Friday, October 03, 2014

If Wishes Were Horses, the World Would Be Covered in Poo

It was slipped in, in casual conversation, it fit so well, I hardly noticed. We had been talking about my blog post of yesterday in the broader context of disability pride. Then I was asked, "Tell me honestly, just between you and me, don't you ever wish that you didn't have a disability? That maybe you didn't weigh so much?" It seemed, this question did, to fit into the conversation, so, I answered it. It was only later that I realized what was behind the question.

Firstly, I'd like to consider two things about the question.

1) The answer is 'yes'. But the answer is yes for every single person on earth. Every single person on earth occasionally wants to be different than who they are. Someone wants to be taller, someone wants to be shorter, someone wants brighter teeth, someone wants brighter eyes - it's a natural human thing to wish to be something different, to behave in different ways, to have skills that are out of reach. It just is. Saying 'yes' to that question means little to nothing.

2) I believe that when this question is by someone in the mainstream of society of someone who is marginalized, behind the question isn't conversational curiosity but rather a darker agenda. I believe they are looking for the 'yes' they most probably will get but they will make that 'yes' means something it doesn't mean. The 'yes' will mean that all people of difference wish to join the society of the same. That 'yes' means that we live with writhing self loathing and self hatred every day of our lives. That 'yes' means that we long, every excruciating moment to be, well, 'them'. And it doesn't mean any of those things. It just means that there are moments that I wish I could reach the top shelf, like I used to, and wish I could easily stand up and get it. It's momentary. It's in response to a particular situation. In fact it's almost always in response to a barrier or a bigot. So 'yes' I have in the past, but 'no' I don't want a miracle (except of a huge societal nature) I just want to go along like I go along.

It struck me also, that this question is one that is wondered of all minorities but only asked of a few. I can't imagine anyone white asking any person of colour if they wished to be white. They probably wonder, they probably have whole imagined conversations in their heads, but I don't believe they'd ask. I can't imagine a man asking a woman if she'd really rather be a man. I just can't. Maybe I'm way off on both of these things, but it seems some identities are solid and some are see as fluid.

I have personally asked if I ever wished I was straight. Yes, when I was younger, no, now not ever.

The same is true of my disability. As every year passes I think less about the life before and simply live the life now.

I'm not sure why it comforts the non-disabled to know, or to imagine, we all want to be just like them. I don't know why that idea gives warm fuzzies. I suppose the rich feast off the envy of the poor. But the rich may be mistaking 'anger' as 'envy' and that's a dangerous mistake to make. The some is true with me and with many of the people with disabilities that I know, we don't envy you but we don't understand your willing acceptance and perpetuation of a society that is built for you and those like you to the obvious exclusion of others.

Here's the question I wish I would be asked one day, "Do you ever wish typical people were different?"

"Yes," I'd say, "pretty much every time I run into an unnecessary barrier or an intolerant attitude, which would then be pretty much every day."


Anonymous said...

I answer this question about once a day. I would rather not be in pain, and I certainly would rather be walking better.

But then I ask if I would give up the book I'm writing and publishing every week on my blog, and the answer has to be "No!"

The book is fiction, but I probably could not write it the way I'm writing it if I didn't know what I'm talking about from personal experience.

If you'd asked me, when I was typical, whether I would like to be disabled for life so I could write the story, I would have told you to go away and not be ridiculous.

I looked at your picture yesterday, and thought, "How nice to have a new good picture of Dave." I also thought that you wouldn't have the words you have if you were not exactly as you are.


Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I like the questions you ask.

I think sometimes those questions that you mention that are asked by others might be unconsciously bound up in justifying privilege, perpetuating barriers and attitudes, and justifying terrible harm.


Anonymous said...

Wow fantastic, mind blowing post. Thank you Dave. (and btw, I have been asked, as a person of colour, if I wished I was white).

Maggie said...

I've been asked, more than once, if "really, you know, if you could just wave a magic wand, wouldn't you actually rather be a man?"

Used to happen in the context of my wanting to be an engineer, in a time and place where women were generally barred from engineering classes and often had trouble getting hired. (The head of the math department at a major university once threw me out of an advanced math class at the sophomore level - not even grad school! - on the grounds that women can't do math, so my being in the class must be a mistake).

More recently it happened when I wanted to buy a car and discussed its handling characteristics with the salesman - who had known me, by then, perhaps half an hour!

My answer continues to be honest: I love living in this female body with all the lovely things it can do. And I hate being a second class citizen in a so-called man's world whenever some man wants to tell me what I can or can't do.

Barriers and bigotry, just like what you're talking about in this post.

Can you tell it still annoys me?