just being me / 17 February 2014
Rolling slowly across the road, my powerchair's on the blink - again (I've had persistent recurring battery problems). I am in a lot of pain and cannot use my right arm, so when the bag and glove on my lap start sliding to the ground I am unable to take action.
A passing car stops behind me, an unseen voice asks if I need help and an approaching pedestrian comes close enough to retrieve my belongings; kneels and kindly enquires if I need any further assistance. I don't, I'm coping, even heartened by these offers of help; pain and the fragility of my emotions, threaten to overwhelm me.
I start up again just as a casual, passing couple admonish 'no speeding now' with cheerful indifference.
And suddenly I'm not coping.
My quiet : 'that is so not funny' is as dignified as it gets. But the couple are deeply offended and stalk off (faster than I can roll) condemning my rudeness. I have challenged their perception of 'my place' and consequently their own sense of superiority.
And I have no doubt just reinforced the negative image of disability promoted by this government and its media.
It's not much of a tale. And there are no great vilains, certainly no heroes, just me, two kindly strangers and one act of thoughtlessness. But it is the thoughtless people who stack up. Days, weeks, months and years of them, with not just no improvement, but actually with deterioration. The thoughtlessness degenerating into animosity more readily now than I can remember.
I wouldn't normally bother to repeat this trivial tale, but I've had enough. I am tired of the fight, exhausted by the daily battle for equalities. Tired of waking up each morning back at square one. Sick and tired of the presumptions people feel they have a right to - because I sit in a wheelchair. Sick and tired of a nation that stands and watches while the government and media crucify and crush the country's poorest, most disadvantaged people. Totally disillusioned with a nation walking by on the other side - tossing handfuls of throwaway ignorance that persistently force disabled people to confront the negative image of disability.
Even when we are not forced to face major threats to our existence, we are still not allowed to just be getting on with life.
It is still within living memory that a nation stood by whilst a handful of malignant bastards committed atrocities that required external interventions to bring to a halt. I'm thinking that the guys who put their lives on the line then would be ashamed of this nation now.
I've been utterly defeated, humiliated and emotionally destroyed by battles with DWP and NHS, I identify with people driven beyond reason. And my heart bleeds for those who cannot see a living way through the blackness of despair.
But here's the thing, in spite of experience, I think I believe in the living community. I really want to.
I want to believe in the power of existence as a force for growing humanity into the very best it can aspire to be. There are even one or two non-disabled people out there who give me reason for hope. And of course, the Purple Underground.
I would believe "we are indebted to one another and the debt is a kind of faith — a beautiful, difficult, strange faith. We believe each other into being." (Jennifer Hecht)
Olympians in the day to day where nothing is given,
there are those of us who glitter energy and ideas
for the fight. Giants in the rage for sober equality.
Participants on the world stage who individually
transcend the image of disability in the eye of
the beholder. And there are people like me, people whose hope
is to add to humanity's goodness by our presence, by
the richness of our being, drawing breath, believing ourselves
into our future. Not giving up until it really is
time. "They also fight who only breath and wait" Milton might have
said about this war, our war, the war that has become a
way of life where every breath, every inch of not giving in,
not giving up, is a weapon. One more brick in the wall
of solidarity that is our hope on the front line, voice
of silent protest. On days where breath is all I have, I draw
breath so you might and hoping you draw breath for all the people
being human invites you to cherish; now people, future
people, remembered people, the host of people your heart can
encompass. And if today you believe me into being,
I thank you.