked with providing care could kill the people he was supposed to care for.
Interestingly at Dale’s MFA final show he created a piece where he framed his stellar transcripts and glowing letters of recommendation from professors in his pre-med program. You walked by these letters, framed like fine art, then you came to a TV on a cart showing one of his videos showing Dale, tightly framed, almost in silhouette, eating gauze (it was determined some of Swango’s patients were suffocated by gauze in their throats). Moving on you then encountered another framed letter… the rejection from the Ohio State University Medical School.
Here’s the thing: Swango killed a lot of people; 60 by some counts. And he violated one of the remaining few supposedly inviolable oaths. But this is worse. Today we have the actions of the Germanwings co-pilot who, in one motion, changed everything once again. I harbor some understanding of depression and suicidal thoughts, but I simply cannot fathom what could cause a person to do what he is accused of. The pilot in command of an aircraft accepts a tacit but sacred (doesn’t that word just sound quaint in today’s world) oath regarding the safety of the passengers, the souls on board. You don’t break that. You simply don’t. You don’t.
But there it is.