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Monday, August 8, 2016

Letter #5 Bad Versus Good: Embrace Bad

Be bad. I am bad. I have been a bad man for a while. I identify as the Bad Cripple. It is a moniker I am proud of. Being bad is not easy. Being bad makes me decidedly unpopular. Being bad has hurt my academic career. Being bad is the only way I know how to live. Is is who I am. Social injustice bothers me. The stigma associated with disability has derailed countless lives. We remain largely unemployed and poor. As a group, we are not well educated. Accessing mass transportation and accessible housing is a serious struggle. A case in point the NYC subway system. On housing--it took me two years to find an accessible apartment in Syracuse. Typical others take a few days to find a place to live. I call that social injustice.

Today I was struck by the following observation on vulnerability and disability. Link: http://www.autostraddle.com/on-vulnerability-as-a-disabled-person-347625/

The world doesn’t like disabled people or our bodies to be vulnerable. We prefer them inspiring, brave, tenacious, or at least trying really hard. If you wonder why that matters, let me remind you that not even two weeks ago, nineteen people were murdered at the Tsukui Yamayuri-en residential center in Sagamihara for the crime of being too disabled. Their attacker hoped to create “a world where people with multiple disabilities who have extreme difficulty living at home or being active in society can be euthanized with the consent of their guardians.” He didn’t even try to back away from those words.
You’re either Good Disabled and don’t need anything, or Bad Disabled and need too much. If someone decides your body is too needy or behaves in ways they’d rather not contend with, they can also decide to hurt or even kill you. (That’s a reality the queer community likewise knows too well.) So admitting vulnerability can feel like inviting any response from ridicule to danger, with no idea which one you’ll get.
Its okay to acknowledge you are vulnerable. Being vulnerable does not mean one is weak. Our vulnerability is simply obvious. I am a wheelchair user. I am an easy target for the police or criminals.  When I am targeted for abuse it is called ableism. Typical others hate this word. I have started to use it far more often. Like the word cripple, ableism stops people. They wonder why would I identify as a cripple and what the hell does ableism mean? Cripple and ableism are old and new words. Like many other wheelchair users, we have reclaimed the word cripple from the bad old days. And believe me my young crippled peers the old days were very bad. Think ugly laws. Think forced institutionalization. Better yet read Alison Carey's On the Margins of Citizenship about intellectual disability and civil rights. 
Typical others like to put us in box. That box does not include a complaint department. We can't be too needy. Ideally we should be physically independent. If we fail to reach this threshold watch out.  You may be deemed too needy and hence too costly. Your life will have less value and be subject too a spirited debate about whether your life has any value. If you think I am being hysterical I suggest you read the work of Peter Singer or Dominick Wilkinson who wrote Death or Disability?
If typical others are delighted to see your crippled form you are doing something wrong. Worse, if you are deemed inspiring you are doing something tragically wrong. Your mere presence should upset others. Like it or not bipeds fear wheelchair users. The mother in the the grocery store that has a child and pulls the child away in fear and says "watch out for the wheelchair" is proof positive you are a threat. The fear bipeds feel is primal. Make them uncomfortable in any way possible. Use humor or anger or any other emotion and be subversive at all times. Work the system. Undermine authority. Derail institutionalized ableism. 
None of what I am saying will make you popular. You may hear an audible groan when you enter a room. That groan means you are doing a good job advocating for your rights and others. Remember it is never about just you. Typical others will accuse you of narcissism. This too is a good sign. It is never all about you. It is about making life easier for the guy that follows you.  So get out there and fight. Piss people off. Undermine authority. Believe in yourself and our cause. Our cause is a big one. Protect the civil rights of the most vulnerable among us. 

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