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Friday, May 9, 2014
Loneliness, Autonomy, Fear and Tim Bowers
Every person I have met with a disability routinely feels lonely. I am not referring to typical loneliness most feel at some point in their life. I refer to loneliness in a deeply painful way that makes your soul and bones ache. This is the sort of loneliness I feel. It is the loneliness most people with a disability feel on a regular basis. I know I do. I know there are days I am weary. I simply cannot face a hostile world. I cannot leave my home because I do not have the psychic strength to deal with the fact my existence is not welcome. I cannot deal with the routine harassment or stares or the mothers who yank their kids arm when they see and tell their child "watch out for that wheelchair". Well done, mom. A lesson has been learned: fear the human being using a wheelchair.
I am not particularly lonely today. Yet I want to write about loneliness because my friend Stephen Kuusisto at Planet of the Blind astutely wrote that he belongs to "fellowship of lonesome people". Link: http://www.planet-of-the-blind.com/2014/05/confessions-of-a-lonesome-disabled-and-autonomous-man.html Amen brother! Kuusisto contends mainstream lives, typical lives, are the "products of foundation". Kuusisto notes:
The underpinning or “base” I’m referring to results from autonomy. Its a Greek word. It refers to the capacity of a rational individual to make informed, un-coerced decisions. People who grow up in fear don’t necessarily develop such capacities. Loneliness is a byproduct of fear. it says.
I never thought that loneliness was a by product of fear. Fearful I am. I know I am without a doubt very lucky. I had great parents. I had the foundation Kuusisto refers to growing up. I had a good foundation for much of my life. But I have always struggled with fear. I am a fearful man. I am fearful because I know the bipedal hordes that surround me consider my existence sad, an affront really, and most wish I did not exist. I am the symbolic representation of all that can wrong. Kuusisto is correct when he asserts:
I find it hard to wrap my brain around the celebration of Bowers death albeit a sad one of supposed choice and tragedy. Bowers death was tragic. But choice? Autonomy? No. Bowers and his family did not make an informed decision. They made a decision based on fear and stunning ignorance about the quality of life for a man post spinal cord injury. All point to the fact Bowers, before his injury, had stated he would not want to live life in a wheelchair. Let me ask this: have you ever met a person that desired to be paralyzed and use a wheelchair? Many people speculate what life post spinal cord injury is like. All come away with a negative assessment and use a throw away line like "I would never want to live in a wheelchair". Do these people ever ask a paralyzed person what life is like post injury. Never. If they did they would not like the answer. For example, I would state life is sweet pre and post paralysis. I like my body very much. It serves me well. In fact I would not change a thing about my life. This is the answer people do not want to hear. They want tragedy. They want sorrow. They want me and others with a disability to wail and be full of sorrow. Why is this? Kuusisto noted that:
Now everyone loves autonomy: religious zealots, ideologues, business men, politicians, generals and admirals—all wave the autonomy flag. This is because “informed” (for them) means willing. In turn they get to decide what’s healthy for you.
This is why I am so fearful. I fear the unknown they. I truly fear any health care system dominated by people who know nothing about life with a disability. Good people in Indiana legally killed a man. There I said it. The physicians and family of Tim Bowers needlessly killed him. They couched the decision in emotional rhetoric that obscures the real issue: Bowers was victim of a compassionate and legal homicide. In stating this I am an extremist. Bioethicists will shut down and refuse to engage. Bowers family will cry and scream in out rage. We loved our son. I loved my brother. How dare you! I dare to state the painful and hurtful truth because I do not want others to needlessly die. I do not want to die. All the wrong questions were asked at the time Bowers was injured. No one speculated about what he could do. No asked how can he be autonomous? No one asked how can he hold his soon to be born child? No one asked about the future? No one reached out to others with a similar injury leading a good life. Again, this is why I am fearful. People such as Bowers that die are applauded. People that choose to live are expected to demonstrate they remain human. They must demonstrate their life is worth living. They are, in a capitalist society, deemed an economic drain not physically capable of making a contribution to society. Thus I would observe as many others have it is far easier to die than it is to live. But my oh my life is sweet. I would not change a thing--including paralysis. A conclusion I suspect Bowers would have come to had he been given a chance.