A fellow comes in, like me a wheelchair user. He has no difficulty in sticking out and just backs up against an existing chair. He is a talker and he starts to chat with Joe who is sitting right beside me. I make a few attempts to join into a conversation that I found interesting and was firmly rebuffed. Nothing was said but it was as if I was nothing and nowhere and he wouldn’t even look at me. Not a glance.
He talks about his wife and then describes the accident which led to him becoming a wheelchair user and they talk. I give up, pull out my phone, and start to play the game I’ve just downloaded and am fascinated with. I get it. I’m not wanted in the conversation.
And I wonder.
Why do we do that? Why do we do to each other what other people do to us? Why do we take the worst of how we are treated and instead of rejecting it instead of fighting against it, why do we do that to each other?
I am on line. A woman with a disability has just written a post about something related to her disability and her experience. She never claimed that what she was saying applied to anyone but herself. Her post described her lived experience and then outlined what she took from that experience. It was a good post.
But then, in the comments, oh my. People were out for blood. They attacked her. They accused her of her experience not being real. They accused her of taking the wrong things from her own story. They said that her reality wasn’t their reality. They accused her of trying to speak for others. It was cruel. There was a level of meanness as people jockeyed for top spot on the heap. What’s up? This is us!
The next day she had deleted her post.
She had been silenced.
The people commenting were also, primarily, women with disabilities. A few men thrown in there as well, and while some thanked her for her honesty and insight. The attackers outnumbered them at least 4 ro 1.
And I wonder.
Why do we do that? Why do we, who have been silenced, we whose voices have often not been heard, strike down one of our own and disallow her from speaking her own truth, her own reality and call into question her own ability to learn from her life. This is us!
A boy with an intellectual and physical disability sits listless in his chair. It’s a bright green chair and he’s wearing a striped tee shirt of a matching colour. He is maybe 6. He looks bored. He looks lost. He looks alone. He sees me rolling towards him and his had lifts and waves, there is a brief smile. I wave back. He is with his parents. His mother and father are behind him. They have stopped to talk with another couple. Their conversation swirls over his head and to the back of him. Even if he twisted he would not have been able to see what was going on.
I push by. They are talking about inclusion! They are talking about how the school board does a terrible job with inclusion. They talk about how their son is rarely really included. They do this behind his wheelchair, out of his sight, they leave him alone and lonely on the edge of the group, looking out.
And I wonder.
Why do we do that? Why do we fight for an inclusion that we don’t practice ourselves? Why do we developing ideas and ideologies about disability and see them as things that others should do? Why do we so easily leave out those who we love the most? Come on. This is us!
This is us.
THIS IS US!
and we know better