The first draft was fun. The topic of two women with Down Syndrome being used as human bombs spurs me to heights of rhetoric, self righteous pontificating, even, bless my soul, finger waving. But I have a wee small voice whose sole existance is to cause me the pain of self reflection. And as a result of that pitiless voice, I've written draft after draft of this post today. What did it say? It said simply ...
And I was angered. How could anything I have done or said compare to the travesty of what happened in Bagdad? Two innocent young women with Down Syndrome had bombs strapped to them and then were used as instruments of murder. Now I have been, on occasion, disrespectful to someone with a disability, brushed off someone who had a need to talk to me - the tiny sins of interaction. I've done those. It takes a different kind of person, a different kind of culture, to do that kind of violence towards people with disabilities.
Oh, I think, this isn't about my little sins as a person, it's about the larger sins of our culture. And I am a member of that culture. I get what the little voice is saying. You remember when there was horror at the discovery that people with disabilties were kept in crib/cages in some European country - I don't remember which. I was horrified ... but horrified by recognition. I saw those exact crib cages used here in Canada. That they are gone now doesn't erase the fact that they were used. That Canadians with disabilities experienced such extremes in care.
I have worked in systems, even wrote a programme for a woman with a disability to undergo behavioural shock therapy. I think it's called Faradic Stimulation. I was there when the shock stick struck her skin. You could smell the scent of burned flesh. I was there when she cried. I left when the behaviour was, not surprisingly, coming under control. This is a dark part of my past. This is a part of my past that does't make it into lectures. But it's part of my past I've ever lied about or denied. I know what I did. I know why I did it. As I get older I revisit the story to seek out new information with eyes that have learned new things.
I mourn for those two women who were used by others, exploited. But I stand in a country where women with disabilities are exploited daily. Where crimes against men and women with disabilities are committed daily. Only miles from where I live a man in Sarnia was attacked in a park by a group of youth, they sprayed lighter fluid on him and then lit him ablaze. Lots of eye witnesses, no charges. I'm sitting by a book I just bought, Danny: The Murder of a Man With Down Syndrome - documenting the 'justice' system as it responds to those with disabilities.
Brent Martin was beaten to death, a hideous victious attack. His death didn't make it to CNN, to the Globe and Mail in Toronto, didn't make it into public conciousness. Why? There was no perceived benefit to his death. These two women, exploited by terrorists, can now have their lives exploited by the press. The horror is doubled 'because look at what those terrorist meanies did to two women with Down Syndrome. What kind of barbarism is this?"
Women with Down Syndrome in every country in the western world have been subject to barbarism. We've perfomed surgery against their consent to stop them from being able to have children. We've stereotyped their abilitys such that they belong to the disabled classes ... highest poverty rate, highest unemployment rate, highest abuse rate, highest rate of bullying and teasing. Yes we have much to be proud of us WESTERNERS.
So I say this ... Shut Up Voice ...
End all violence against people with disabilities. In every country, under every governement, under every God. May we in the privileged countries begin by looking carefully at our own behaviour. See the violence that is under our perview and do something about it. Can we condemn these two deaths, mourn these two women with disabilities by working doubly hard here at home to ensure that while we may not have women used in place of suicide bombers we neither have women who wish for death to escape a life of daily social torment.
How do we know these 2 women were "exploited" (any more than any other suicide bomber is exploited by the power structures of their religion)?
How do we know they didn't choose to do what they did freely (as freely as anyone else does under the conditions of a war zone)?
It seems to me that by assuming they were "exploited" you are making the same assumption that people with mental impairments are incapable of making free, genuine choices that the purpose of so much of your work and writing is to fight against.
Living the life of a disabled person in this society, which sometimes implicitly and sometimes explicitly sends me the message that I am not worthy of life, I think I understand the mentality and motivation of a suicide bomber fairly well (certainly far better than I will ever understand the mentality of someone who volunteers to be a soldier in the army of a country like the UK or US). Hell, if i lived near somewhere like the JRC and had access to guns or explosives, i'd possibly actually have done it by now. As it is, i think that by writing, debating and campaigning I can contribute more to the cause of freedom and equality by my life than by my death - but sometimes, with the amount of discrimination, hate, socially programmed self-hate, etc, even in a relatively "safe" country like the UK (although of course it wasn't safe for Brent Martin, or any of the many others...) it's all too easy to see suicide as the most rational option. In somewhere like Iraq right now, it would be the most natural thing in the world, if you were already contemplating suicide, to try to take out some of the enemy forces while doing so.
There's a thread about this on the BBC Ouch! message board here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbouch/F2322273?thread=5055484
I sit in my livingroom with tears running down my face watching the joy with which my 16yr old son(who has Down Syndrome) enjoys life, I am sad for anyone who misses the gifts that all people bring to this world. It is not they who are "broken" but those who view anyone different no matter what the reason as someone needing to be fixed. The tragedy in Iraq is a symptom of a much, much larger mindset that must change.
Beautifully said, Dave. I, too, am sick of the violence as well as the everyday prejudices.
Maybe it would be better to say "lets stop all violence against people".
Thank you Dave, I think this sort of post is the reason I return to your blog again and again. Your right, last night I was shocked when I heard the story of those women who were used to be suicide bombers, shocked that I wasn't more angry.
We have no right to condemn the apparent abuse of women with disabilities by terrorists when in our society we torture in other ways. You have made me think again.
I will be interested to see what you think of the book about Danny. I do hope you will write about it here.
I am sickened...it reminds me of what happened in Viet Nam when children with bombs strapped to them ran out to greet the soldiers coming into their villages. There was no malice in the chilren who did these things. They knew that soldiers carried and shared chocolate. What a world we live in. It is so easy to get discouraged and depressed when reading of such things. The only thing worse is to not know the truth. As long as we know the truth we stand some chance of changing things.Having said all that...I am sickened.
What interested me in the report besides that it was incorrectly reported in MSN that it was the "first attack using women" but that to let the victim be known it said, the second woman was known locally as "the crazy lady."
That just kept going back and forth; here is a woman who people call so frequently, The Crazy Lady, that they know who you are talking about, that how she is seen and treated on a daily basis. So, no, not exactly the "poor victim" but rather the person who was rejected and mocked now held up as a) a threat (they are USING the disabled - odd phrasing, like USING women - that all will flows from men down, down the pyramid until a woman or a PWD picks up the thought as if it was thier own) and b) how LOW the enemy will go. Yet, has there not been decades of expose including recent years on how vets with disabilities are treated, how the care they recieve is inadequate, or dehumanizing.
It seems that the greatest outrage, is that NOW, the US forces must view people they considered completely harmless, useless and overlooked, people even thier own neighbors considered the same as potential threats. The reporting seemed to have this undertone not so much for these women blown up, or those at the market blown up (never revealed how many of those had disabilities or now HAVE disabilities) but that EVEN 'these people' now have to be 'watched'. Which leaves me mixed, as no, I don't neccessarily want to be viewed as a potential suicide bomber but why is it so unjust that now we (those with known or visable disabilities) have to be viewed equally....even as a threat?
I haven't spent much time reading about this story because it makes me uncomfortable. I don't want to have to deal with, not only the possiblity that the women were exploited, but also the possibility that they were not.
I'm glad that you are able to deal with it enough to speak out. I may not agree with all your points, but your conclusion is a very strong one. I add my voice to yours in asking for an end to violence against, and exploitation of, disabled people.
Just as bothersome to read are some of the comments of those of us who are somehow more "civilized" that have been posted to these news stories.
Perhaps you'll understand this, Dave, but what has bothered me the most about this story is that I don't even know their names...
They had names...they had stories...they mattered.
Well, I am surprised. Not that in Iraq, the terrorists used two women, one (at least) with Down syndrome, as bombs. I am not surprised at this. I am surprised that the world is surprised.
This is not the first time that they have used people with Down syndrome as bombs. But why should we be so surprised? Do we really think that people who do not care about their bomb victims would care about using to their advantage someone with developmental disability? If you think so, than you are underestimating the power of hate.
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