Saturday, August 09, 2014

Prejudice Challenged by Joy

Yesterday I was at an event. People with a vast array of disabilities, people without disabilities brought along their vast array of differences too. There was one, singular goal. To have a fun day. That lead to dancing, and talking, and laughing, and eating, and singing. There was a buzz of activity everywhere you looked.

Somewhere in there I had an odd wish. I wished for just a second that all those who set editorial policy for the language used to present disability in the media were there. I wished that they'd take off the blinkers of prejudice and actually see what was in front of them.

Like the guy with Down Syndrome who could compete in any dancing contest any where in the world. He lights up the dance floor, his natural grace and his natural sense of rhythm makes it impossible to watch any but him. It would be hard pressed to see him, meet him and then write about people who 'suffer from Down Syndrome.'

Like the woman with Williams Syndrome who got up and sung an stunning version of the 'Our Father' acapella from the stage. She walked aways to cheers - not to a commentary on the tragedy of her existence as a person with an intellectual disability.

Like the guy, who taught me a lesson, which is a nice way of saying 'kicked my ass', who got up to do a line dance in his power wheelchair. I couldn't ever imagine doing that because I thought that it was impossible to do. So I watched how he translated the movements of the dancers feet to the tires of his wheelchair. He was astonishingly good and showed me that the reason I didn't do it was not because I couldn't but because I didn't know how. I slide to easily into 'can't do' some times. I dare anyone, just anyone to say that he is 'confined to a wheelchair.'

Throughout the day I saw people helping people, not just those without helping those with ... but people helping people. I dare anyone to suggest that people with disabilities are simply takers never givers, simply recipients and never reciprocal.

I dare.

The language of suffering and of tragedy and of people bound in chairs had no place in the celebration yesterday. No place at all.

And it sure as hell doesn't have a place in the descriptions of our lives and our experiences. But then those that make those decisions weren't there, aren't interested in being there, because they already know. They suffer from being prejudice bound - such a tragedy.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dave!
Great post.

Robin said...

There really aren't words for how much I love this. Common ideas about who is worthwhile, what suffering actually is, etc., are so muddled up. Thank you for sharing what sounds like a delightful day.

I've read your blog before, but not for a while. What a perfect, smile-worthy post to come back to!

Kristine said...

What makes me sad is that if the journalists, media, whoever, had been there, I don't trust that they would have seen what you saw. I would fully expect them to use all the negative language you just "dared" them to use. They would have noted every incident of the able-bodied selflessly helping the disabled, and completely missed any example of the reverse. The article would have discussed the joy of the day, despite disability, despite suffering, despite confinement, despite limitations. The usual language would still be there. I don't mean to be so pessimistic. Every now and then the media covers disability with respect and dignity, but it's so rare. I just don't trust them to see what's right in front of their faces...

Sounds like a great day though. :)

Glee said...

Yes Kristine. They actually like to pityfy and demonise us cos it sells more media. Because the public actually like stories of pity or horror cos it makes them feel lucky. Pfft.

Great blogpost Dave.

Anonymous said...

Look at Dergin Tokmak or Stiks. He is a remarkable dancer not (just) a Polio victim "confined" to crutches and wheelchair.

Rickismom said...

This is a very nice post