Saturday, June 07, 2008

Farewell Harriet

I found out yesterday afternoon that, on June 4th, Harriet McBryde Johnson had died. It was like the world had stopped for a minute as my mind tried to conceptualize a world without her in it. She was not supposed to have lived, have lasted, have survived - but she did. Doctors told her family that she would die in her early teens. But she didn't. Instead, she became a lawyer, an activist and an outstanding voice for those with disabilities.

I became aware of her during the time of the protests against Peter Singer, the guy who believes that the world would be better off without disabled people in it, the guy who believes that killing babies with disabilities is morally less repugnant than killing a cat. I was writing a fair bit for Mouth Magazine at the time and Lucy, the editor, sent me something that Harriet had written, and I was stunned by it. The sheer force of her mind was astonishing, intimidating. I was glad, so glad, that she was on our side.

Occasionally over the years I heard of her, read her writings, discussed her point of view with others. I always thought that I may meet her one of these days. At a conference. At an action. I always thought that possible. And now, it's not. She's gone.

So, on the occasion of her death - which I am mourning at an oddly deep level for someone I've never met, I am asking you, gentle readers to pop over and read an article that Harriet wrote that I've carried with me in my lecture notes on abuse for years and years and years. It's a long article, choose a quiet time, get a cup of tea and settle in ...

Rest In Peace
You Lived In Protest
Rest In Peace
You Lived With Purpose
Rest Harriet Rest


Pat Faulk said...

Oh your post made me cry today! She seemed like such a dear fiesty soul and I too was very sadened by her death when I learned of it a few days ago.
But we will, we MUST carry on with her fight! I like to think she would have been proud of you and your fight Dave.
RIP dear Harriet! We, who have never met you, miss you!
Cheer us on from Heaven!

on a side note!!
I am still here! I was in hospital for a month or so, but I am home! Man I got a lot of reading to do here! :)

Anonymous said...

I read the article Dave, my heart froze. We now choose to believe that Hitler was a monster, a mad man but really he was just the activator for existing beliefs that groups were inferior because it was scientifically proven. It's the cold intellectualism of people like Singer that scares me.

I am just glad there are people like Harriet - and you too Dave (and us all) who are prepared to stand against these beliefs. I'll hope just like Harriet said that such things never come to light but we must not be complacent.


gracie1956 said...

It seems that the "good" ones never get to stay long enough. Those of us still here must pick up the banner and march on.

theknapper said...

Thank you for the link. I read her piece last night & found myself thinking about my own journey in understanding the complex issues of disability. I am curious what impact Harriet made on Singer. I know many of my beliefs changed as I got to know people with disabilities, attended conferenes where I was in the minority, watched videos & documentaries; to deeply listen & to be willing to struggle with what I thought was reasonable. I realized that I could no longer support those beliefs.
I am sad to hear she died & so thankful that she lived.