Sunday, December 20, 2015

An Entirely Decent Man

Photo Description: Two pictures of Chris Herbert, one on him on the floor wearing a pink tutu and white shorts with a plastic shark set to look like it bit off his leg, one with him standing with his dog.
Chris Herbert is an entirely decent man. You may not recognize his name right off, but you have probably heard his story or read his post which has gone viral. You may have seen the hysterical picture of the plastic shark 'attacking' and 'eating' his missing leg. He's a dude with a sense of humour and at peace enough with his disability to make fun of it is an overt and public way. He looks to be the kind of cool guy that it would be great to have a pint with. Now, let's get to the decent part. He wrote a post on his Facebook page which has been widely shared. I am sharing the post here, for you, which hopefully he won't mind, because I'd like to look at what he said from a slightly different perspective.

Chris Herbert, Facebook post, Dec. 8, 2015:

Getting frustrated by some people expecting racism from me, because I got blown up. 

Here it is:

Yes. A Muslim man blew me up, and I lost my leg.

A Muslim man also lost his arm that day wearing a British Uniform.

A Muslim medic was in the helicopter that took me from the field

A Muslim surgeon performed the surgery that saved my life

A Muslim Nurse was part of the team that helped me when I returned to the UK

A Muslim Healthcare Assistant was part of the team that sorted out my day to day needs in rehabilitation when I was learning to walk

A Muslim taxi driver gave me a free ride the first time I went for a beer with my Dad after I came home.

A Muslim doctor offered my Dad comfort and advice in a pub, when he didnt know how to deal with my medicines and side effects.

Contrary to that,

A white brit spat in my girlfriends face for 'fucking a cripple when you could have me [him]'

A White brit pushed my wheelchair away from a lift so he could use it first.

A White brit screamed at my Dad for parking in a disabled bay when I was in the services coming home

(Although, alot of people helped in my recovery! I dont hate white brits either! hahaha)

Point is, fuck off. I know who I dislike, and I know who I dont. I know who I appreciate, and I know who I dont. If you want to hate an entire race of men and women for the actions of a few dickheads feel free, but don't push your views on me, thinking I am an easy target because one douchebag decided it was my day to die.

Blaming all Muslims for the actions of groups like Daeshe and the Taliban, is like blaming all Christians for the actions of the KKK or Westboro Baptist Church.

Get a grip of your lives, hug your family and get back to work.

See, I told you, thoroughly cool and decent guy. The reaction to this post, that I have seen is, rightfully, universally positive. He makes a great case, maybe the best I've read, for seeing people as people and for not succumbing to stereotypes.

But I'd like to focus on the second part of his post, where he describes how some people have responded to his disability. Even the violence of the reaction of the man who spat at his girlfriend and swore at him. To those of us in the disability community, none of that is a surprise. We all have stories about how the non-disabled have reacted to who we are, what we have, and the lives we live.

There is something distressing about how this post is being read. I have looked through a number of articles about this post and while some acknowledge the disability aspect of what he wrote, the do it in a way that makes it inconsequential, as if it's an interesting side note. I've not seen anyone who has stated clearly, that what happened to him as a disabled man is not OK. That people have no right to treat him in that manner.

Let's realize that this guy is a war hero. He went over in the defence of his country to fight for our freedoms and our rights. He comes home wounded from that experience and steps into a new life as someone with a disability and is greeted by violence and aggression and prejudice. This is NOT OK.

For those of us in the disability community who became disabled, rather than being born so, we all know the shock of the sudden change in status. The disability, well, we have to learn to live with that, develop strategies and new ways of doing old things. That's relatively easily sorted in comparison to the social and political aspects of having a disability. No one told me that I would face prejudice like I couldn't imagine.

This post represented a perfect time to get both messages that are contained within. First, what's with the rampant prejudice against people you don't know. Second, what's with the rampant prejudice against people with disabilities.

I would love it if someone simply acknowledged that there IS rampant prejudice. But people don't want to see it ... so they don't.

I think Chris Herbert is a brave man for writing what he wrote. He attempted, as a soldier would, to fight against the rising tide of prejudice against our neighbours, our doctors, our shopkeepers, our accountants who are Muslim. He attempted as well to bring into the discussion how people react to him, now, as 'other'. That he is experiencing the prejudice that he is fighting against - that which is born of ignorance and of hate.

To Chris: I don't know if you will ever read this, but if you do, know that a fat, old dude in a wheelchair in Canada, admires you. I admire your capacity to eschew hatred when it is thrust at you by those who would use you. I admire more how you chose to use your voice as a weapon against intolerance. And I thank you, as a disabled man, for bringing into sharp focus the kinds of prejudice that our community faces.


Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

It's not okay - regardless of whether people can see his disability or not.

He could have come back with a crippling case of PTSD - and he would have been treated as 'normal,' not 'other,' as long as he wasn't observed acting out due to the PTSD.

We need to cut each other some slack. A LOT of slack. Assumptions and expectations - you have Down Syndrome means you can't do X - that's what's wrong.

If you're fat, you're less worthy of medical care - never mind that the medical profession has been utterly useless in helping people achieve lasting weight loss.

If you're depressed...

The list is long. It is absolutely NOT okay to mistreat ANYONE for any 'reason.'

Keep speaking up, Dave - and best of holidays to you and Joe, family and friends.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what kind of treatment and "respect" he would have gotten dealing with Muslims if he was a woman in the same situation.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm... I don't know about that, but I'm female, disabled and have complex needs when it comes to particular medical procedures chiefly being treated with respect and compassion when going through my stuff. I also have a very direct and no nonsense personality. Many in the medical field take it as, "to strong and direct". That said, some of the most competent, caring and compassionate care I've received during a difficult time recently came from a young Muslim male doctor.
Many of us who follow the blog identify as being treated as other or as part of an oppressed minority.
The Muslim religion at it's core is a positive faith closely aliened in history with two other major religions that do not always have clean hands in the course of history or currently. The majority should not be judged on the basis of the atrocity of the minority.
Please during this time of faith, family and giving to our fellow humans, can we please give up the hate speech and bigotry and instead give insight into being mindful to not duplicate the behaviors that harm our community?

clairesmum said...

Ah...never "assume" - for if you do, you end up making an "ass" of both "u" and "me"! How easily we all forget this, in our urge to deny the realities of random chance and accidents of birth that shape our lives in ways that we never consider.
The more voices spreading the word, the better!