Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kindness / Strangers / Trust


I think to a certain extent, I've lost it.

With our society.

With the 'kindness' of strangers.

We were going over for a bite of lunch at a local food court. Tessa and I rushed across the interesction quickly, leaving Joe in our dust on the opposite corner. There was a crowd gathered watching this amazing guy. He was wearing a yellow tee shirt with the name of some chiropractor on it. But what was really noticeable was the fact that his ankles were hooked together behind his neck and he had lifted himself up and was walking around on his hands. You might even sprain something trying to imagine it.

It was fun watching him contort into various shapes and even more fun watching people with looks of both horror and amazement on their faces. I waved Joe to come quickly so he could see what was going on. He joined us and we all laughed as we watched the odd antics of someone who could do what people just can't do. Suddenly Tessa and I were approached, she in her scooter, me on my chair, by a woman asking if we would mind being filmed watching the contortionist. We were taken by surprise and just quickly said that it would be ok.

After a few minutes more of watching the show was slowly ending. As we began to move towards the mall, we were approached to sign consents for us to appear in an Internet advertisement for the chiropractor. Suddenly my stomach sank. I said, 'I'd really rather not.' Tessa also shook her head.

There was no way I wanted to give blanket permission for my image to be used. The way that fat people can be the brunt of 'humor' ... they way disabled people can be misrepresented as 'pathetic' ... no way. A well of distrust overwhelmed me and I had a faint creepy feeling that I'd dodged some kind of bullet. Our society is not to be trusted to respect difference and disability. Our society is not much evolved past freak show mentality. Our society pays gene hunters a lot of money to weed out difference while paying lip service to diversity. I do not trust.

Driving quietly along in my chair I realized, for the first time, that something had changed in me. I used to believe in the kindness of strangers. But after years of being 'the stranger' ... I no longer want kindness ... I'd settle just for being left alone.


CAM said...

You still trust more than I do, I would have said no when she first asked if it would be ok to film me watching, if it were me.

Dave Hingsburger said...

CAM, I admit, if I hadn't been startled into politeness I would have said 'no' right off too. I'm still worried that it might end up on the web anyways. But, then, that's what lawyers are for, right?

Kristine said...

I don't trust "society" collectively. Not at all. But I trust the kindness of individuals. Even strangers. I wouldn't have let her use my picture in her ads either, but I'd also have believed that she's probably a good person who just hasn't been educated out of believing society's misguided ways.

I would trust her to be kind in the best way she knows how. I just wouldn't trust that society has taught her well.

But I have surprisingly pleasant, kind, and genuine interactions with strangers all the time, which give me reasons to keep trusting. And so do you. You blog about them. :)

Kristin said...

I think the only way I would agree to something like that is if I got to see it before it was released.

Baba Yaga said...

I believe in the kindness of strangers. I also believe in their cruelty. And even more than either, in their (or our, since I'm someone else's careless stranger) ignorance of the distinction.

It's sad that being left alone becomes the measure of peace. But it often is.