Positive thinking does not cure cancer. Suggesting that it does is inhumane. Death is not under the control of 'smile monkies'. Being positive does not eliminate prejudice. Prejudice is not ever, ever, changed by the grin of one seen as subservient. Stop it.
Being positive, or optimistic, on the other hand, is probably a good approach to life for many, it is for me. But being positive isn't the same as being complacent, or as being a doormat. Being positive isn't the same as accepting less than the best or being comfortable with the status quo. Being positive, for me, is a general frame of mind that doesn't preclude anger, or frustration, or even outright annoyance. Alternately, being angry, or frustrated or annoyed, when there is cause, doesn't mean I'm not a positive person.
Why and I saying this?
I believe in the power of anger.
I believe in the power of recognizing and outing wrongs.
I believe in the power of voices raised in protest.
I remember meeting with an angry, angry mother. Her rage took me by surprise because she always seemed so happy-go-lucky and met each day with hope. Her middle boy had Down Syndrome and I met her when I was working as a behaviour therapist and she had request help in learning how to teach her son some skills. She was one of the few parents who referred their children, not because of problem behaviour, but because she wanted to be a good teacher of positive behaviour. So rage - which flew out of her as if it, itself, feared the sound of the pounding of her heart, caught me off guard. Her boy was not to be allowed to go to her neighbourhood school. He was to bus for an hour and a half to a 'special school'. This stank of prejudice and unfairness, and she wouldn't have it. Her anger fueled her drive towards inclusion. She won. Not with a smile. She won. With a fist pounding on a table.
I believe in the power of fury.
I believe in the power of a finger pointed at discrimination.
I believe in the power of one, single, angry voice.
I remember seeing a young woman with a disability, barely in her teens, turning to her support worker and saying, clearly and loudly, "Don't speak to me like I am a little girl. I am growing up." The fury in her voice, the anger in her eyes, spoke volumes about her experience. She'd had enough. She would be spoken to respectfully. In a crowded theatre lobby, a quiet apology was spoken. In the midst of the chaos of the lobby, an apology was accepted. Fury spoke. Fury stated clearly that enough was enough and that there would be change. She won. Not with a cutesy little girl request. She won. With the voice of a woman wronged.
I believe in the power of rage.
I believe in the power of unrestrained emotion.
I believe in the power of an unrestrained voice.
Through my neighbourhood, should you and I ever walk, I can point to ramps that weren't there before I got mad. I can point to aisles free of barriers that were cluttered and impassible before I got mad. I can point to accessible tills that weren't always open until I got mad. In each case I requested politely. I requested repeatedly. But when I got mad. Things changed. I know that sometimes I have to throw water on the fire, to not go straight to anger, but I also don't fear the fire - because it doesn't burn me.
I am a positive person.
I wake with hope and work with expectation of better days coming.
I see change.
But I don't fear anger.
Positive thinking doesn't clear an aisle of barriers.
Being positive doesn't levitate one up a flight of stairs.
Accepting what comes with a smile doesn't open school doors to those denied.
I write this because I believe that there is a place for anger in the movement of those with disabilities or those who advocate with our community. I find myself accused, and others accused, of being too negative simply because we point out a wrong.
I write this today because I wanted to write about something that happened but was afraid to, even here on my blog, because I know that I will get emails from people who prefer not to comment, some quite harsh, to be told that I need to be more accepting, or that I need to understand where the other person was coming from, or that I didn't actually understand what happened. AND TO BE TOLD THAT I NEED TO BE MORE POSITIVE AND ACCEPTING. Pointing out wrongs doesn't mean that one lives feeling wronged. Expressing anger doesn't mean that one doesn't have a positive attitude. I positively believe that change can happen ... those who use frustration as a cause for a pity party, can have at it ... but me I BELIEVE and am POSITIVE that I can effect change.
I know that parents can effect change. Because they have.
I know that self advocates can effect change. Because they have.
And change never happens in silence.
Change is noisy.
Change is fraught with emotion.
Change is chaotic.
I am positively certain that change will come - but sometimes it begins with an explosion of anger, of fury and of rage.
Maybe tomorrow, I'll have the courage, to tell you what happened today.