Tuesday, January 9, 2007

[Monograph for university course 2001] The Tragic Body

I am sick to death of my disability being thought of as a major tragedy in my life and the lives of those around me. The real tragedy is society’s reaction to disability. Because it not only has a lasting and damaging effect on people with disabilities, but because it also has a lasting and damaging effect on society itself.

People with disabilities are the only severely discriminated against and oppressed group that anyone in the world, no matter what their age, sex, race or income level, can be dropped into at any point and time without warning. So however the able-bodied community react to and treat us will inevitably rebound on them.

Living with a disability can be many things to those of us who are directly affected by it. It can be, and often is; painful, frustrating, annoying, exhausting, frightening, irritating, time consuming, costly, isolating, permanent and much more. But one thing we almost never find it to be is tragic.

Those of us with disabilities rarely refer to our disability or ourselves as tragic. Tragedy is a label foisted upon us by people who have no idea of what our lives are really like, and who don’t particularly want to know. They think our lives are so dreadful and we must all wish ourselves dead, because they do not want to deal with our reality and existence, and wish us dead to save themselves the trouble. And we cannot defend ourselves or explain ourselves because tragedies aren’t supposed to make any noise or argue; they must be silent, blank, still and ideally, dead.

I believe that the real tragedy for people with disabilities is society’s inability to cope with them. It is the neglect and abuse of us. It is the systematic denial of our needs, wants and desires. The denial of the fact that we are not solely and totally our disabilities, that we might have souls and spirits and hearts and dreams, and passions and loves and hates, also. The denial of what we can give to others – both because of and regardless of our disabilities. Their denial of our capacity for love and support, our ability to help and care for those around us in as many different ways as are open to able-bodied people.

Ultimately, society tries to, and tragically often succeeds in denying our humanity, our right to live full lives, our very existence.

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