Yesterday, on coming home after a really nice day, I spotted a man filming me on his camera phone. I was coming up a curb off a busy intersection. There were a lot of people at the curb so I couldn't make and immediate right and get out of the line of sight of his phone. So I had to simply come forward. He filmed me for a few more minutes, then moved away to where I could see him playing back the film, showing a friend who looked really uncomfortable, and laughing. I imagine that, right now, he's adding music or editing it to hit YouTube or some other social networking site.
For the past year or so I've done an image search for 'fat man in wheelchair' on Google and looked at YouTube videos to see if my image is in any of those places. I've been photo attacked before - I manage to frustrate the photographer probably 90 percent of the time because I've come to see them as just another hazard on the road that I have to watch for when I'm out in my wheelchair.
For a few seconds the existence of that man and that video ate at me, caused my stomach to churn and gave me the exact same back sweats that I used to get going down the high school hallway - anticipated bullying may be just as bad as the event itself. Then, I decided that I would think about this on the rest of the way home and that by the time I was home I would be done with it. I was not going to carry it around with me through the evening and into the days and weeks afterwards.
I thought about this two ways. First, the motivation that this man had to film me, to show that film to his friend, to laugh at what he saw, tells me all I need to know of him. This is a man who would rather spend time doing something cruel than something constructive. This is a man who thinks that pubic humiliation of another person - he knew I saw him doing it, he knew I knew he was laughing at me - was entertaining. This is a man who exists in a mind frame that I cannot understand, that I could not live in, that I have trouble even conceiving. He does not honour my personhood, I do not honour his - that at least is reciprocal. I don't need, or even want, his approval. The people who watch and laugh at this should it ever make YouTube, I need nor want little from them as well. they simply add up to the mass of human beings that willingly partake in cowardly anonymous abuse of others. I fear them, and the power they have to tyrannise, but I wouldn't want their approval had they had any to offer.
Second, I will not be terrorised out of living my life in the community. Joe and I had had a nice day, we were going to continue to have a nice day. I owe it to Joe, but mostly I owe it to myself to shrug off the experience - people can be cruel, I get it, I've learned that, I'm not surprised by that - and move on. I understand political terrorism. I have come to understand social terrorism. Both kill. One in spectacular numbers all at once. The other in spectacular numbers, one at a time. I will not be their victim because they have nothing I need or want, they can heap shame on me, they can call me names, they can equate my weight with my disability with my worth, I don't care. They can't hurt me.
I am loved.
I have been claimed.
I have purpose.
I live the best life I can, I do the best that I can, I want the best for others.
None of these things can be seen in a picture. None of these things can be seen on YouTube or Facebook or where ever else people post pictures. Those who see me without seeing me will be commenting on someone other than me. They will be commenting on the 'fictional me' that they create in their minds, they will write stories and biographies dipping their pen into the inkpots of stereotype and bigotry. They will hate the man who they think they know just from seeing a picture. I am not that man.
I am fat.
They think that they know what that means.
That's why I win.