Can you even spell RESPECT?
I’m not presently concerned about you playing the national anthem in theaters. In fact, I don’t even want to be part of that conversation right now. But training people with disabilities—mental or physical—to “show respect” when this country has done so little for them got my brain hurting. Now, I’m genuinely wondering if the Silent National Anthem that played in theaters was some kind of bad joke.
You want training?
Let’s talk about training.
How about you train people not to shove my mother out of the way when entering or exiting elevators? How about you train politicians not to treat her handicapped parking spaces like VIP slots? How about you teach airport security not to forget that she also has dignity, that they can’t ask her to “take off [her] pants” wherever they want? How about you train grown-ass adults to stand behind, to fight for, their friends? How about you train people to stop treating people with disabilities like they’re“ugly” or “stupid”? How about you train corporations to stop discriminating in their hiring practices? How about you AT LEAST make government offices accessible!? Is that really too much to ask for? Why should someone have to ask for it at all?
This is all for a start, of course. We can get back to this when you’ve made some progress. Until then, please do not use patriotism and the desire for national cohesion as an excuse to further demean people with disabilities. You no longer require my mother to stand for the national anthem? Arre wah, should I thank you? Or should I text you when she gets spat on or something of the like for following your instructions? Or gets told that the truly patriotic would not let disability get in the way? (Because that happens to us at temples, so nothing surprises me anymore.)
Have some shame. The fact that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act finally passed in 2016 should embarrass you, not serve as your saving grace. Do not casually toss this “kindness” of not needing to stand into public conversation, pretending as if you aren’t blatantly inefficient at serving the disabled population of this nation, while also choosing your words about those with intellectual disabilities so poorly. We see you. We see you waiting until things go wrong, until people push you and push you, or get pushed themselves. We see your inefficiency, and we see that it’s by choice. Apathy is a choice. And we hear yours loud and clear.
We hear you say people with disabilities are second class citizens. But we go on. Because, guess what? There is enough to deal with when your nation—doesn’t matter who’s in power—doesn’t have the infrastructure to support you. Fighting the system isn’t at the top of everyone’s priority lists, because again: Guess what? People with disabilities have lives. They have families. They go to work. They pay taxes. They answer stupid, ridiculous questions. They live with the knowledge that if there was ever an emergency in that same theater (assuming they can actually get there, because most theaters are NOT in fact accessible at ALL), they may not be able to get out fast enough. And, of course, they deal with ableist, patronizing, uninformed people on a daily basis.
They are resilient.
People with disabilities, whether they are physically manifested as in my mother’s case or aren’t visible, have more compassion and respect for the people and the values of this country—values in general—IN THEIR PINKY FINGER than most so-called “able” people have in their whole bodies.
So, let me know when you’d like to commence your training in human decency. I’ll be waiting.