Counterpunch: You belittle us, and mock our pride
And now, here’s this week’s second anonymous Angry Cripple, who as you’ll see, is none too impressed with the first one
I am an angry cripple. A real one. Not someone who claims they are “crippled by the system” or gets all euphemistic about it.
I’m an actual cripple. I use a wheelchair for 98 per cent of my waking life. I have physical ‘deformities’, or so the medical profession has told me since I was old enough to understand. I’m one of those people you see on the street that makes you shift uncomfortably in your coat. I’m stared at, I’m patronised, I’m told I don’t belong among you normal people.
But none of these things are the reason that I’m angry. I’m an Angry Cripple today because, usually, I’m a Proud Cripple. I’m well practiced at ignoring the stares, at challenging the patronising tone, at standing my ground in a world that doesn’t welcome me. I’m not alone. We’re a pretty common breed us Proud Cripples. Sometimes people like to call us activists.
We speak openly about our shared experiences. We exchange stories about the discrimination we face, we laugh about the stupid things people say to us in job interviews or in the supermarket, we share the great moments in our lives when we manage to push down a barrier that’s been blocking us from achieving equality.
We claim the language we use. People with disabilities. Disabled people. Cripples. Freaks. Mutants. We use whatever makes us feel powerful.
We’re Proud Cripples because we fight. We continue the fight of the Proud Cripples who’ve come before us. The fight of Ed Roberts, of Anne MacDonald, and Tilly Aston before them. We learn about, and from, our history and people.
And occasionally I’m an angry cripple because a lot of the time, I cannot access the supports I need. I cannot buy the new wheelchair I need in order to keep my job, and I do not live in a country that funds them. I cannot choose who provides my personal care and when they provide it. I live in a country that tells me I am not as important as all the non-disabled citizens, and that makes me angry.
It is for those reasons that I’m a strong and vocal advocate for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is also for those reasons that I was thrilled to the back teeth to see the Angry Cripple column appear on The Punch.
I was hopeful that this would be a space where we could challenge the injustice and the discriminatory attitudes that follow us around every day. That everyday readers of The Punch would start to see that people with disabilities deserve and demand respect, and that you’d join us in supporting a better, fairer system for my people, because our current situation is not sustainable.
Today I’m an Angry Cripple because I’ve just read the column above, in a space I believed to be about exposing the injustices in our lives and speaking up for our rights, from a carer who expressed a desire to kill herself. We’ve heard that before, more than once.
For the last five years I haven’t been able to open a weekend paper without reading that my people have ruined the lives of their families. I’ve come to expect it there, but not here. Not in a space that’s supposed to give my people a voice.
I am not unsympathetic to the carer’s situation. I know the system sucks, and that you are treated unfairly by the government because your daughter has a disability. They’re not supporting her, so you’re struggling to meet the needs that should be met by the government of this “lucky country”. But statements in the media saying that your life is ruined and that you want to kill yourself do not help any of us.
What they do is foster prejudice and hatred towards people with disabilities, prejudice and hatred that my people are trying to fight. It beats us down. It knocks all the pride out of us and it makes us feel ashamed.
It’s like we’re overhearing you tell the rest of the country that our lives are to blame for your suffering. Because while you’re saying that the government must support you better, you’re also saying that your lives would be better without us in them. That is the message you’re sending to us. And I say “us”, because while I am not your daughter, I am her people.
We are fighting for her rights too. There is a perception in the carer community that people with physical disabilities are only interested in fighting for our own rights, that we don’t care where our brothers and sisters with intellectual disabilities, or with more severe physical disabilities than our own, end up. We do. If you’ll stop silencing us with shame, we can show you.
We want to work with you, and learn from the carers who know first-hand what would best support those of us who cannot speak for ourselves. If we stand together, we can present a strong, powerful front.
But it’s hard to stand with you while you chip away at our dignity.
And that’s why, as you wrote, “some people with disability are enraged when family carers are allowed a voice in this space”. We’re enraged because you’re making us ashamed. My people have an uphill battle to develop self-esteem in a world that shows us deep disrespect around every corner.
It’s almost impossible for us to continue to hold our heads high while you talk over the top of us about wiping our arses until you’re 95.
So, our hackles go up and we object to your voice in this space, because your messages don’t allow us to be proud. It is not because you are able-bodied, it is because your messages counter ours and reinforce our shame.
What people with disability in this country need are allies, not guilt trips.
If you let us be the proud, dignified people we want to be, then we’ll stop getting outraged about your voice in this space. We will welcome the extra volume your voices bring to the fight for a better deal for all of us.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…