Lying in bed, unable to sleep at 4am because I couldn’t stop thinking about a lovely woman who is slowly dying, I found the Twitter hashtag #EverydayAbleism. And then I had the kind of profoundly insightful moment that only happens at 4am when you can’t sleep. Obviously at 4am it wasn’t all that insightful. Still, I wanted to share that with you here.
A hashtag in Twitter is a way to call out a word or phrase, and to group it with other posts containing the same group or phrase. #EverydayAbleism is being used for people to give examples of ableism they encounter throughout the course of a normal day. It is frustrating and disheartening to read these examples, but it is also encouraging and empowering to see so many people calling attention to these wrongs, in an effort to educate people to correct their behavior.
As I read, I thought about how some people are mean, nasty, selfish, hateful, inconsiderate, or just plain assholes. There are other people who are stupid or ill-informed. But then there are those who just don’t get it. I think these people honestly believe that if someone has a chronic, life-altering condition, there are only two ways to handle it:
- Ignore the problem and get on with life.
- Give in to the problem and give up friends, family, job, hobbies, etc. Live off government handouts. Rarely leave the house.
I think there are people who really do believe that you must either live as if the problem didn’t exist or else let it consume you entirely. These people have never lived with such health conditions themselves, so they can only go by their own experiences. If they get a cold, they move on with life. If they get the flu, they lie the couch for a week until they feel better. To them, this is what illness entails. There is no middle ground for them.
It is easy to assume that anyone who exhibits ableism is a jerk, but I think that there are some who simply don’t get it. They can’t understand that an illness can affect your life without halting your life. It may be a waste of time to try to educate the assholes, but maybe we can education the deluded?