|Chapter 2: "You Cannot Hope"|
"In country after country, culture after culture around the world, the leper has been considered the personification of everything people, privately and communally, fear and abhor.
People react this way for several reasons. First, the disease produces an ugliness and a bad smell that are undeniably unpleasant. And second, generations of medical research nothwithstanding, people fail to believe that something so obvious and ugly and so mysterious is not contagious. The fact that we cannot answer questions about the bacillus reinforces their fear -- we cannot be sure that touch or air or food or water or even compassion do not spread the disease. In the absence of any natural, provable explanation of the illness, people account for it in other ways, all bad -- as proof of crime or filth or perversion, evidence of God's judgement, as the horrible sign of some psychological or spiritual or moral corruption or guilt. And they insist it's catching, despite evidence that it is minimally contagious, even to children. So many of you are going to have to live without one single human support to bear the burden with you."