For once I will not be verbose (lie). I have been watching the latest box set of Law and Order Special Victims. I watch every box set that comes out, even when I was in the UK, I ordered it from the states. The police officers care, the female raped is treated with dignity, people are angry for her. The detectives work long hours to find who sexually abused her and arrest him, and they put him to trial and lock him away. And every 45 minutes I see someone whose life will never be the same, but there at least is justice, there is a society (in TV land) who cares, who says, “you matter, what happens to you matters.”
I watch it because, like SO many, I was physically and sexually abused and yet only this show, not the umpteen spin-offs of CSI or the other dozens of court or cop shows, starts by saying, “Sexual Crimes are PARTICULARLY HEINOUS….” I need to hear those words and believe that there is a world, or will be a world where it will stop. That I won’t be hearing stories from nieces (or nephews) in five or 10 years about THEIR rape, sexual abuse, physical abuse.
Disablism: my computer is trying to tell me this isn’t a word. Over a year ago I stopped ‘passing’ as able bodied and lost the privilege I did not know I had. The first one I lost was the ability to define myself. Between the medicos and the population, who I knew I was wasn’t what was getting through. I lost myself as an equal person, as an employable person, as an approachable person. And sure, I have had my share of disablism from open discrimination to entire government institutions which, for example, cannot classify someone like me as a person with a disability in this province UNTIL I am on welfare. But my story isn’t important except that I realized, with a bump, what so many already knew, that there still remains a two tiered system in modern society regarding ablism and disability, with quite a large gap between the tiers.
I learned that because I need assistance, I will never be safe in my own home. Indeed, the local care agency doesn’t consider it “my home” but rather “a workspace” that I am responsible for ensuring is code standard for “their workers.” I learned that when able body people bully or dismiss those with disabilities, when they make jokes about them, or harass and restrict them that nothing is done. And that the same people, the same “good people” who I was a part of will WALK on by. That like the New York case of a woman being raped and killed while 200 people heard screams and did nothing. If you work in a government office, at a racist joke you can expect someone to say, “Hey we don’t do that here.” but not a “Short Bus” joke. You will find that even your greatest enjoyments, like a trip to Japan, have people saying to your partner how ‘Christian’ and ‘kind’ she is to ‘take care of Beth.’ That in many people’s eyes, our marriage, which was not seen as equal to the heteros, is now, no longer a marriage OF equals.
I learned that someone who hasn’t taken a first aid course will try to make demands before I am allowed to pay to do what everyone else can simply because…I am disabled. I have lifted my eyes only a little to this landscape and I realize that this generation does not have the capability of understanding what they are doing is wrong. And so I write against disabilism because I believe that, no, not in this generation, but maybe soon people will be sent to jail for being abusive caregivers; and one day that the value we have as human beings, and the perspective we have will be even listened to.
When suffragettes worked for the vote for women, there was not even the language or ideas of how women’s view in middle and upper management would change the way of doing business. But we have those ideas now; the way business is done and the way almost every activity we do in life is different because an inch at a time the rights and the presence of women advanced. At the Times Colonist 10K run last Sunday, 2/3rds of the joggers were women: in 1970 there wasn’t a woman’s jogging shoe being manufactured. In 35 years, things have changed so that the competitive runner has been replaced by workshops and running groups, by women’s work running clubs at lunch and free presentations on buying the right sports bra. Nike and other jogging shoe companies are more likely to show an ad of women jogging together, one with a three wheel baby-jogging stroller than the ‘lone male’ running through mountains or on early morning pavement of three decades ago. We couldn’t conceive then how things would change and how society would change AND benefit from women being more active.
One day, I believe that there WILL be shows on TV where people with impairments/disabilities not only lead the show, but show an accurate representation of the population: so not just 1 character but 1 in 7. I believe that society will move away from “full time work or no work,” move away from “able body or nothing” type of thinking, move away from a world created for able bodied people and then mildly altered to ALLOW others to take part. I think that sometime in the future, the things we have learned by being dependant, by having a disability will change the way business is done, the way everything from sports, arts, literature and schooling is done. I believe we will finally have a language to express, for each person, the diversity and talent that right now is blocked in at least two generation’s minds behind labels or simply seeing a mobility or other assistive device.
There is no level playing field, in either direction. No, I will never in this lifetime be able to compete in THIS country’s workplace with able body people. And no, it does not appear in my lifetime will THIS country’s work and social fabric be able to learn from me the myriad of things being a person with a disability has taught me, has created in me. I am a better Elizabeth McClung than I was two years ago, but the language and the way for me to express it isn’t here yet; and there isn’t a show I can watch to release the frustration, humiliation and pain I experience in THIS world. Pain not from my disease and disability but from the actions of society as I try to move myself forward.
They say that if you put a chain on a baby elephant, that by the time it is an adult it has learned not to try and free itself even if held only by rope. Many say to me that I will never be able to match the energy, time and system of resources of those who have been abusive, insulting, and/or restrictive. And they are right. Often times it is the agencies set up by able bodied people, staffed by able bodied people who are supposed to be assisting me but instead are judging my “attitude”, as one common example, that I butt heads with. And no, I will never grow up big and strong, my activism, or phone calls will always be made between medical appointments, on the few hours a day I am awake and functional. But I will not be chained. Never chained. Let them learn that.
You know what they used to do to baby elephants who would never give up trying to break out? They’d destroy them. I guess we will see if there is any difference in society between a constructed outcome for an animal and one for someone with a disability?
One day the language will come, the society will come. I believe that.
Generations on, the vote and rights or not, sexual abuse is still rampant. One day that too will change. I believe that.
No, I don’t have answers. I don’t speak for people with disabilities. I am merely grateful for those who have accepted me as friend. As I have more friends connected through this cyber world than in my own town. They are the ones which make me believe that this society will change, can change, and they are the ones who make me believe that person X, is worth the time to educate (perhaps with a particularly sarcastic tone…..).
I do wish we had a phrase, for when our job would be done, like earlier in my life, in the society I was in we would say, “Next year in Jerusalem” which meant: next year all of what we worked for will have come true.
That language will come; I believe it.
6 hours ago