Never before have I desperately wanted to do a radio or television interview so badly. Never. We drove away from doing a session on bullying and teasing with individuals who have an intellectual disability. They were a terrific bunch, full of fun and humour and absolutely eager to learn. They knew exactly when to laugh and exactly when to participate seriously. Sometimes I'm shocked that these who learn differently are considered those who learn slowly.
The workshop always starts out loud and fun, lots of humour, lots of time to participate. Slowly, as trust is gained, as a sense that we are all in a safe place together, we move to the more serious issues around social violence. They've all experienced it. They all bear witness to life as someone different. Each has a story to tell. Many choose to stay silent, as if putting into words the hurt will make it even more real. They listen with attention. At one point I am overwhelmed. I can't identify the emotion. I am angry, I am griefstruck, I am outraged, I am mournful, I am defeated, I am completely saddened. I do not understand. I know it happens. I've experienced it for a lifetime. In an odd kind of juxtaposition I have always understood why I was teased - what else should I expect, fat, ugly, gay, disabled. But I have never understood why others are teased. I can see their difference but I do not experience it the way they do. I see it as a positive addition to the world. They, oddly, can't understand why I'd be teased, but fully accept their own. I guess we all come to believe in our worthlessness even as we assert the worth of others.
I asked, pausing carefully considering the possible consequences of the answer, 'Is there anywhere you go that you are safe? Completely and utterly safe." They too, paused considering the cost of truth, 'Nowhere.'
These kids live in small communities. You know the vaunted 'small towns with big hearts' communities. You know the 'Every one's a neighbour, every one's a friend' village. They don't feel safe. Only in their homes. And there, only when alone.
Brutalization of people with disabilities is so commonplace that it passes unnoticed. In spring flowers bloom, in fall leaves are shed from trees but people with disabilities are a victim in all seasons.
When it was over they all, or almost all, stopped to shake my hand and thank me. Partly for what they learned. Partly for the fun they'd had. But also partly for the opportunity to tell the truth.
And it's a big truth.
One that must be told, because it's a truth that will change - if not the world, at least how those in the world see themselves.
I wanted to tell the world. This is the only way that I can. Now it's up to you.
I think you gave them a moment of safety and a possibility they could have more.
The wheeliecrone says -
I am an advocate for people with disabilities. Every morning, I wake up and grab my teaspoon and go out and shovel away at the mountain of fear and ignorance that surrounds disability in all of its forms. I wish that I had something bigger than a teaspoon. I wish that I had a - what is it called? A JCB. But what I have is a teaspoon, so that's what I use.
Dave, I think perhaps your blog is a JCB, pushing big lumps of the mountain away. Please keep on pushing those lumps of fear and ignorance away, Dave. Thank you.
I agree with Wheeliecronie. Your platform is growing and you ARE making differences for people who need the advocacy the most.
I first learned about you from my friend Shirley. She sent me the link to your blog (I think this was back in 2007) when her son was enrolled in a school which was not a good place for him. The was the post she referred to: http://davehingsburger.blogspot.com/2007/09/unbowed.html
I actually emailed you last year for a copy of it and permission to print it to share with my son's "team" (I always laugh at this term...).
Anyway, here he was in Junior Kindergarten, and already we were having "problems". In a two and half hour period, he was in time out three times on some days.
Because of your article, Terry and I were able to speak forthright and nip that attitude right in the bud.
Our son wasn't the problem -- it was the attitude of his EA and the teacher -- and we told them as much.
This year, with a different EA and teacher although at the same school, things are much better. Not perfect, but we're always striving for better and BECAUSE of advocates, like YOU, we know we have a RIGHT to expect for better.
Someone out there has to be the connection about what we read in the newspapers or hear on the news about abuse and bullying of people with different abilities and REAL LIFE.
One of the most memorable moments for me at your workshop in Ottawa was when you said that we don't need education any longer. We shouldn't have to educate anyone to be a decent human being to another human being. We need to shout out that this behavior is NOT alright and we're not going to take it anymore.
I think a lot about how difficult it was for some of the role players to stand up for themselves, too. And I remember those expressions of triumph when they did!
So, if you want to talk to the masses by media -- JUST DO IT! You gotta a whole lot of people on your team! :)
I live in a small community too. One of those places where you go to school with the same kids from K-12. On one hand I hope it brings acceptance because kids will get to know my daughter before they know that she is different.
On the other hand, where we live difference stands out. There are very few people in our community with physical or intellictual disabilites. There are very few people who look different and my daughter will stand out, and that will get her extra attention. I know that the attention won't always be positive, but I will work hard so that she can say she does have a safe place.
wheeliecrone, what on earth is a JCB?? I have to know.
A JCB is a kind of digger we have here in Britain.According to Wikipedia other people call them 'Backhoe' diggers but we call them JCB's after the guy who invented it.
"The wheeliecrone" said it all and said it very well!
We just can't stop. We must forever be allies and advocates. Because, it's the right thing to do.
Thanks for all you do, Dave! And, thank you too, wheeliecrone!
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