"He lifted himself from a wheelchair to lift the nation from its knees.” Biographer Jean Edward Smith on Franklin Roosevelt
As much as I try and steer away from it, I seem to be drawn into discussions about disability and the differing societal attitudes it represents. At the best of times I am a pragmatic thinker, but talking about any kind of disability elicits highly emotional responses. I have been involved in various debates recently on all sorts of issues regarding disability and it seems emotion clouds reason.
As I have mentioned time and time again I hate being disabled. I used to kid myself and say publicly that I wouldn’t change any aspect of my disability. Spend one day in my shoes and you’ll realise that it sucks. That’s not to say I have the worst circumstances in the world, but I’d trade mine any day. Say this to the majority of the disabled community and you are bound to get lynched.
My RampUp colleague Carl Thompson posed a question last night on his Twitter feed that asked what cripples would do if they didn’t have a disability? This question in turn sparked a debate about why he would indeed pose a question like that. It seems the people who respond this way take the power of positive thinking to the point of delusion.
I struggle with the fact that my deficits get unintentionally flaunted in my face every day. It makes me angry. I know that I cannot change my circumstances, but realising that I have that kind of anger is kind of freeing. Being a cripple is fucking shit. I don’t want pity, because it is useless, but it is time people knew that uncomfortable truth.
I have received advice that I need to find some inspiration to focus on my path towards redemption. As only as I can do I chose a politician: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Most people assume that I chose him because he was a cripple too (as result of polio) when he was arguably the most successful President of the United States in its history. This was merely a happy accident or a subconscious ploy I cannot decide which. I chose FDR because he faced two of the biggest crises in world history, The Great Depression and World War II. and not only survived politically but prospered.
The majority of crises only arise in retrospect. For every success that I have had in life, there has been a devastating low. Both of these have arisen as a direct result of my disability. The successes appear to fleeting and the lows seem to ravage my confidence. I have been able to move past them, but they are never forgotten.
I can name perhaps three other people who I believe have an accurate grasp on what it is like to live with a physical disability. The rest it seems appear to be living in a lifelong state of denial under the impression that their disability will make them stronger human beings, or that their disability gives them a greater purpose. I used to be one of those people.
Perhaps that’s why I have turned into something of an attack dog at RampUp. The fact that the site has a cross section of contributors is to its advantage. Highly intelligent people get to tell their stories. However, more and more articles try and relate the author’s experience of having a disability to the reader. The fact is that no one knows what its like to have my disability, nor do I know what it is like for another person to have a disability, even if its Cerebral Palsy. So apart from my introductory article, I have made it my mission to highlight the problems with society's attitudes towards disability.
It has shaped me as a human being more than anything else. It has allowed me to have some great triumphs, but it is dominated with daily struggles that I barely have the strength to overcome. Concessions are made to make life easier, but most of the time. I am held hostage by my circumstances. I will remain pragmatic for my entire life.