Post in Commemoration of the Second International Day of Mourning and Memory
One thousand four hundred and forty.
Some numbers deserve to be written out longhand.
One thousand four hundred and forty.
In a graveyard, not far from where I type, 2011 people were laid to rest. Only 571 have names. A full one thousand four hundred and forty lay nameless and forgotten. Even if you knew them once, you'd never find them now.
How could this be?
The is a graveyard that lay on the lee side of institutional walls. That institution is now closed. No footsteps echo down the long corridors, the smells of human captivity are slowly fading, the tools of segregation are growing rusty in the dark corners of back wards. Many people who lived there are now free. Many are now finding their way as full citizens, part of the community that once rejected them. Many will never know a moments surety that citizenship is an irrevocable thing.
Murderers serve less time than people who committed the crime of difference.
Those that lived, and died, at the facility, were buried there. Most in unmarked graves. Most without a single indicator that where they rest is ground made holy - not by designation or by prayer but by their presence.
One of the greatest single fears that we have, as we get older, is that our life doesn't matter. Is that we will not be remembered. In dark hours we may worry that 'no one will ever know that I was here.' We want, and need, a kind of assurance that our time here was important, even in a small way, and that the lives we lived made a difference some how.
Rapists serve less time than people who are convicted of disability.
Shame buried people alive. Institutions housed the shame of families and sometimes the shameful secret of a society that forced families to make impossible decisions. Lack of services, lack of supports, lack of understanding - these weren't incidental markers of a time, they were the tools that were used to pry children from loving arms. Make no mistake. We built places because we wanted to fill them. We built places because we wanted rid of difference in our midst.
Talk to those who lived in residential schools.
Talk to those who lived in facilities.
Arsonists serve less time that people who found guilty of difference and disability.
One thousand four hundred and forty people lay unremembered.
I remember that there were lives lived in the shadows. People who lived in wait for a world to change. People who lived in hope that one day the doors would open and that home would happen. People who looked out of windows yet lived behind locked doors.
I don't know their names.
But I honour their lives.
They served the sentence.
And people now live free, not because a beneficent society wanted them home. But because finally, those who waited could no longer be denied.
Freedom, here, came at a cost.
By one thousand four hundred and forty without names, five hundred and seventy one who had the dignity of identification ... and that's just one place ... one of thousands.
Some are still serving time.
By God, I hope without hope, that not one more person convicted of difference, dies still waiting for freedom.
But hope without action is vanity.
Commit to freedom.
A couple fellow bloggers have written posts in commemoration of The International Day of Mourning and Memory ... please spend some time visiting. The first I received was from Joanne who writes of a life ended far too soon. Next in was a blistering piece from Ricki's mom, I accuse wherein she reports a stunning conversation with a doctor that had a lethal outcome. John R has just posted a blog about the roll direct care professionals can have in celebraing the lives of those that they have supported. Belinda Burston sent, late last night a powerful post that demands attention, Remembering Rainerchen. Please put other links in the comment section and, as I am in meetings all day today and then travelling 4 hours home, I'll put them in the blog proper later on tonight.