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Injustice League

social mediaIf you were to look through either my Twitter feed or my Facebook friends’ activity, the first thing you’d notice would probably be the large presence of the disability community. If you took some time to read what was being shared, you might come to the conclusion that God, we love to complain, and most of all, we love to rail against the injustices visited upon our unique community.

If you came to that conclusion, you’d be just about dead wrong.

I think part of that perception is probably our own fault. It’s hard to to feel like we stand apart. The holidays in particular can be a weird time for us, because while typical parents might talk about their kids the rest of the year, it’s during the holidays that we hear the most. And what we hear is full of love, and irritation, and hope. It’s full of the stuff of life, and we love it, because it’s the stuff of our lives, too. But it can be a little bittersweet for us sometimes, only because we’re perhaps not always celebrating the same things.

It’s sweet to read about how happy they are that their kids are home from school for the holidays; some of us are happy when ours aren’t in the hospital at that time. They share their sweet and funny photos of children sitting in Santa’s lap; some parents in our world share personal defeats and sometimes triumphs when they manage to get their autistic child to even approach Santa without having an epic meltdown. Most families are hanging lights on the tree; some are watching technicians string EEG wires around their children’s heads. Your kid is going to a Christmas party this week; mine is having an MRI.

We watch those typical world celebrations, and we don’t resent them. We also don’t scoff at the very real moments of family awkwardness or seasonal melancholy that visit upon all families. We have those, too, and while some of them touch on our children’s disabilities and our families occasional inability to really understand, mostly we have the same garden variety family issues. Having a child in a wheelchair doesn’t negate your sister’s skeevy husband who’s trying to start his own business and just needs a little startup cash, and what’s wrong with you, don’t you want to help a member of the family? Sure, you’ve got a kid with a neurological disorder that the doctors haven’t even found a name for yet, but you’ve also got Uncle Carl, and you know he’s going to eventually start a fight about Obama, probably before the turkey is even carved but certainly not before the drinks have been made.

We’re in their world. But we’re in ours, too.

When they go to our Facebook pages or our Twitter feeds, they’ll see our linked stories of some family somewhere that has been visited not just by the random disabling forces of the universe but also by an uncaring school or an ignorant policeman or a monolithic hospital or a community that would rather they just not exist, if that’s okay. They will read those stories on our pages because it’s important to us that they see this part of our world. We know that lightning can strike any family, that random Hard Things visit us all, but for us, we’ve already been visited, and we’ve noticed that lightning does in fact strike some innocent targets again and again. We post the links to our world’s tales of unfairness, not because they are unbelievable, but because they might only be unbelievable to the typical world.

We share the outrageous stories of our community so that maybe, just maybe, we can stop them.

As I look through my own Twitter feed and through the status updates of my Facebook connections, I confess that sometimes I just want to tell everyone to stop. Sometimes I think I want them to stop looking so hard for something to be upset about. I think the thing I want to tell them is that not every slight is worthy of the shaking fist, not every careless utterance or artless phrase is an attempt to keep someone down. I want to believe that we are all awkward people, and sometimes we break the things we love because we don’t know better, and perhaps the outrage is too quick to fire.

But I know the truth. What I truly want is for my friends to run out of hurts, to have no stories of our community being treated poorly. I want someone to say “I looked up #retard on Twitter, and nothing came up.” I want to hear about the organ transplants being granted to patients with intellectual disabilities. I want to hear about how the kids on the bus were kind and the popular middle school girls gave the shy little nonverbal girl at the back of the room a makeover after school and taught her to dance to One Direction. I want to read about kids who are different writing poetry, not suicide notes. I want to read about the community that decided to invest in special education programs, and about the politicians who reach across that aisle to extend basic human rights to the disabled, rather than taking away their “entitlements”.

I don’t want to read the indignant stories anymore. I don’t want to write about it anymore.

But I will. We will. Because the indignation only stops when people stop caring about the indignity, or when they care too much to let it go on.

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