I was reading an article on the stabbings of disabled people in Japan, an act of domestic terrorism, and a hate crime targeting those of us with disabilities. The article was written by a person with a disability, you could tell that simply because the terms ‘hate crime’ and ‘domestic terrorism’ were used. I still have not seen those terms used in mainstream media written by a non-disabled person. I DID see an article in the Japan times using the term ‘mercy killings.’ So there we have the great divide, those of us in the disability community and those who simply see us, to greater and lesser degrees, as burdens of one kind or another.
I read comments here on my blog and on my Facebook page with great interest and curiosity, I like seeing how this community of readers and those with whom we have agreed to call ourselves ‘friends’ on Facebook react. In both places, there are wonderful people who discuss, disagree and sometimes debate issues and topics that I raise. But, reading comments in other forums is a very different thing.
For example, I posted a video of one of the mother’s who’s son died in the Orlando massacre at the Pulse nightclub as she spoke at the Democratic National Convention. I went to the comments and was shocked at the hate and the vitriol aimed at her. People even claimed that the massacre never actually happened but was staged by the anti-gun people. Mostly the called her the ‘B’ word, mostly they accused her of simply being a bad actress paid for the performance. Mostly they assaulted her in any way, using any argument they could. I get very cold when I read these kinds of remarks.
The same was true when I read the remarks of a disabled writer writing about a disabled issue and bringing in a disability lens. I was shocked. The attack on the writer was astonishing. Oddly they’d attack him, verbally victimize him and then challenge him on playing the victim card. Wow. But one of the comments that struck me was the one I opened with.
“I’d curious, do you blame God, or genetics or your own poor health habits for your present situation?”
The reader simply didn’t get the situation. The situation, as in the case of the murders in Japan, which was the topic discussed, isn’t disability. The situation is the atmosphere of prejudice, ableism and disphobia in which people live. The situation is the lack of access not only to buildings, to justice and to simple respect, not the disability at all. The ‘situation’ that transgender people find themselves in, when confronted by a gang of bigots with weapons on a street, isn’t the fact that the person is transgendered, it’s the fact that there are people with weapons on the street.
The present situation is something that we as disabled people experience is something that I’d dearly like to discuss. But how can that conversation be had with people who think that we, ourselves, are the situation? How can we speak with people who filter our words through pity and hatred? How can we be heard above the white noise that our difference and our disability create in the minds of those who believe that the noise is cause by our discordant lives rather than their disgust at our bodies?
No, buddy, you … you are the situation.