227. Foot Soldiers and Army Generals

I feel sad about the state of things. It makes me disinclined to blog regularly. What can I say in the face of a pandemic that world leaders have left us to defend ourselves against alone?

Their inaction has freed people to do their worst. Everywhere I turn, both in real life and virtually, people are yukking it up unmasked. Meanwhile, we are disappearing.

I am tired of acting like I want to play along, so my happiest moments are spent outdoors in the cold, indoors with comforting books, and online with other disabled and immunocompromised people. They tell no lies, they grieve with refreshing honesty, and they make it even harder to banter with people I used to feel close to, and who now seem heedlessly malevolent.

The funny thing is, it’s not like we haven’t known for nearly two decades, how many tentacles ableism has. I can pretend I do not understand this desperation to be infected, this choosing of potential death over seemingly endless quarantining. But I do understand. It is the same fear and refusal of nuance that we have been faced with since our children were born. Disability is something we mostly place away from ourselves unless we are forced to grapple with it personally. Those of us on this side of things have always known that if we are perceived to be handling things with grace under fire, people will say Okay, they seem fine, and then go about life as usual.

I used to wonder how our STEM obsessed Desi communities were willing to suspend scientific principles and keep catching the plague. Why had our people become so unwilling and unable to process changing data about Covid risks? I no longer wonder. I know that even people raised to worship science education can falter when strong, negative emotions threaten to knock us off the cliffs of abandonment. So science came face to face with mental health issues, and our general Desi shallowness about mental health, and our tendency to view communal gatherings as the solace for all dark thoughts, won out.

And if I wondered how child-centric Desi communities could be so willing to expose said children to unchecked Covid, I no longer wonder that either. I understand now that, in general, we are about continuity and tradition rather than going against the grain.

An idea has been percolating in my head this week, about how, as long as we are searching and grasping for the words about what is being perpetrated upon us, it allows society to be comfortable in its benevolent tyranny. They even like and tolerate us in their peripheral vision. But let us find the language to shape our own narratives, let us learn to name the oppression which even good folks can enact, and we become a menace. The disabled are supposed to be grateful for any allies they have, and fearful of alienating them. Allies must be feted, complimented, assuaged. So if, instead, allies have to hear that their social justice work is flawed, then the disabled deserve to be abandoned, don’t they? After all, good feels are the true heart of why most people dabble in social justice.

I have been reading with great sadness how, in Canada, the profoundly disabled are recently being forced and encouraged to choose assisted suicide rather than be given livable disability benefits. Since we refuse to mitigate Covid, the numbers of the profoundly disabled are only growing. Do people not think this tunnel will soon be the only path for them? It seems they do not. If you have never experienced the evil side of your government and community because health, youth, and economic productivity have placed you above others, I don’t know how to tell you what you don’t wish to see. If you are only moved by an issue when it is about to ruin your own life, it might be too late by then.

Finally, I have something very personal to share. I have had asthma since childhood. Debilitating illness several times a year for years. Each time, it took me months to recover, and it blighted every corner of my young life. I was shamed for not being physically able to keep up with schoolmates in physicality. It felt like a vise that gripped my diaphragm, and kept me alone even in a crowd. There were times when I would pray, “God, just take me, I cannot bear a lifetime of this.” I didn’t care what became of me at such times. I had to use the moments when I did care to crawl fiercely towards hard won, temporary stretches of good health.

So no, I do not know why you would want repeated infections. Why you are intent on a constricted life with compromised lung function. But you have to learn these awful lessons on your own.

Just know that disability is not the intolerable thing, a lot of the time. The intolerable thing is the profound neglect and cruelty enacted upon the disabled. You are the seemingly loving oppressor, and have been. And you will be the disappeared one, the one who prays to be taken away, if you keep going as you have been. The foot soldiers will fall, and you, the army generals, will have to face the enemy without any viable defenses.

Radha.

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