Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Growing up in an increasingly politically correct country we are taught not to judge. Do not assume you know all there is to know about a person, or group, based on one fact; white, black, male, female, blonde, redhead...the list goes on. We all know that our hair colour or skin colour is only one factor in our make-up, that a narrow focus on one feature of a persons physical being will not tell us how kind they are, how smart or funny, the capacity for goodness or greatness within their soul. 

Unless, it seems, that person is disabled.

These days if you have a disability you become public property. Everybody is allowed to have an opinion on you, on every aspect of your life whether it is related to your condition or not. Everybody is allowed to judge you, and the jury are already back, the decision has been made, you are wrong. You are unfit for purpose. Fuelled by the bile-soaked ignorance headlining papers like the Sun* and the Daily Mail, we are learning that regardless of any other thing about us, we are condemned.

Disabled? You must be faking, or in some way deserving of your condition. Judgement; Scrounger.

Disabled? You must not have fun or in any way seek to improve your life. Judgement; Faker.
Disabled? You must tolerate hate language and abuse because, although we won't really come out and say it, you must in some way deserve your pain, your difference. Judgement; You are the problem.

 We don't want to believe it could be us in that situation and so we must distance ourselves from it by any means possible. We are the strong, the Normals, and so we mock you and your perceived weakness. We do nothing to disabuse ourselves of our ignorance, to see you as a person, because that would be like accepting our own fragility, the possibility that one day it might be us, or our loved ones. 
 Who would want to accept that we are, after all, only human? 

All of us, ALL of us, regardless of class, colour, religion or income, intelligence or humanity, can become disabled. It really could be you.
 So how would you feel if your life was pain**. Always pain. And you had the choice to waste away in bed forever, never seeing anybody or playing with your children, or fight it. Even if the fight cost you your strength, your sanity some days. So you fight. And, oh god it hurts, but you do it. You somehow force yourself to become stronger, a little at a time. You hide away on the worst days, the days where you pay for your efforts at normalcy with pain so deep and consuming it becomes a scream inside your body.
 You do all of this, you do your constant best, and you brave the outside world. 

And what do you get for it?

You get tabloids telling you and all the world around you that you are Not Allowed. If you are disabled, they say, you must not have fun. You must not have a family, or even leave the house. You may not try to improve your situation or feel joy or pleasure. If you do, then we have decided that this gives us the right to comment, to judge. We are allowed to call you a scrounger, to decide you are faking it, to challenge you. We can sneer, we can cross the road to avoid you, we can shout and mock and hurt you. We can attack, and we will not be challenged. We will not feel the weight of the law because you are not protected. You are not worthy of any attempt at an existence outside of the prison built for you, you must accept this as just another indignity, another part of your life.

And so think for a moment, how YOU might feel on the receiving end of that abuse. Imagine, just for a moment, that you are in the vulnerable position. Or maybe it isn't you, maybe it is your son or daughter, your brother or sister. Would you then believe they were in some way deserving of this treatment? 

All it would take is a fall. A blood clot. A wonky chromosome. The smallest of things can make the biggest of differences. How do you know that tomorrow it won't be you? And if it was, would you then be proud of yourself for targeting, for bullying, for helping to perpetuate the hate? 

Or would you be locked inside your house, lonely and afraid after being told you have become that which you hated most; disabled. Condemned.


*This morning the Sun has a front page dedicated to destroying the life of a disabled woman who dared have fun by going to a fair.
** I have chosen here to focus on my particular situation and what i have experienced. This is written from my perspective and is on no way a judgement on how other people experience and cope with their own disabilities. Every one is different and how much you fight can have nothing to do with it.

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