Saturday, January 15, 2011
The True Cost of Difference (BOB Blogswarm)
(written as part of the Broken of Britain blogswarm)
He looked pleasant enough, I guess maybe that should have been fair warning. I was motoring in my power wheelchair across a very snowy street, he was shoveling the sidewalk. I’m still a bit unused to having snow and ice under my wheels so I really appreciated what he was doing, to thank him I spoke up. ‘Thanks for doing this,’ I said and before I could say more he responded, ‘Well, I’m certainly not doing it for you.’ He muttered under his breath, ‘fucking parasites’.
Even though it was cold outside, my cheeks flushed with warm. I just kept on going. I didn’t want to stop and explain to him that I am a hard working, tax paying, citizen. Just in affirming that ‘I’m not like that’ I would be affirming his view that ‘people like that’ aren’t worth caring about or doing things for. I knew that he had measured my worth as a person based on the stereotype that people with disabilities are ‘takers’ not ‘contributors’. That any defense of myself would be one of accepting his measurement as one that makes sense. So what I work? What matters is that inherently I have value simply as a fellow human being.
I have always found, as a gay person, that elections were terrifying. I worried that the election of a political party hostile to rights for gay people would act on their prejudices and my rights as a citizen would take a back seat to the rights of bigots to hurt me. I have always worried about the tyranny of the norm or the dictatorship of the majority. While I love the democratic process, I am fully aware that there is a danger that difference will always lose out in an arm wrestle with normalcy.
Germany was doing pretty well with the concept of ‘gay rights’ until the Nazi’s came along. That didn’t work out real well. A lesson from history tells us that rights can be eliminated with a stroke of a pen, with the election of a dogmatist. The cost of being different is living forever in fear – even during times where the majority is feeling tolerant, one waits for the mood to turn. Kid yourself not, there are those working every day to deny rights and access to people with disabilities, to gay people, to people of colour, to women. Respect the energy and focus of your enemies.
But surely people with disabilities don’t have enemies like that, you say? Oh, I assure you we do. Every time a government looks for budget cuts, they always look to services to those with disabilties. Suddenly our lives become luxuries.
A wheelchair to go out? Outrageous! Why do cripples need to go out?
Staffing to maintain community access? Outrageous! We don’t like seeing them out anyways.
Let’s all chant: Congregate: Segregate: Persecute: Destroy!
Some see me in my wheelchair with their eyes but with their minds they see the stereotype of a slothful, lazy, ungrateful, benefit sucking, waste of skin. Government’s agree with that summation when they talk about the ‘cost’ of ‘care’ ... rather than the ‘right to participate'.