I don't normally do this but I've decided that I need to discuss something here. A couple of days ago someone, anonymously, left a comment regarding my post about arriving in Thunder Bay to discover that the room we'd carefully booked, the accessible room, had been given to another traveler and we were left stranded. Here's what the comment said:
"OMG they made a mistake and booked your room! This happens all
the time, and you found a room across the street, how about a little
stiff upper lip and stoicism for gods sake. you really are the center
of your universe, take off your victim T-Shirt for one day
please..."Should we name the hotel, i will let you decide"? Sure, why
not, you spend 90% of your time finding fault why not go all the way?"
Now, though people forget, I'm as human as everyone else and just as capable of being stung by words. Word's Hit ... I know that. That particular post drew some ire from some readers - my expression of anger particularly and my choice of words even more particularly. I knew that was going to be the case when I wrote it. I had decided to publish it because the post expressed exactly how I was feeling in that moment. I thought it was honest, and I thought that an honest expression of a moment in the life of myself as a person with a disability had some value.
After reading that comment and reacting, as one might imagine I reacted, I wondered if the comment reflected how many people see the complaints and the anger of those of us with disabilities. Are we just whiny babies who want things our way all the time? Are we people who should feel more gratitude and express less annoyance? Are we, or more specifically, am I, just a complainer?
I did some research, looking up the various stereotypes of people with disabilities. I wondered who we (I) are (am) expected to be. There are, of course, many, and often contradicting, stereotypes. One that kept popping up was the 'gentle soul' someone who 'bears life's difficulties with grace' someone 'never speaking a complaining word' someone with 'wisdom in their eyes and knowledge in their silences'. OK, that's simply not me. It's also not many of the people I know, disabled or not.
Interestingly I hear lovely things said about people with disabilities all the time. Particularly people with intellectual disabilities ... that great mass of 'all loving' 'constantly smling' group of 'forever children.' Something very much at odds with the reality of the lives of the people I know and have the privilege to serve. I read this often in blogs by parents or blogs by those who have siblings with disabilities. I always cringe a little inside when I read these because I know that though someone with Down Syndrome might have a happy demeanour they also have the capacity to be angry and frustrated and upset. The first time I heard someone with Down Syndrome tell a staff to 'F' off ... I discovered it was possible to applaud while dropping over in a dead faint.
We are completely and fully human.
Not a drop of saintly blood in any of us.
So I looked back at the criticism and decided that I actually have a stiff upper lip and a fair degree of stoicism ... just not all the time and not in every circumstance. I don't think the Brits would have had an empire if they didn't also have a backbone and a voice and the skill to know when to make displeasure known. I know for sure that I don't have a 'victim t-shirt', I checked my closet and then realized that they didn't come in my size.
I also checked over the history of this blog, in it I have congratulated various companies and various organizations for what they've done and how they do it. I ended the year by naming the best experiences I've had as a disabled traveller. The positive blogs about businesses and services far outweigh the negative ones. And the negative ones are about 'discrimination' or 'lack of concern' which I believe are fair game. The person making the comment may think that all we did was have to drive across the street. Well, that's not quite true, we had to go to several hotels before finding the one that happened to be across the street. All we went to were full - oh they had rooms, but they didn't have accessible rooms. A non disabled traveller would have stayed in a different room in the same hotel, we had to wander, calling hotels as we went, to find somewhere, both worried that we'd be stuck in the cold. I think, therefore, that anger was appropriate, that the expression of anger was legitimate and if ever there was a time for the 'f' word, that would be it.
So, here's the deal, fair readers. I am not going to censor my life here. I will occasionally be angry and occasionally, only very occasionally, swear and curse in my blog. It happens, I'm human, it's real. And yes, sometimes I will sound like a whiny baby - and I'll bet all of you will have to admit to those moments yourself. And yes, sometimes I'll present like I'm a victim - but then, sometimes I am! Yes, and sometimes I only think I am.
So comments make me think. I wondered at the anger behind the comment. I wondered at the reason for the assaultive nature with which the writer expressed those thoughts. I wondered if maybe they should take off the bully T shirt and develop a softer heart to go along with that stiff lip.