Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hectoring Hector

He closed the book cover and we were off.

Joe and I are avid readers and, our habit is that I read a book first, he reads it second, then we talk about it if it's deemed as a 'discussable' book. Some books are just 'did you like it' books. Some are, 'what did you think about it' books. Jake Arnott's 'The Devil's Paintbrush' was one that I couldn't wait for him to read as I wanted to know what he thought about it. The book is a fictionalized history of two real men, who really met, who lived huge lives, one wildly eccentric, the other wildly tragic.

Aliester Crowly and Major General Sir Hector MacDonald are unlikely chums for one night in Paris. Major General MacDonald is there, in exile, considering his fall from grace and his upcoming court martial. He was known as 'Fighting Mac' and was famous for his skill and bravery. However his private life, from his 'wife' and child ... who lived in hiding and shame, to his constant struggle against his 'private nature' was never easy. His eventual exposure as a 'homosexual' (the term and the concept of 'gay' did not exist then) led to a disastrous and public downfall. A man who had served his country well, had saved the lives of thousands of troops, who had military genius that came from caring for his men, was destroyed because he loved men.

As we talked about the story, I said something that stunned me. 'His life was ruined by his sexuality.' It was out and said before I understood what I had said. His life, of course, was not destroyed by his sexuality, it was destroyed by prejudice and bigotry and pure simple hatred. It was just so easy to slide the blame over to him, the victim of outrageous injustice, to make his sexuality the issue. It's easier to blame a person than to blame a society. It's easier to find damnation in difference rather than condemnation in conventionality. It's just easier.

It happens all the time.

To every minority.

No wonder, at dark moments, people hate themselves and their difference. No wonder in dark times, people wish themselves different.

I am a proud wheelchair user. I like the fact that I live a well travelled and busy life on wheels. I like it. But are there moments where I think 'why the fuck do I have to be in a wheelchair', yeah. Cause it's easier to blame the wheelchair than it is to blame the freaking, fracking, fragglehound that designed something to be inaccessible or the society that would hire that freaking, fracking, fraggelhound to design something that excludes. Way easier. I'm there after all. They never are. I'm real. They seem to be somehow an invisible evil. So the choice is to hate yourself or to become hateful and distrustful of society. In this case, and maybe only in this case, it's easier to hit the smaller target. So I say, and worse, think: why am I in a wheelchair, rather than: why does prejudice and privilege get to decide where I go.

It's easier to say: His life was ruined by sexuality.

It's easier to say: Her life was ruined by disability.

It's easier to make a lie truth, than to tell the truth to liars.

And the truth is, Major General Sir Hector MacDonald's life lay in tatters around him, not because of his sexuality, but because of bigots.

And the truth is, disability never ruins a life - but prejudice always does.

Scapegoating difference is tempting but dangerous. Blaming victims achieves only one thing, perpetuation of today into tomorrow. I don't know about you, but I want a different tomorrow. I want today to change tomorrow. I want to honour my difference and hold accountable those who torment. I want much. But then, tomorrow is big enough to hold both the smallest change and the grandest dream.


Kristin said...

"And the truth is, disability never ruins a life - but prejudice always does."

Simply and brilliantly stated Dave.

Emma said...

Dave, when does the next book club take place? I received a copy and can't wait to read it.

Nathan Dawthorne said...

It is not his/her fault; its the prejudices of societies' fault.

An important message to teach my son. Thanks Dave.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Emma, the book club will be announced on Monday, it will be in the last week of June.