Monday, October 6, 2014

Disabled Veterans Memorial

Obama honors veterans at new memorial
New York Times - October 5, 2014

Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Washington Post - September 30, 2014

Nolan Feeney, Time Magazine - October 5, 2014

This is a great thing. I’m almost positive it is. As steeped as I am in the world of disability, that is how ignorant and detached I am from the military and veterans culture. So I can only half make my own assessment of the new memorial … how it looks, what it says, and what other people say about it. From the just the disability perspective, I have a few thoughts.

- Why did they call it the American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial. It sounds one of those situations where a committee of people debated long and in great detail how to say something delicate so as not to offend anyone … and came up with something bureaucratic and offensive. What’s wrong with something simple like Disabled Veterans Memorial?

- They chose 18 quotations to display, out of hundreds of possibilities. I wish the official website would print all of the selected quotes, because I don’t much like the George Washington quote that appears in all the publicity. There’s nothing wrong with it, particularly considering how people spoke back then. But just showing us that quote suggests that the Memorial is all about sadness and pity. I really hope that isn’t true, and I suspect it really isn’t. But I’d like to know.

- There’s a line in one of the articles about disabled veterans “reclaiming their lives”. That is actually a really good concept to replace the idea of a cure, recovery, or even rehabilitation for all disabled people. Ultimately what we all want is to claim or re-claim our own lives. It works just as well for a child born with a disability. What we really want is for them to “claim a life” for themselves, just as we hope disabled veterans are able to “re-claim” their lives. “Getting better”, or “fitting in” may or may not be part of that, but we don’t have to be 100% fixed to claim or reclaim a life.

"Cliff Notes"

One of my favorite (non-disability) bloggers recently did a post consisting of a list of one-line statements he called the Cliff Notes of his blog archives … a very abbreviated summary of what his blog has been about over time. It got me thinking about how I would summarize the Disability Thinking blog so far.

Disabled people are people … not symbols, angels, or tests of other peoples’ character.

Ableism is an actual thing, not just a collection of irritating habits and social misunderstandings.

A whole lot of people who should know better, based on their other political and social views, are still way behind the curve on disability issues.

Disability-related services and supports should be simpler and more direct (fewer middlemen). More plentiful would be good too, but simpler and more direct is probably more important.

Disability issues involve questions of fundamental human rights, not just minor policy tweaks and infrastructure improvements.

It matters what words we use to talk about disability, but sometimes we spend too much time worrying about it ... maybe.

I don’t like “inspiration porn”, but I do like disabled people who go out of their way to make bold visual statements projecting disability pride and confidence.

My life as a disabled person has been pretty good, and very lucky.

There are a lot more amazing disability bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters than I thought when I started this blog.