Sunday, January 2, 2011
Angels and Demons, Gods and Goddesses....A Rant and A Resolution
From early time and into the present day, the severely disabled are regarded as demons by some, and angels by others. Either belief deprives the disabled person of their genuine humanity and denies them the requisite efforts at maximizing their potential. All handicapping conditions are the result of accident (by way of fate or karmic choice); a genetic accident, a birth accident, a bio-chemical accident or a real life accident which deprives a human of some perceived ability. Not the way it's supposed to be, but the reality of what is. Accidents are simply accidents. They are not punishments from gods, nor gifts from gods...gods and goddesses have no role in accidents.
Throughout the ages, it has been quite easy to demonize the disabled; they have no voice. In early Grecian times, the law dictated that a newborn was not a person until after seven days of birth which legitimized the discarding and genocide of infants. Nazi Germany was led to believe that the disabled were a "life unworthy of life". The trends continued in modern time with the sterilization of the disabled and "feeble" so as to interrupt this troubling and increasing genetic trend. Institutionalization was the more recent standard bearer of the belief in demonization..keep "them" away from the general society. The history of man has been littered with demonization of people for a disturbing variety of reasons.
Likewise, an equally troubling trend has been the deification of the severely disabled. This is an equally heinous trend. The "pillow angel", the "victim soul", the living examples of the suffering christ are characterizations affixed to some. Perhaps, it is a feeble attempt to make relevant the experience of suffering; perhaps, it is a sordid attempt to provide only custodial care and rationalize a lack of intense and life long effort at maximizing potential through whatever therapies work; or, perhaps, it is an attempt by people to justify their care-taking because they are minding the suffering of those who are more godlike that the rest of society. The extreme of deification paves the path to the creation of cults around the "victim souls" to pay homage to a belief that they are direct intercessors between our petty needs and the above.
In either extreme case of the angels and demons syndrome, I am again recalling the words of House: "Everyone lies..." Everyone creates a story to justify the marginalization of disability. These stories often provide excuse for the minimal efforts and services society provides.
I suppose that there exists a middle ground: indifference. When one espouses a belief of "no difference", you negate the reality of a person's existence. I am unsure which of these fates is is worse: angels, demons, or nothing?
Perhaps truth lies in the simple personhood of the disabled. They are people who have encountered an accident, by fate or choice. Our response has to be to provide loving care at a level which will maximize their being and their potential, by doing whatever it takes. Often we, as individuals or a society do not do whatever it takes because our belief in either demonization or deification or sheer indifference precludes those needed efforts and even justifies this absence of effort.
The disabled are human beings, nothing more and nothing less. They have an absolute right to bodily integrity and a respect of their rights as humans. They are different only in the level of care and love required by us. Our children and adults, no matter how severely impaired, can intuit and feel the level of care, expectation and effort provided by us to them. Without this active attempt at healing on an ongoing basis, people die. The institutionally disabled die because there is an absence of loving care and simple touch. The severely disabled are really no different than us. In fact, if I look at my son and if I look at myself in a mirror, I truly wonder who is really impaired. He always smiles and has a glow in his eyes. while I do not.
In the intervening moments, my son just coughed a mouthful of lovingly prepared and pureed penne chicken picatta at my freshly cleaned fleece vest. I'm rethinking my comments on demonization... My New Year Resolution...yes, to care a bit more deeply and generously. This one I can do!