Monday, December 23, 2013

Oh Come, Oh Come

Yesterday afternoon we went to a small Christmas event in our neighbourhood. It is a small event where carols are sung and people mix and mingle. This year, like last year, I saw a man with Down Syndrome attending the event along with his mother. She has aged a lot in the last year and is now using a manual chair, which he pushed with great care. I said hello to them as they passed by, we've chatted several times before, and they greeted both Joe and I warmly.

Shortly afterwards I heard an elderly woman say to her husband, "I don't know why she would bring him to something like this, it takes away from the spirit of the event." That sentiment is shocking on so many different levels. She made variations of the comment several times to several people as they arrived and before the singing started.

I seethed.

I stewed.

I silently screamed inside.

I looked at Joe, who'd heard all this, he looked back at me knowing what I was asking, he simply said, "Do it."

Rolling over I caught her eye, instantly I could tell she didn't think I belonged either. I rolled up and said, "I'm not going to make a scene, but I'm going to tell you that I think you are a bigot and a bully. You are a bigot because you can't see anything but stereotype - they are here together, if anything, he's bringing his mother. You are a bully because you are saying horrible things loudly enough for us all to hear. You are beating us with your prejudice and daring any of us to take you on. Let me tell you this, if I hear you say that kind of thing one more time, there will be a scene."

"Who do you think you ..."

"I know who I am and I know who you are. Trust me. There will be a scene if you say anything like that about him again. I will not stand by." I know my voice was cold because my intent seemed to freeze her expression.

It wasn't until this interaction that I realized that when people use hateful language aimed at someone else they are bullying that person and bullying everyone of kind heart that hears the words. We are being DARED, DARED to take them on. Our silence is both consent and agreement. Consent for hate to be spoken, and agreement with hateful thoughts.

It was hard to get back into the event. But, right up front, a carol or two in, they sang my favourite traditional carol ... it's one that, since childhood, brings me a sense of quiet and peace. So I sang it, with a voice that began shaking and ended strong.

27 comments:

william Peace said...

Bravo my good man! Bravo! Long ago when my son was a little boy I had a similar experience. I was at a Xmas party and got the stink eye from a man. He cam over to my me and my son and told him "When you grow up you will need to take care of your crippled father". Without missing a beat my son replied "You are an ignorant bigot. We are leaving now". The shock on this man's face was priceless. Not often a child can correctly call an adult a bigot and be put down so effectively.

GirlWithTheCane said...

So sad that these attitudes exist in this day and age...thank you, Dave, for refusing to be silenced and calling the woman on her bullshit. As always, you inspire me.

Tamara said...

Thank you, Dave, for setting such a good example for all of us.

clairesmum said...

Bravo, indeed! Well said, and well written. I'm glad the music helped you to move back to the centered place.

Anonymous said...

Dave
I too maybe that mom with a young man with DS in years to come!
I thank you for standing up for what is right!

Happy Christmas to you and Dave!

Love Linda ( LinMac in Dublin)

Jan Goldfield said...

Thank you, Dave, for your courage. Most of us could not be so brave.

leslie sobel said...

Well done - and an inspiration to not just stand by and be "polite" in the face of bigotry. I'm glad you were able to move on and not just stew on her ugly attitude for the rest of the event.

And William Peace that is awesome - you clearly raised your son right!

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

Beautifully written, Dave. Bravo for your truths, spoken plainly to a bigot and for your final, powerful line. Lovely.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I am stunned that this attitude exists in this day and age - but not surprised. Thank you for refusing to remain silent. You are so right about bullies poisoning all of us not just their target. I hope it gave this woman pause for thought.

Have you heard/seen The Piano Guys playing O Come O Come Emmanuel?

Colleen

Shan said...

So right about "bullying all of us." It's like they are the only ones not afraid so say what they think, and the only ones who SHOULD be.

Just Heidi said...

Silence is indeed acceptance. Thank you Dave for speaking up and out against such bigotry and bullying. All too often, we are silenced into saying nothing to society's bullies for fear of causing a scene, or appearing over sensitive, or God forbid- embarrassing the offenders. However, I wonder what goes through their minds before making such comments. Do they think that those sharing their environment share the same thoughts/attitudes?

I am an avid Facebooker and more often than not I see the 'R' word being dropped on a daily basis. On one occassion in particular, a mutual friend of a friend shared a post about leaving pets in a hot car in the summer with the following comment "These r******, should be shot". It ended up on my FB feed as my friend had commented on it and then sharfed it to his FB wall, where I could then comment on it. In his comment he agreed that something horrible should happen to those who lock their pets in hot cars- he made no reference to the 'r' word she used... but he shared it along with her post. I made reference to it, sharing a quote from end the 'r' campaign...

The “r” Word

Some people have mental retardation (intellectual disabilities). While mental retardation is not a bad word, when used to describe someone or something you think is bad or stupid it becomes another thoughtless hurtful word. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not bad. Their condition is not bad. The prejudice and discrimination to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is BAD…and WRONG! Please stop using the word ‘retard’. It hurts individuals and families of those with disabilities.

I was then bombarded with comments stating that I should get a life- that said 'FB Poster' was the nicest person I would ever want to meet. The individual who made the comment responded stattng that they had 2 family members who were 'handicapped' and that wasn't what she had meant when she used the word... I then commented to her, that she shouldn't use words that she didn't know the meaning of,that being a family member of a person (s) affected by disability and using such language in an insulting way was letting society know that it is OKAY TO USE THE 'R' WORD- that it was OKAY to bully our loved ones. Find another word.

Thank you Dave, for being at the ready to defend our loved ones.

Merry Christmas to you and Joe and blessings for a bright and
healthy 2014 :)

Merry Christmas to all the folks who read Dave's Blog and make this world a better place for individuals affected by disability. Peace and Love to you all. :)

Glee said...

good for you Dave. There are no innocent bystanders.

Kris S. said...

Yes, Dave!

Kai Noi Kinnarath-brown said...

Good day;Dave, you always amaze me by sharing the most logical insight. Thank you for all your guidance. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and Joe.
Kai Noi

Anonymous said...

Thank you, for action and food for thought.

Louise said...

And the 'spirit of the event', of course, is the worship of one who was poor and outcast…..

Thank you for speaking out.

DandG said...

Thank you for standing up against bullying! Have you seen this video?
http://www.faithit.com/i-cant-believe-the-things-people-say-to-this-guy-with-down-syndrome-but-the-beautiful-people-who-take-a-stand-will-inspire-your-socks-off/

Liz said...

Thank you so much for calling her out for her bigotry and bullying.

Kristine said...

Well handled. Thank you for doing what you do.

I had a beautiful moment teaching my 6th grade ESL class last week. We were going to read a passage that wasn't about the Holocaust, but it made a reference to it. I knew most of my kids wouldn't get the reference, so I was giving them about two minutes worth of background info before reading. (Sidenote: trying to explain the Holocaust in two minutes feels like a ridiculous way to approach the topic. Other sidenote: my quick summary did address people with disabilities and others who were victimized, as well as Jewish families.)

Anyway, as I was wrapping up my very-mini-history lesson, a boy raised his hand, then invited himself up to the front of the room. Now, this is a kid who's known for mischief and disruption, and is very well-liked by his peers. (I like him too, but don't always trust him!) He proceeded to give this entire impromptu speech, leading with, "We can't JUST blame Hitler and the Nazis. What about everybody else who watched and let it happen? Why didn't they stop it earlier? There are more of us than the bad guys. We can stop these things!" He went on and drew some parallels to the political/criminal/corruption situations in Mexico, where his family's from. It was a very impressive little speech! The other kids were engaged, raising their hands, asking questions... and I just stepped back and let him teach. :) I did throw in my own parallels to bullying and situations they face themselves. The kids were a little less excited about that idea, a little too close-to-home, but I put it into their heads anyway, and we can refer back to that conversation as the year goes on. :)

wendy said...

I wish I could say I'm shocked by what the woman said but I'm not. Saddened and angered, certainly, but not surprised.
I am so glad you took her on. You are right. What we do not respond to we condone through our silence. The person speaking hate is left with the illusion that everyone agrees with their bigotry and it only emboldens them to continue.
So glad that your carol came along to help you find your center again.
Thank you for doing what you do.

Eileen said...

Thank you for your example to follow Dave. Xx

Donna Thomson said...

Here, here!!! Well said, on so many levels. Merry Christmas, Dave and Joe!

Anonymous said...

May your voice always end strong, Dave!

Sue

Deb said...

Dave, you are *magnificent*.

jayne Wales said...

What a miserable bigot. what the hell did she get out of saying and thinking that? It beggars belief. It just had to be said, I agree. There must be no joy in her heart. sad really so i hope this makes her think.

Hannah Jacobs said...

Beautiful post. We must never remain silent. Even if speaking out gives us a fever. Couldn't be more proud of you.

Susan said...

I am going commit this post to memory. At 61 (HOW did I get this old, anyway?) I might have trouble recalling every single word - but I should be able to remember enough of it to be well armed for the next bully I run across.

Thank you for this, Dave. This is such great example of modelling all that you teach and what you stand for... You are one great "roll" model. Thanks.