Piles and piles of words.
So many of the things I've been reading recently, about disability, have infuriated me. There are words that appear over and over again. Words that appear benign. Words that appear to be about something BIG, about something GRAND, about something IMPORTANT. Words that assume what I want, as a person with a disability, what we want as people with disabilities. Words crafted by others, that pretend to be about us, about our needs, but are only, really, about the sense they get about being gifted in the presence of what they see to be our deficits. Its is only really a fool that could say, "There but for the grace of God go I," and not understand what it says and what it means. There are words that feel good in the mouth of the privileged but burn in the ears of the dispossessed.
Words like: Empower.
I hate this word. I see it all the time. I've written about it before and I will do again, but for now let me rant. Who the hell wants, ever, to be empowered by another? Who the hell wants to be seen as so weak and so passive that they wait for the benevolent help of one's 'betters' for the 'gift' of power? We can only, of course, empower ourselves. We can only, of course, embrace the power we've always had and begin to use it. We can only, of course, raise ourselves. No one can do these things for us. No one can do these things for another. The word 'empower' - where it bothers me most, is when I see it used by those within systems. Systems that have routinely disempowered, routinely disengaged, routinely disregarded those with disabilities. Those they SAY they SERVE. It's a word used without irony, which is, itself, ironic. They first rob of power and then give tiny pieces of it back and call it 'empowerment'. It's like a thief stealing from someone a dollar and then giving a quarter back in an effort to 're-enrich' the victim. Right.
I call Bullshit.
Words like: Tolerance
I do not wish to be tolerated. I do not wish to be the 'one' tolerated by the 'many'. I do not wish anyone making the supreme effort to tolerate the mere fact of my presence. I do not wish to be the fart in the elevator that everyone pretends is not there. Existing with the understanding and tolerance of another, existing with the gift of someone's making an exception, someone's making an effort ... as if my existence here, in this place, is not a right but a privilege granted by another. Those who tolerate get to tut tut the tolerated. Those who tolerate get to roll their eyes and glance conspiratorially at the other tolerators at the antics of the tolerated. Those who tolerate get to determine what is acceptable and what is 'just to much my dear'.
I call Bullshit.
Words like: Kindness
Let me dissuade you of an idea. I do not want your kindness because I do not wish your pity. And let's be honest, kindness most often grows as a weed around the wellspring of pity. Grabbing a door for a pregnant woman who is struggling with parcels to get in is not KINDNESS, for God's sake, it's CIVILITY. We have become a society who wants kindness credited to their humanity card for simple acts of civility. While I do not wish kindness, certainly not more or less kindness than offered to any other, I do wish for civility. I do wish for behaviour that considers me as a person and my needs in the moment. Just as I wish to consider the needs of you as a person and your needs in the moment. Civility is not kindness. Civility is increasingly rare but that does not make it's occurrence exceptional or it's practitioner kind.
I call Bullshit.
Words like: Blindness
Saying to someone with a disability that 'I just can't see disability' or 'when I see you I don't see your disability' or 'I only see abilities', and this is the worst of course, 'I'm just blind to disability.' Oh, freaking, please. PLEASE. No one is 'blind' to my disability and furthermore I DON'T WANT YOU TO BE BECAUSE I'M NOT ASHAMED OF IT. I don't see how you think I should be flattered or, God Forbid, think you are magnificent, because you don't see what is plainly there. I am disabled. Get that. I am freaking disabled. I am in a freaking, fracking, wheelchair. See it? It's the thing under my fat ass!! Don't try to get me to 'play pretend' that my disability doesn't exist to you or to the world. Don't get me to give in to your desire to play 'dress up reality' and feel that you have RAISED ME OUT OF DISABILITY AND INTO EQUALITY. No, don't. Just don't. I am disabled. I don't like the idea of being verbally euthanized by words like 'challenged' or 'special' or 'exceptional'. I don't like being taken out of language and I don't like being taken out of my wheelchair and into fantasy-land. I live here, in reality, and I FREAKING LIKE IT HERE. I do not wish to move into your world where you pretend I don't have a disability and I pretend that you are a saint.
I call, double Bullshit.
Hey, here's a word I'd like to hear a little more often: Respect.
Why don't we try that for a little while? Why don't we empower ourselves though kindness and tolerance towards a disability blindness so that we can ... oh, sorry the word respect doesn't fit in that sentence. Respect Difference. Respect Diversity. Respect Disability. Respect engenders respect. None of the other words have that capacity. None of the other words have within it a deep need for mutual change. None of the other words call us out into real interaction and real comradeship in the real world. Respect knocks at the door of social change. I'm guessing that's why kindness, and tolerance, and 'blindness' and empowerment never answer.
I love some.
I fear others.
I loathe these.