But any law is really only part of a larger issue—the real question here is how it feels to treat someone who repulses you. Not just an annoyance—anyone training or working in an urban area treats plenty of the very annoying: drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes, thieves, and thugs, as well as embezzlers, defrauders, money launderers, and insider traders. Rather someone, Booth-like, whose very right to exist strikes a passionate chord.

The closest I have gotten to this dilemma was some years ago, when a certain former president was hospitalized and I was perhaps going to become involved in his/her care. Discretion prevents my indicating which disgraced-by-his-resignation former president I am referring to exactly, but he was being treated at a hospital I worked at then. I was told I would be overseeing an aspect of his care in a few days as the weekend cover guy. It caused me serious pause. For someone of my generation, the hatred felt for this particular person, who many felt manipulated the Vietnam War for political gain, among other problems, was on a geologic scale. A giga-Cheney’s worth.

I spent a lot of time trying to sort out what to do. His need for my care was in no way emergent; countless others could provide the simple check-in, hey-what’s-up sort of treatment my weekend pinch hitting would give. And yet, it seemed important not to duck him. I got carried away imagining myself saying hello to him, then yelling about what a disgraceful person he was, how he had introduced a poison into politics that has never left, how he had destroyed the spirit and optimism of an entire generation. The idea itself became so intoxicating that I convinced myself I should agree to the weekend work just so I could rip him a new one.

Of course when the weekend came, the situation was considered too high profile to allow a youngish pisher such as myself to become involved in, and the request for my weekend contribution was rescinded. So I never truly made up my mind about what I would do; I suspect though I would have acquiesced and quietly seen the patient. I therefore have never experienced the confusion of caring for someone who profoundly incited my temper. And my example was of someone whose “crimes” were a matter of political opinion, amplified perhaps by the ardency of youth and the contemporary ethos. He had not set off a series of bombs, killing and maiming innocent bystanders in broad daylight.