Friday, December 11, 2009

Semi Precious

My name is Dave. I have a name. I wear my name. I would do it up in lights if I had a electric drill and the ability to do so. Dave. DAY-Vuh.

When I first went into a gay bar, men did not have names. Not full names. Often not real names. There was a fear of being known, being caught, being EXPOSED. I am a sissy. I don't like pain. I am a far from brave as grace is from greedy. Even so, this struck me as simply stupid. I never adopted a 'nick name,' I never introduced myself as anything but Dave Hingsburger. It's my name. MY NAME. Fuck the rest of the world, me, I am I. It's all I got, it's all I am, it's all that will be on the plaque that marks my remains.

My name is Dave Hingsburger. Write it in indelible marker. If you had a few too many beers you may be able to pee it into the snow. HINGSBURGER.

I remember being made to sign papers that disallowed me from saying people's names publicly. I remember standing in a graveyard where names were absent, disabled people were buried with their case number on the marker. God forbid someone walk through a graveyard and discover that a member of your family was buried there. God forbid that the shame might be attached to your name. Disabled people need freaking names.

My middle name is James. I was named after my Uncle Jim. I loved my Uncle Jim, he was a big hearty farming guy. Rough and tumble, hard as nails, he never got me but he never bothered me because of it. That is tolerance. Shrugging the shoulders and saying 'but he's Marg's boy' and accepting what came in the package with the name James.

We went to see the movie Precious today. It's about a teen mother and part of the story involves her first child who has Down Syndrome. She's called, Mong, and Mongo, and Mongol, throughout the film. She captures the camera with the sheer freaking, fracking, fucking reality of her presence. She dominates those scenes as, sometimes, the only humane being in sight. Yet she is never named. As the movie drew to a close I had a chanting in my head, 'name her, name her, name her,' But they didn't.

And it's fucking pissed me off.

They used that kid.

They used disability.

They dissed her ability.

But they never had the courage to name her.

Precious is a hard movie, because it didn't get it's own point.


ivanova said...

In the book, which is a mixed bag, the main character in fact names her first child "Baby Mongo." I hate even writing that. I don't remember this child being much of a character in the book. As I recall, this child is removed from their home within weeks.

Jen said...

They actually buried disabled people with their case numbers on their gravestones?

That's one of the worst things that I've ever heard.

Andrea S. said...

I don't know if you have used or seen closed captioned television enough to know, but sometimes captions indicate who is speaking. For example: "Dave: (line said by Dave)" (This is because of course deaf people cannot hear to recognize the voice of who is speaking and sometimes it's not immediately obvious from visual or other cues on the screen.)

Years ago in the 1980s, I watched a movie on television about a group of people with mobility disabilities living in an institution who were advocating for increased independence. (I forget if it was fiction or if it was based on real events.) In one of the scenes, the residents are complaining that they are referred to as "patients" -- they think it is dehumanizing. They want to be referred to as "clients." But in the captions, when it was indicating who was speaking, it said, "Patient: (line)" So whoever was doing the captioning for that movie clearly didn't get the point of it. It probably wasn't anyone involved with producing it -- I know these days some TV stations I think do it in house, but in those days (and I think still today) most TV stations sent their tapes to an outside company to do the captioning. But it still struck me to see that someone could watch this movie and then embed into the captions clear evidence that this person still hadn't absorbed its message enough to pause a little and consider whether they should maybe instead be typing "client: (line)" instead of "patient: (line)". Is the message of disability rights, including our right not to be dehumanized, really that hard to absorb?

Heather said...

I was hoping in the comments to read that the child was maybe called Precious.

Obv too much to hope for . . .

Unbelievable about the gravestones but sadly not surprised just disappointed yet again by the inhumanity of fellow humans.

Shan said...

Not naming a character is a time-honoured literary tradition of, oddly enough, making that person important. It's pretty rare (I actually can't think of any examples) that the unnamed person is a minor character.

I think it's a technique whereby we are expected to both realise the perceived unimportance of the person to the other characters (not to the reader), and realise their universality at the same time.

But I can see why you'd be annoyed, for sure.

I like the idea that her name is "Precious".

datri said...

In the book Precious actually NAMES the baby Mongo. That IS her name. Had a hard time getting over that.

ohiobrittany said...

In this day and age, you would think that television and movies would get it right. Who would want to be known by their disability or disease? Guess maybe the film and tv industry hasn't heard of People First.

Anonymous said...

As i remember form the original Book (actually called "Push") the Presious Character names the baby "Mongo" she felt that it was "exotic" and also shotrform for the old term mongoloid. Not excusing the usage of these terms nor the "dis" behind them.... the name comes from a mother who is horribly molested, abused and judged as "stupid" herself, she is a 13 year old mother of a child by her own father, she is illiterate and highly under educated at the time of naming her child..... but the baby is named (maybe poorly.... but named)

Pam said...

Hi there, I stumbled on this blog while reading another on stuttering.
I am a person who stutters,and have also worked int he disability field.
I can relate on a number of points to this post and several of the earlier ones that I read.
I am on the Board of Directors now for an agency that serves developmentally disabled adults. Too many times, I have seen people with different abilities ignored,dismissed, forgotten.
I always felt that way as a child and teen myself. When I opened my mouth and dared stutter publicly, people were so astounded they would look away, laugh, or walk away. Stuttering is certainly not the same as other disabilities, but the feelings of anger, shame and isolation sure are.
I too read the book "Push" and saw the movie "Precious". It was so starkly vivid, such a portrayal of a life so full of terror and fear and nothingness, but at the same time, hope.
Thank goodness for hope. We an always hope for a better tomorrow.