Friday, January 23, 2015

Today I Remember, Today I Pledge

Every now and then, in the moments just before sleep, I will remember standing in the centre of a graveyard for people with intellectual disabilities. I don't remember if I was there in winter or summer but it's always, in my mind, a cold day. One tree stood, in lonely vigil, near the centre of the land. There were no gravestones. No crosses. No markers. There was nothing there to indicate that was holy ground. Those who drove by would have seen what looked to a man standing in the middle of a small field.

The gravestones? They had been torn down and removed to be crushed and then put to industrial use. There was no one, they thought, that would want to grieve, that would want to remember. I could see evidence of this massive vandalization when searching the ground closely. Bits and pieces of gravestone could be found.

I left stunned and shattered.

First that these graves existed at all. That the institution, a huge one, which wrapped two arms around the graveyard, had been full and teeming with life. That people had been pulled from their families, pulled from their communities, and housed here. That people longed for freedom and instead ended up a few feet away, resting in a graveyard with neat graves in a row, like an eternal ward.

Then that someone, somewhere, sitting in an office writing a memo, after a meeting of other someones sitting in other offices, calling for the destruction of the markers, calling for the 'good sense' use of the material in other, more valued places.

It seemed that they counted on no want remembering, or, probably more accurately, no on wanting to remember.

Well I did.

Well I do.

Today is the International Day of Mourning and Memory.

Today I remember those who lived longing for freedom and getting, instead, captivity.

Today I remember those who while living in freedom were bullied to death.

Today I remember those who came to the community to find violence not welcome.

Today I remember those people who fought, and fought hard for the closure of buildings and and end to institutionalization.

Today I remember those people who fight against violence against people with disabilities.

Today I remember that there is work yet to be done.

Today I pledge to be part of the community of those who fight against violence and who resist the segregation and exclusion of people with disabilities.

I know today, that in that field, there is a memorial to those who were buried there. A memorial that was the result of others who came together to fight, and fight hard, for the right for people with disabilities to be remembered and to be mourned.


CapriUni said...

Thank you for this call to remember and to fight, Dave.

I was raised as a Quaker (Aka 'Friend"), and in that tradition, the verb "To Witness" means more than simply observe. It's considered a calling from God to take public action to educate, and to right the wrong that you've observed.

I thank you for witnessing to the humanity of all humans.

...A few years ago, I wrote this Satirical Protest song about the bigotry that drives some people to lock other people inside "Asylums" (which are anything but places of sanctuary), and the continuing struggle against it -- told through the voice of the bigots. A few weeks ago, a fellow YouTuber (Who used to work as a Special Education teacher) was gracious enough to make a polished arrangement for the song, and cover it. I'd like to offer this as my own act of Witness:

The very sad tale of Monsters in our Town

Princeton Posse said...

I too will remember my cousin Murray, who disappeared into an institute when I was a small child. No one really told us kids where he went but I never saw him again.

Just Heidi said...

I pledge to remember the valued-devalued individuals you speak of. I pledge to do what I can do to ensure the quality of life of the individuals I serve, is indeed Quality.

Anonymous said...

I remember my cousin Laurie who went into an institution when she was very young (I don't even know when) and when she was in her early 20's simply stopped eating. No one noticed until it was too late and she died of malnutrition.

Anonymous said...

This blog post made me cry. It was very touching to read. I am 19 years old, and being so young in this field, you get educated on what happened, but to actually have been a part of such a sad, unfair, gruesome past is hard to even imagine. You can empathize, but it will never be equivalent to being someone with a disability in that era, and being a support worker in that time, especially if you knew what was going on was wrong. I see the importance of sharing the history of this field because never should anyone have to go through that ever again. In addition, I look forward to January 23rd, 2016, so I can remember those who should never be forgotten, and honour them like they should be. I thank you for this post, because I did not know there was day dedicated to those who never got to know freedom and for that, they in no doubt in my mind, deserve a day. - Tiana S.