So much for not posting, I was actually about to lay down in bed but between fireworks and having to turn out the lights I am sitting in the dark. I read a post on Bad Cripple and tried to reply. Google broke Blogspot apparently, so I no longer can post there. However, I also wrote a long reply and realized, I need to write more than what I did and more clearly.
The basic question asked in this post by the eloquent owner of Bad Cripple is this: Does it cause more harm or help at all to be rude right back to bigots?
The words that snapped into place and gave me my aha moment slithered into my brain through a filter of my memories. I thought about each time I was told I am bad, have an attitude, or the people that censure my shopping. I thought about the Walmart that fears my entry because I make managers cry when I point out their ineptitude.
For me, it does not matter how I respond to these adults because nothing I do will change that they see me through a stereotype. If I do nothing or if I shout, they will see me either as the poor wittle cripple or the angry cripple. Some may see me as an inspiration because I like to buy my own groceries or DVDs. The reason I want to say something to them is because they are bigots and have dehumanized me through their actions.
Over the last few years I also noticed it costs me less in the way of energy and sorrowful feelings if I snap back at them. I don’t curse often, I rarely yell, but I will let venom enter my tone of voice. I will use the facial expressions that I am told make me scary. Good. I should scare you if you are a bigot because if you are a person with power like the Mayor, I will tear you into little pieces and feed you to my inner dragon.
I know this reaction of fear is based on my rocking the boat. Okay, so I don’t rock the boat. I tip it over and then hit you with the paddle.I am incapable of being subtle. I use this to my benefit. Aside from the Walmart that now adds to their cultish morning ritual a statement about service animals and treating the disabled just like any other customer (something I actually saw or I would not have believed) and the warning about the red head with the cat (also saw and laughed which made the manager jump. Not my fault they did this in the shoe department and I needed a pair) there are other instances when my reactions to hurt feelings have instantly or over the long term been beneficial.
The foremost is a story I have told here before, I think. The post may be under lock down for reasons of my personal safety or it is there and I just missed it. In the bookstore, directly after a woman tried to talk to me as if I was two (while I am looking at books with such biiiig words in them) and I upset her so badly she then later ran into a police car, I met the woman who was going to kill herself and her daughter. This fact stuck with me. This was the moment when I realized that each person that figures out “Oh this person is valued” matters. I don’t seek to educate them, I still think just living should do that all on it’s own. I remember however the desperation. I remember this woman’s terror.
I saw her latch on to me. I saw her notice Sprite and the usual questions and confusion. Then she broached the taboos and we talked death and suicide. I was actually suicidal at that moment, this is the part I usually leave out. I knew I didn’t have to tell her her daughter was a person, but I felt that it was best for me. Not for them. If I did nothing to help this woman, would I forever think on that moment and would I weep for the lives that I did not spare?
Yep. I am sure that it shows often in my writing that I truly feel pain on behalf of the world and the ills that befall others. I cannot seem to change this, and I mourn constantly. I also feel joy for the world as well. It is a balance of emotions but at times it adds the weight of the world to me. It adds obligation. I wanted to scream at this woman and I admit I did snap at her several times in the conversation. By the end of the evening, she was willing to live and was excited to help her daughter live.
They travel the world now, living. Rolling. Walking. Doing. Acting. Being. Living.
I remember each child that has been in awe of my chair and asked really wonderful questions. The sort of questions that show the amounts of damaging messages that they have yet to receive. There was one boy that stopped me in Walmart and told me his father was going to have a chair, this was the last time I went actually, and he asked me if it hurt. He and I only had a few moments to talk but I answered all of his questions. I didn’t lie. I told him the chair helps my pain but I do hurt, all the time. Sometimes I can’t hug people because I hurt but I still love them and I am still me. I told him too that without using this chair I couldn’t go and do anything, but with it I can go to school, I can visit my friends, and I can buy my cat toys. Sprite was not with me but I mentioned service animals anyway. The last thing he said to me before he went to catch up to his mother was special. “Thanks. You’re like an angel but better because flying is scary.” He followed that up with something just as sweet, “I just got a puppy, I’m going to teach my puppy how to do stuff like turn off the lights for my dad and when I grow up I’ll be a doctor so I can make pain go away, then if you want to go out you can still roll but not hurt.”
The idea presented wasn’t to cure me but instead to help me. I told him I like my chair and that having this chair is the best thing in my life, as I needed one long before I broke my back. I told him the truth that sometimes I still can walk but it hurts so much that I faint, and then I get hurt. His father was shot. This son is scared. This brave boy decided he needed answers and he wanted them from someone who obviously knows something about chairs.
I will never forget him, and I hope to see him again and perhaps his father. I think his mother listened, but she said nothing. I told the boy when he can he should learn about all of the laws regarding race, accessibility, and make sure his father knows them too. He didn’t ask why but nodded and said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. That way no one can do bad things and lie.” The very reason that he should know these laws.
These are the rare examples when I don’t have to snarl to be heard. Most often I end up snarling at the doctor’s office with other patients who think they should touch me with their germ ridden hands. Is it any wonder that I am not sick nearly as often when I avoid the doctor’s office? My last visit to my previous doctor felt like something snapped. Since that day I have not once bothered to phrase things nicely, and i am no longer apologizing for taking up space. I don’t ignore the bigoted comments because it hurts me to do so. I saw it made no difference but instead allowed these people to keep pushing me.
I got the same old lines, “I bet that goes fast.” “Oh gee how do I get one of those?” “You don’t look like you need that chair.” “You have such bad attitude.” The last one is when I finally told the person to shut up. I didn’t curse, but I made it clear that since I am a person, not their play thing they can shut up and read a book or something else instead of dehumanizing me, annoying the crap out of me, and saying the same uncreative and exceedingly ridiculous lines as every other peon of the system that came before.
Being nice didn’t fix Walmart. Being seen as a bitch did. I would rather be a bitch and feel empowered than to stay silent or be nice and have things stay the same. I learned by showing my offense and anger people do actually learn. Some write it off as the stereotype of the angry cripple, but they wrote me off already. The most harm I do is not opening their closed clamshell minds. The worst thing I can do is be silent.
Everyone has their own ways of showing anger, mine is varying between quite anger and an out and out growl. If someone touches me I will twist their arms away and cause them pain. I say no and stop first. Then I get physical. I only punch people if pushing them away does not work. When they complain I point out that for me to reach them, especially with limited arm mobility (it’;s not as bad as others but it is there) then they are in my space and are violating me personally by touching.
I don’t go to places like churches, I don’t go to the health food store, but I never did before. I stopped before I accepted that I am disabled because I felt like trash based on their words anyway. I have found of all the responses that are now cliches for me and creating a stereotype of the able bodied lunkhead the one that earns the most venom is “That isn’t very Christian of you.”
That’s the one where I get mean and there is no benefit. I have practiced my responses now to most cliches. I have my cutting come backs but for that one the answer is, “I wouldn’t want to be a good Christian if it meant acting like you.” The people then clutch their pearls and stagger off in horror. Though they do that no matter what my actual reply is.
There are moments when people get a second helping of Kat’s brand of verbal whipping. The second helping comes with statments like “Oh damn it’s mad.” I am a human. The reply there (and for some reason this is used often) is “That’s because this human noticed something stupid. Oh it’s you, opening your mouth.” Not helpful, but it does make those Walmart employees behave. When I am called an it, or someone removes groceries from my bags and doesn’t allow purchase, they get to see me very angry. Most often this is a employee, so sometimes they get fired. Okay, each time they screw with my groceries it’s a firing or else. Else is also clearly defined by my right to sue them for discrimination.
So mix it up, do what you have to do but it’s okay to be a bitch.