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Part 2.
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woman's face


  Disability Shame Speaks:
'I am alive and doing very well'
A dramatic monologue By Laura Minges

Pride can't undo what centuries have done. Tradition is truth. Even Aristotle said disabled babies are defective and should be killed.

He was a great mind. Who argues with great minds?

Of course, there are those disabled people who warn that the one-dimensional focus puts them at incredible risk as medical science advances. They fear that those who cannot be easily and conveniently cured will simply be killed, and they point to Hitler's regime and the making of "The Black Stork" film, a propagandized dramatization of the true story about the murder of a disabled child by a physician, as proof of the need for vigilance in a time of growing science. Many people say their fears are overblown, though. The product of too much free time, the result of too much entitlement and distrust.

After all, the combination of stereotypical thinking, cost containment concerns, and growing technology will never cause people to kill or withdraw help from disabled people. It's preposterous, and I'll shout that from the rooftops to silence and dupe them.

It's my job.

The only way people can be free of me is to acknowledge what hurts them, to stop blaming themselves for disability and physical changes, to stand up against myths and stereotypes from a position of strength and honesty.

And you know what? They won't do it. They've internalized the negative ideas and ignorance of so many, thanks to me.

Turning them against themselves makes my power utterly unbreakable.

It can cause eating disorders, compulsive exercising, utter stillness, or a combination of all three.

And even the ones who talk about me are on edge. They fear inviting criticism, having other disabled people tell them that the only ones who know me are the ones who make "too big a deal" about being disabled.

Those who see me say I am insidious and silent. Slippery and difficult to lay bare. Many have been ravaged by me, they say.

Quite a few disabled people feel that they are better than those who cannot camouflage their physical disabilities. Better than the ones who drool, whose posture is poor. As if drooling and poor posture are volitional. I have made many of them judgmental of others while they fear being judged.

And to seal the deal, I have designed it so that they tell each other that the fear of judgment is all in their heads. A problem to overcome, a shameful flaw. Damning evidence that they have bought into the idea that disabled equals incapable. Tentativeness and fear are flaws no one will put up with, they tell each other. You have to make your own way in the world. You have to prove it can be done, and have to say, "What disability?" whenever someone points out the obvious. Otherwise, you give us all a bad name and we have to clean up your mess.

Ohhh, I have tasted victory many times, and it is sweet to the lips. Every time I experience it, a shiver of delight rushes through my bones. And the best part is that there is always a fresh supply of people.

Back to Part 1  |  Continue to Part 3 .

Posted February 25, 2004

Laura Minges, a social work intern, is a freelance writer and public speaker specializing in disability issues. She can be reached at laura@avenues.org

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