Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Exploitation Of Supernatural Phenomenon: The Unfortunate Case of Little Audrey

Bloody Mary in Action

If deities get thirst, time for some feeding.

As a sort of continuation from my previous post, which I did in a light-hearted manner, one of the most ardent claims of godly manifestations would be those pertaining to the secreting of liquid substances, mostly of the blood, oil and tears variety from religious statues.

Of course, such superfluous claims are nothing new: Hindu statues of the Elephant God, Ganesh, had been purported to drink milk; Statues of the Virgin Mary were found to have blood stains on the nailed hands, and some even claim to see statues having a life of their own in Hindu temples, but these unvalidated claims are, by nature, spread through the word of mouth and occasionally with the help of the media.

One of the most cruel and bizarre cases, however, has a tinge of child abuse added into it, and one can't feel anything but pure, unadulterated anger at religious people who would subject a paralyzed, innocent child to such ridicule and pure exploitation.

The Case of Little Audrey

The story of little Audrey Santos is nothing short of heart wrenching.

On August 9, 1987, at the age of 3, Audrey and her brother Stephen were playing in the driveway of her grandmother's house, when she inexplicably fell into the swimming pool and almost drowned. She was immediately rushed to hospital, where, according to Audrey's mother Linda, the presiding physician prescribed too much phenobarbital, causing Audrey to lapse into a coma.

Three weeks later, Audrey emerged from the coma into a state called "akinetic mutism"; she was only able to move her eyes and fingers, and had lost her ability to speak.

With such cases, publicity usually follows, and media coverage prompted many people came to pray for Audrey - not only relatives, but family friends and even strangers. The hospital was so inundated with people that Audrey was placed in a private room in the PICU.

While the poor girl was struggling with the condition, her rather thick-skulled mother, Linda, had the gall to bring the paralyzed girl to Yugoslavia, apparently to seek "divine" healing in a popular pilgrimage site. Not only did a miracle not happen, she almost died of cardiac arrest, and surprise, she had to be medically evacuated back to the US.

And just who did she put the blame on? Yes, that dastardly abortion clinic, which was close to the site where Audrey was supposed to witness an apparition! You could almost hear her mother screaming: "Damn those freaking liberals and their baby-killing gulags! They almost killed my daughter too!"

The Oil Oozing Statues

This phenomenon is a little puzzling: When the ancient Volkswagen in the garage leaks oil, one would usually attribute this to mechanical malfunction, nothing new, just the kind of nuisance that requires professional assistance. When statues ooze oil, that, my friends, is an altogether different issue.

Well, we know statues are not supposed to leak oil, but when stories of statues that adorn Audrey's home began leaking oil began to "leak" to the press, it turned Audrey into an overnight saint, and her home yet another destination for pilgrimage. A sample of the oil was sent to a Pittsburgh lab, and lo and behold, the contents of the oil was identified as "80% corn/soyabean oil and 20% chicken fat". So much for a miracle. Hmm.......I wonder where Linda got a soyabean oil from. The Garden of Eden?

Of course, this kind of rational explanation was never going to stop Linda and her superstitious supporters, whom she was going to exploit mercilessly. Not about to pass the buck up, Audrey's mother decided to use this latest media outburst as a means of making a quick windfall: An organization was created on Audrey's behalf, calling itself "Apostolate of a Silent Soul, Inc.", provides a "price list," and sells items such as photographs of Audrey and crucifixes which had been in Audrey's room, while also soliciting donations. These aside, commercially marketable items such as magnets, t-shirts, Audrey's photo, postcards, angel pins, books and CDs become part and parcel of Linda's massive campaign to rake in the cash, at the expense of her daughter.

Throngs of people seeking some kind of cure for their individual illnesses line up in Audrey's home, hoping that in her semi-conscious state, she would somehow muster enough energy to bless their disease/illness-ravaged lives, even though she isn't even capable of extricating herself from her own paralysis.

And what kind of a sick, abominable mother would put up her paralyzed daughter as some kind of a freak exhibit for the fervent, crazy religious folks to ogle and enhance her suffering even further? Of course, some would argue, she's already in a semi-coma state, and probably wouldn't feel a thing, but the issue is, does anyone sane ever hope to gain something out of a tragedy of a young human being, let alone the mother of the stricken child?

Death of Audrey: Not the End of Shameless Marketing

Little Audrey died of cardio-respiratory failure on April 14th, 2007. One would think that with her death, the whole chapter of religious lunacy will come to an end. The truth is, the organization that still exploits the plight of Audrey's misfortune is still in operation today, perhaps in the hope that Audrey's death will precipitate another wave of superstitious sheep for them to fleece money out of.

Although we call ourselves technologically advanced, it seems that our civilization is still rife with charlatans and swindlers of all shapes and sizes, willing to exploit any form of weakness, including that of their loved ones, for monetary benefits.

While there really isn't much we can do from a legal point of view, the least we could do is educate ourselves and our closed ones in terms of reason, logic and rationale. There is no reason why we should be dubbed by such silly claims of bleeding statues and all that nonsense, and much less so when it comes to shameless exploitation of paralyzed people.

(For more information regarding this continuing exploitation, click on the link to the official website here)

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