Monday, January 15, 2018

Demonstrate Deserving

When I first saw it I felt a twinge on sadness approaching despair. It is impossible as a Canadian not to be overwhelmed by the news flowing north of the border, it is impossible not to be shaken by what we hear and see. The most recent comments by the President of the United States of America regarding 'shithole' countries was more than appalling, it was disturbing. It also resulted in a wave of responses from those who, and it shocks me that it's not all of us, that kind of racism expressed by someone in high office, though not, as many Americans think, the leader of the free world.

One of those responses was a video wherein people from those 'shithole' countries talk about them and their accomplishments and their and their families contribution to American society. They speak with passion and with pride and with a clear message of 'we belong.' They list the successes they've had, the contributions they made and it's, in its way, moving.

But as a gay, disabled, person I worried about the message behind the message, "We're good ones!" I found that myself first as a gay man, when I would list the accomplishments of the LGBT communities and would freely list people like James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, Oscar Wilde, Christine Jorgenson and Sally Ride. There are many many more. My message, "See these famous LGBT people? See the contributions?" Then I'd list some of my own contributions." It never worked, all I was doing was saying that we LGBT people don't naturally belong we have to demonstrate deserving to belong. We aren't just Canadians, we are people who need to prove worth.

Of course, the lesson didn't stick, when I became disabled, I began, very quickly to do the same thing. I could list all sorts of famous people with disabilities. I researched to find them and would use them in arguments with people whose 'death before disability' ideas frightened me. To that, I began to list my achievements after disability. See, I still contribute, see, I still earn a living, see, I'm still worthy.

Again I was struggling to demonstrate deserving.

Again I felt that my citizenship wasn't a given.

Again I built a ramp so I could push myself up to equality.

But I am Canadian.

Recent immigrants to Canada are Canadians, they don't need to go on television and prove themselves worthy of their citizenship.

American immigrants don't need to display accomplishments before a leader who will never see them as mattering.

What matters is that you are American.

What matters is that you are Canadian.

What matters is that bigotry is always a wrong.

And that your existence is always a right.

I am who I am and I am fully and proudly different. Bigots may lash out. The prejudiced may get in my way. But I am, with all of my difference, defiantly flying the flag of my citizenship.

I belong.

And I don't need to prove to anyone why that's true.


clairesmum said...

Your writing makes a space in my awareness and invites me to find my own voice.

I am a person. I am valuable and capable.
Each of us is valuable in some way - and is capable of some purpose or meaning or influence on the world - even if these elements are not clear to ourselves or others.
Whatever I can do in this day, will be enough.
Tomorrow will be another day.

Thanks for helping me find my words, and my way through the day ahead.

ABEhrhardt said...

Not feeling they are enough leads some to strive for more - and others to despair.

It is a conundrum to encourage children, and then adults, to find the right balance.

For those who have not been treated well by the world, the reactions are still the same: work harder or smarter or just longer at what you can do, or give up.

We need to get out of the way of those who can manage, and enable those who are having a tough time - each one of us is unique and has much to contribute to and take back from the rest. Unfortunately, governments don't seem to be much good at these two options, and want everyone treated the same.

Rachel said...

I think some of this might be a peculiarly American thing - the whole "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" ideology, leading to the, "I got mine, screw you," in some cases. Some people need to be reminded that people working their way up in society (which is becoming increasingly difficult in this country) isn't something unique to white able-bodied Americans, especially men.

So I can see shoving one's successes in the faces of those who don't want to believe it's possible for them. This applies to disability as much as race as far as I can see.

Rachel said...

Oops, hit send too soon. Adding - not "working one's way up" means nothing about the worthiness of said person, regardless of what some people think.