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August 14, 2005

Awful to be like you

An interesting blog entry today (Aug 14) at the "What? Why? How?" blog, which seems to take the form of Q-and-As.
It seems folks feel no shame in saying things like "It must be horrible to be like you" to someone who has a disability -- and then acting clueless as to why the person might take offense.

I really don't get "Wouldn't it be great if he (or she, or they, or sometimes it) were dead?" is considered a perfectly fine thing to say to people while pointing at someone who is right there listening to or participating in the conversation. (Note to people who do this online: disabled lurkers are everywhere.)

Which makes me think about the whole issue of "assisted suicide," as it's called. This has got to be one of the least thought-out issues of our time. Perfectly righteous people seem to have no trouble thinking it is all about choice. And they seem sincerely puzzled at the fact that someone would want to live with something like Christopher Reeve's paralysis -- or the biggie, Lou Gehrig's disease. And talking seems to solve very little. Even when the person is the one with the severe disability -- who, one thinks, ought to know what she/he wants... But no: the righteous continue to believe that disability is something they should be allowed to die rather than face. In truth, this is really about the idea of disability -- the projection of disability in the not-yet-disabled person's mind.
Not enough time in this blog to get into any of this. But as the issue heats up with the Gonzales v. Oregon case being heard by the Supremes Oct. 5, we really ought to poke at it a little to see what we can figure out.
The late Barry Corbet has done probably the best overview of this issue. You can read his New Mobility article here.
COMMENT-BODY:It's even worse when it isn't paralysis, but, (loud gasp) a mental disability. Some people can understand that someone who is, for instance, paralyzed, might want to live, but few can understand that someone with brain damage might...

Personally I'm rather sick of people thinking that it's better to be dead then to have a disability affecting the mind.
COMMENT-BODY:During the awful Terri Schiavo business, I was shocked to realize that many of my friends and family members, people who see me live a full life as a paraplegic amputee, saw no correllation between my rights to life and happiness and Terri's rights to her feeding tubes.

Most people, even the ones I thought I had straightened out, still seem to think living with a disability is an untenable situation-- albeit one to be allowed on a case by case basis.

Posted by mjohnson at August 14, 2005 06:00 PM