The four of them were first in line. Young teens all, maybe at the most 15. There were three girls, one boy. Four kids. Three friends. One not. They all gossiped excitedly about the movie. They knew, most of them, everything there was to know about Harry Potter, the books and the films. This was the last movie and they were excited to see how it all plays out, be part of the phenomenon. Two of the girls and the boy formed a tight circle. The other girl stood slightly back and a little to the side.
She stood, feeling every moment of the exclusion, as if time weighed heavily on her shoulders. One could almost feel her longing for the darkness of the theatre. A darkness that she could hide in. The others who 'othered' her were oblivious to the pain on her face. Most in the line weren't. Everyone could see the discrimination. No one said anything. There was nothing to say. Nothing that wouldn't have made this situation worse. Nothing that would have made it any better.
She had dark hair and a shy smile. Some of what was said, the gossip about Daniel Radcliffe's nude pictures on the Internet, the disbelief that Dumbledore was gay, was amusing. She included herself by listening and reacting. They excluded her not in overt acts of violence but in covert acts of annihilation. She just didn't exist to them. Oh, no, that's not true. When she was glanced at, only glanced mind, it was the same look that teens give a room that needs to be cleaned or homework that needs to be done - a resigned boredom.
At home her parents are probably thrilled that their daughter, their different daughter, is out with friends. They are probably praying, hard, that it's going well, that's she's having fun. I'll bet she will lie to them when she gets home. I'll bet she will protect them from her life. Children protect parents as much, if not more, than parents protect children. I've seen it. I've done it. A simple little lie that says, 'I'm OK, don't worry.'
At school her teachers probably say of the three 'normals' that they are such good kids, that they include in their friendship a fellow teen with a disability. On Monday, at an in-service or conference somewhere in the world, a wonderful story will be told about a young woman with a disability who goes out to movies with her friends. Audiences will take notes, some will wipe a tear from their eye, others will write, in big, bold letters INCLUSION WORKS.
Many people think I'm anti-inclusion. I'm not. I'm anti lying. I believe that we prefer the myth to the truth and because we choose to accept the illusion - we no longer seek solutions, or challenge ourselves to think more deeply about the world as it is. I believe that 'inclusion' as a movement has failed. This does not believe that I think that 'inclusion' as a goal isn't worthy. I only wish that we'd all be a little more honest about attempts that fail so that we can devise new attempts, new strategies. Good heavens, it's as horrific to live a life of forced segregation, as it is to live a life of forced isolation.
I believe that there are things that we can do that will foster community and companionship. I believe that it is possible to vision a world wherein people with intellectual and physical disabilities find a proper place of value. But I don't believe that we can get there while we are still lying to ourselves about what we've done. While we still listen to happy stories of inclusion and stand and applaud illusion. While we leave a young woman standing alone, on the outside looking in. While we have a young woman go home and talk of a friendship that doesn't exist to parents who so desperately want to believe the lie that they can't hear the truth - false words from a broken heart are unmistakable.
I want one day to be sitting in a conference taking notes and writing INCLUSION WORKS, because its actually true, not because someone gets paid to tell a good story, others get paid to document illusion and other others stand in line ups and wish, with all their might, that they weren't alone.