"Hierarchy," now there is a dangerous word. Placing one person above another, making valuing into a point system. Yikes. What that does to people, even basically good hearted people, is frightening. Suddenly it doesn't matter if you're on top, it just matters that there are others below.
Here's what got me thinking about this. I was on the bus chatting with a woman, also a wheelchair user, who was telling me about her job. She loves her job and described it in a lot of detail. A lot. Finishing with that she started talking about how her parents had instilled into her the "right kind of attitudes" and those attitudes and values got her through each and every day. One of the things she was taught was "be grateful for what you've got because there are always those who are worse off than you." She explained that though she had a disability there were a lot of people worse of than she was. She didn't, for example, have an "intellectual disability," so there was something to be grateful for.
I've always thought that we shouldn't be happy to not be another, we should be happy to simply be who we are. I know that's simplistic, but it really is my world view. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the fact that I'm in the middle of the disability stack and that there are those worse off than me so I've got it pretty damn good. In fact, until writing this I don't really know where I am in the disability stack - so I'm guessing 'middling.'
Too me, I'd think people who are judged because of difference should be wary of valuing difference differently. If we can't see those in our home communities as all having value, how can anyone else? I remember in the gay male community when 'straight appearing' was valued and 'gay appearing' was not. The more you were like the oppressor, the more we believed acceptance would flow. Oddly, it was the frilly edge of the gay community that sparked the Stonewall riots that lead to the civil liberties movement as we now know it.
It would be nice if we could have a community that didn't buy into the 'not as good as that one but, thankfully, not as bad as that one' attitude. I want to be grateful for living my life ... period. I don't want to be grateful because I'm not living someone else's life. I'm bound and determined that I'm not going to wish away my life - wishing to be someone else; and I'm not going to believe that what I've got makes me more worthy or more valued than someone else.
I remember doing some training with teens with disabilities about abuse prevention. A fellow with Down Syndrome, maybe 12, said, "You can think fast and I can run fast, neat huh?" And yes, it is.
We both have.
We both do.
What we have and what we do are different.
But then so are we.
Different but equal.
Maybe one day we can together topple over the disability stack ...