A few days ago this news article on yahoo caught my eye. It contains photos and bits of an article on a county fair held in 1938. Several things caught my eye: the fashions, the style of commercial art used in the advertising, the idea that safety was mostly the patrons' concern rather than the hosts'.
But one thing that really stood out was how people with inborn differences -- sometimes right out birth defects -- were used for entertainment. One photo has a Little Person shown as a hawker for a booth boldly advertising the showing of a nude hermaphrodite. Another has a man who seem to have some arm deformity and a lot of body hair posing as if he were an animal while spectators gawk at him. Yet another shows a man whose internal organs seem to be malformed showing off his unusual physique for those willing to pay.
My first thought was, "Well, I guess those were some of the best jobs these people could get in a society that discriminated so openly."
My second thought was, "Wow. It's a good thing that times have changed and we no longer feel it's socially acceptable to use folks with birth defects or similar misfortunes as mere forms of entertainment, to be gawked and and whispered about."
Then today I saw this yahoo news article, and I realized that not much has changed at all. We're still using folks with birth defects as forms of entertainment -- possibly because these still might be the best jobs open to certain folks who don't fit society's requirements for "normal." Sad.
And then I heard about this, and I realized society has truly sunk even lower than what I was bewailing in the 1938 situations.