Almost daily, I receive messages or posts from family members alerting me to the hatred that is being transmitted over the Internet. The ‘Call to Action’ messages I receive break my heart because I understand how hurtful the words can be. We love our children and we want to protect them from being victimized by discrimination and/or hate crimes. Many of our children/adult-children lack the ability to report crimes committed against them; many lack the ability to speak. Even when crimes are reported, the number of prosecutions/convictions is significantly lower than the general population. It is often difficult to prosecute when the victim cannot testify.
Our fears are real and we have no method to escape them. For me, I try to avoid reality. I am unable to read the horrific stories of abuse committed upon our loved ones. When I am confronted with these stories, it takes me a very long time to recover from the images. I truly view all people with disabilities as my family members. While I don’t condone violence, I don’t now how parents recover without becoming criminals themselves. Clearly, a jury of their peers (parents and loved ones) would acquit their actions – we understand the strength of unconditional love and trust.
The trust that is involved in being able to handover your non-verbal child/adult-child to another person is unlike any other. While they are often as fragile as an infant, they lack the cuteness. Unless you know them, they can be annoying. Over time, family members become immune to the vocalizations, repetitive behaviors, and quirks our kids exhibit. Our normal is a very different world. Our tolerance is significantly higher and our LOVE is unmatched and unconditional. Few can meet our standards, even when we set the bar low.
Overall, society doesn’t value our children the way we do. Judgments and assumptions of our families flow freely and often without a filter. We live in a time where it is still socially acceptable to exhibit feelings of hatred and discrimination toward people with disabilities. We are a minority group and we don’t have a strong voice, making us an easy target.
I’ve experienced the shift myself, as Mike grew older bigger, and his cuteness wore off. Mike now looks disabled and people no longer question my parenting. While I don’t receive as much judgment, there is an uncomfortable awareness that some people display. Rarely do people seek him out to engage him or even to offer a smile – most simply avert their eyes.
In all honesty, I don’t entirely blame society for this. There is an uncomfortable bubble of politeness that most people respect. At times, I have put this bubble around Mike myself. It can be exhausting dealing with the looks, even when they’re supportive and kind.
All this said, we are incapable of changing the world we live in. We are a minority group. We are open to discrimination and hatred that is based simply on our very existence. Yet, we are a minority group, unlike no other. Our members are often helpless and mute. We must rely upon a society that is often, at best, simply uncomfortable with our very existence.
How do we ever change the heart of a person who hates us without justification? The answer is simple, we can’t and we shouldn’t waste out time trying. We must focus on changing the discrimination that we face in our world. I am far more disturbed by ONE incompetent ESE (Exceptional Student Education) employee than I am by THOUSANDS of anonymous people of the Internet. They have no real power or purpose.
My Internet blogging software provides me the web URL of people who click on my blog. There are people reading these words who do not have family members with disabilities. They are here to rejoice in the challenges my family faces. The ONE time I explored these links, I was outraged and ready to mount a war. Then it occurred to me, there is not ANYTHING that I can say or do to a person who is celebrating MY life struggles. THEIR life, evidenced by their very existence on my blog has already punished them for ME.
So, me dear friends, blinders on and stay focused on the real fights!