I know I have a very stark view of the community and of the mass of people who make up what we call 'society.' I know that when I write how I really think the world is socially constructed I get a lot of, vaguely and not so vaguely hostile, response. Here's the deal. I do see good in the world. I do see kindness. I do see people doing extraordinary things to help other people. I do see all that. But I also refuse to NOT see people who dismiss others considered lesser, people who are actively and purposely unkind to those they see as barely human, people who love to taunt others when they feel safe to do so. I know that people know that using the R-word is offensive and they use it because they feel they can. I see the good but refuse to hide behind it.
Part of my job is to teach people with disabilities to live in the real world. And in the real world there will be:
moments of real danger and real fear
people who manipulate to exploit
people who will purposely endanger
people who will laugh at your trust
And this is a partial list.
This does not mean that I don't think that people with disabilities shouldn't live in the real world, just that they should be prepared for real world dangers - like we all need to be.
This is a very long introduction to what I want to say today.
When I told the story of yesterday to a number of people, including those with disabilities, I felt kind of disturbed by the responses I got. It took me a long while of thinking to figure out what was bothering me.
It came to me over lunch.
I may think better when I'm actually in the process of rumination.
It seemed to me that everyone, and I may be wrong here, that I spoke to about this, mentioned that that person must have had some mental health issue.
I think that people simply don't want to acknowledge that non-disabled people, the people considered the 'norm' could possibly be, simply, mean. It's like people want to believe that only the 'exceptional' could do something like terrorise a passerby with a disability. It's like people want to explain the behaviour by making the PERSON exceptional rather than the behaviour objectionable.
So, only people with mental illness are cruel?
What a horrid stereotype.
I'm guessing people with mental illness experience more cruelty than are practitioners of it. I worked, as a youth, in a volunteer setting with people with mental illness and I never once felt afraid.
Here's the thing: normal people can be, and maybe even often are, capable of cruelty, arrogance, bigotry, self importance and are able to perform intentional and casual acts of social violence.
The norm, at it's core, may not be full of sunshine and hope.
We need to know that, cope with that, live within in it fully prepared.
I can hear the howls now that the world is full of good people. Well, it may be full of people who do good things, but that's not the same thing is it. Read the statistics on bullying and teasing. Read the fact that people with disabilities who live in the community more often live in fear than in safety.
Knowing this we should be careful of placing the blame on the backs of people with mental illness. We in the disability community should know better than that.
Holding people who do bad things accountable is the only way that leads to change.
That guy who scared me. I do not believe he had a mental illness. I believe that he was in a bad frame of mind, saw a moment where he could terrify someone vulnerable, and I fit the ticket. He did it. He's responsible for it.
End of story.