(Note from Ania: This post by Sophie was written with the assistance of a speech to text tool. There may be some typos, which I haven’t been able to correct yet. I will come back and edit them as soon as I have the spoons to devote to it.)
We live in a world of experts. Scientists. Astronauts. Doctors. Computer programmers. Politicians. Teachers. Husbands. Wives. Parents. Men. Woman. All the people. Everyone you see around you is an expert in their field, even if we all haven’t gone through higher education to obtain a degree.
But you don’t need a degree to be considered an expert in your field. In a lot of cases, the people who will know most about a thing are the people living with and dealing with the thing. And for the most part, people accept these masters of the universe in their own chosen specialty.
Parents are masters in parenting.
Women are masters in being women.
Men are masters t understanding men.
Even children are masters at understanding children.
Social justice warriors are masters at navigating the system and assisting people in distress because of the system.
Marginalized people are masters at knowing what it means to be oppressed because of who you are, or what you believe in.
I am sure that you, reading this, are a master in your chosen domain.
But I cannot speak to what it’s like being a part of that domain. And it’s not why I’m here today, writing this. But I did want to make sure before I began that you understood that I SEE you. You are not invisible to me. And I am quite certain that you will have experienced some or many of these things that I want to speak about. I know that your pain is real. But I must focus my thoughts and speak of the things that I personally know, which unfortunately isn’t every single person on earth, much as I wish I could sometimes.
So let me try this again, from the beginning.
Each and every one of us is a master of our own domain. We don’t all have university degrees to tuck in under our belts, but we do all have our passions, and qualifications. Today’s words will focus on one particular subset of the human culture: Being disabled, and the invisibility that too often comes with it. Because while it isn’t the knowledge I would have wanted for myself, it’s what I have become educated on, by means of the circumstances I’ve been thrown in.
It is in that light, in that guise, that I introduce myself to you.
It’s been a hard week for me. Today was the first day I could walk semi- normally after crashing my e-bike into a car on Thursday.My legs are black and blue. I’ve got whiplash, sore muscles, and have spent the last several days in bed with icepacks at the ready.
I was happy to be feeling better today, because tonight I was going to see “Phantom of the Opera” at the NAC with my 11 year old niece.
Being barely able to move, with my legs looking like a cross between a gorilla and a black and blue elephant, and not to mention that fabric on my legs is extreme agony, I opted to wear some comfortable pants and running shoes. I wasn’t going to risk falling again by wearing heels, or risk having a miserable evening by wearing clothes that hurt my legs, or revealed their startling mosaic of bruised hairy nightmares to the whole NAC. Pants are definitely more respectful.
When we arrived at our seats, sitting directly ahead of me was someone I knew. The person who told me Phantom was in town and one of the reasons I bought tickets for this showing for this specific section. This way I’d have someone nearby that I knew, and my anxiety wouldn’t be as bad. When we get to our seats, I see that she’s there. So far, so good.
I said hello as I sat down. She looks at me with disgust in her eyes. “Really? You couldn’t dress up? This is the NAC, Sophie, you’re an embarrassment.” Well. I’m sure my hairy black and blue legs would have been more so, thank you very much. The safety zone I’d planned on wasn’t going to happen, clearly, but I had a backup plan. I took out my Anxiety Duck. He comes with me to my appointments all the time, and helps keep me calm. Again, my “friend” felt the need to comment: “Really? Put that away. You’re humiliating me.” OK fine. Guess who’s on ignore the rest of the evening.
I think one of the hardest things for me to learn after I became disabled, was when to slow down, and when to ask for help. We talk about the energy cost that comes with living with chronic illness, but accepting it is still a process. Coming to terms with the fact that you can’t do certain things is hard. You’re determined not to let being sick change you, but you have no choice. You have to. Because you are different now. There are things you cannot do, and moving on and becoming yourself means coming to terms with that.
What many people don’t understand is that it’s not a onetime thing.
It happens again every time we have to ask for help.
Society tells us, as well as everyone in our lives, that we are a burden and that that is all we can be. No matter how much we learn that it is not the case, it is still hard not to internalize that message. The message is passed along in the media around us – with disability being presented as the worst possible thing that can happen to anyone, and in the reactions of people around us.
When Alyssa and I were together for example, it was not uncommon for members of her family to question her as to what good our relationship was with me being so broken. When she had called her mother to announce our engagement, what should have been happy news was instead met with a sense of mounting horror and dramatic exclamations of “no, no, no”. Later when discussing it with her father, the concerns about tying your fortunes to a disabled person came up again. When I was with my ex before Alyssa, so many people would tell me over and over again that I was lucky to have found someone who was willing to stay with me. I think the worst however, was when a friend who also happened to be Alyssa’s partner tried to talk me out of getting a dog to train as a service dog for myself by bringing up how much Alyssa already had to do around the house.
Although it was never flat out said, the implication was obvious. I was a burden.
If you’ve been following Canadian news at all, you might have heard about a new bill that passed in Quebec. Bill 62 which essentially mandates that you cannot access public services, including bus transportation, if your face is covered.
This is just the latest in a history of bills aimed at specifically targeting Muslim women, including the horrible Values Charter and many other suggestions. They parrot similar laws passed in France, also aimed at the increasing number of refugees from Islamic countries.
The bill is racist, plain and simple. It is legislative legitimization of said racism, giving bigots a convenient cover for discriminating against brown people. Yes, Islam is a religion, but the social perception of “Muslim” is of someone with darker skin. Additionally, there is a tendency to presume that all brown people are Muslim. Many Sikh people and Indian people of various faiths have faced discrimination in Canada and the US, with a strong implication that the bigot in question assumes them to be Islamic.
The following quotes are from a post I’ve seen floating around el facebook, shared among several pages dedicated to my hometown and Puerto Rico in general.
Cuando Puerto Rico estaba bien, los comunistas, los socialistas, los independentistas y los soberanistas gritaban “Yankee go home, we do not need you”. Ahora no se escuchan ni se ven.
Puerto Rico nunca ha estado bien, por eso es que gritamos “Yankee go home”. Porque ellos tienen mucha de la culpa por la cual Puerto Rico esta en problemas económicos.
¿Dónde está el patriota Óscar López y los macheteros con machete en mano cortando árboles y trabajando por la patria? ¿Dónde están los encapuchados de la UPR que no se ven limpiando los escombros en la universidad y las carreteras de la patria? ¿Dónde están los ambientalistos que no se ven limpiando las playas, cortando árboles y limpiando carreteras? ¿Dónde está ese grito de guerra “Yankee go home” que los identifican?
Apuesto que están ahí, limpiando y colaborando para levantar a Puerto Rico. Y todavia le gritamos al colonizador. Ese hecho no contradice el otro.
Mira pa’lla. The President of the University of Puerto Rico is asking for student (and other) volunteers to help clean up their botanical garden in Rio Piedras. Metiste la pata bien meti’a, mijo.
But now everyone in Puerto Rico speaks English. Carmen Yulin en representación de la izquierda boricua por cámara y con lágrima en los ojos expresó: “We are American Citizens, we need help.”
Well, I mean we are citizens. Yulín is rightfully calling out the government. So what’s your point? Don’t think I don’t catch the casual sexism of pointing out that Yulín Cruz cried.
Yeah, we know, that’s why we’re here. And we will always be.
We’re American (second class) citizens because one colonizer ceded us to another. I certainly hope we aren’t always a colony. ¿Estas diciendo que porque criticamos a los gringos no podemos esperar que ellos manden la ayuda que es necesaria?
I’ve encountered this type of thinking before. The type that says that if you accept help from the government you can’t complain. So, the poor can’t demand justice because we’re on food stamps? That’s victim blaming bullshit. We didn’t ask to be colonized, but if we are going to be then the United States HAS the ethical and moral responsibility to send help.
“Yankee go home”, fuck yes. But if Yankee is going to keep us as a colony then they need to fucking do their jobs. The United States need to be held accountable. And they will be by the communists, socialists, independents, the sovereignists. Because while we’re busy trying to get our island up and moving; while we’re trying to become free; you’re too busy besandole el culo al gringo. They don’t need to fight us because they can just get us to fight amongst ourselves.
I had hoped my first post here would have been an introductory one, but circumstances have made it so this one is my first instead.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Puerto Rico (along with the USVI and other Caribbean islands) were devastated by Maria. Northeastern Puerto Rico was recovering from Irma which hit them two weeks prior. This time, however, all of Puerto Rico was hit.
You’ve probably never heard of Cabo Rojo. That’s because most people are only aware of our capital, San Juan, and the surrounding metro area. Which is understandable but in cases like these, Cabo Rojo and the rest of southwestern Puerto Rico gets forgotten. Joyuda and Puerto Real are coastal communities in Cabo Rojo and many homes and businesses were wiped out due to Maria. Since Cabo Rojo is more rural and isolated some places are still without power, water and food is becoming scarce. Over 50% of Cabo Rojo’s wooden houses were destroyed.
I’m writing this today to ask for your help. My grandma and older brother live in Cabo Rojo. After Maria hit, I didn’t hear from my family for almost a week. After what seemed like the longest 6 days of my life, I finally got through to my brother. During the storm, grandma fell and broke her hip. She is 80 and in declining health. She needs surgery. My brother is my grandma’s sole caretaker and he needs help. Puerto Rico was already in a precarious situation before the storm and things for my family and many others will only get worse. I originally started the fundraiser so I’d have something to send once I knew what help was needed. However, now this money will go to medical bills as well. My mother is going to Puerto Rico to help and figure out what we’ll do. I suspect that grandma will need to come over here for her care. Our town is without power; the hospital she’s in running on a generator. More information can be found here:
So, let me tell you a little about my hometown:
Cabo Rojo translates to Red Cape, its name derived from the reddish color of Las Salinas; the salt flats. According to local legend, our town got its name from Cristóbal Colón (you know him as Christopher Columbus). Cabo Rojo is home to the Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge and Los Morrillos Lighthouse , known locally as El Faro, which was first lit in 1882.
Some famous Caborrojeños include:
Ramón Emeterio Betances (April 8, 1827 – September 16, 1898)
Doctor, surgeon, abolitionist, poet and diplomat, he was called El Padre de la Patria and El Padre de los Pobres. Along with these he was also considered the Father of the Puerto Rican Independence movement, because he was one of the instigators of El Grito de Lares, the first revolution against Spanish colonial rule.
Salvador Brau y Asencio (January 11, 1842 – November 5, 1912)
Brau y Asencio was a journalist, novelist and sociologist. He was named Commissioner for the Provincial Deputation so moved to Spain to investigate more about Puerto Rico’s history. It was there he uncovered several writings concerning the Taíno people, their way of life and how harshly they were treated by Spanish settlers. Eventually he would be named Puerto Rico’s official historian by American-appointed governor William Henry Hunt.
Rebekah Colberg (December 25, 1918 – July 8, 1995)
One of my favorite historical women, Dr. Colberg broke barriers and won gold in discus and javelin throwing at the 1938 Central American and Caribbean Games. In the games celebrated in 1946 she won gold in softball. While attending Columbia University, she was part of the school’s field hockey and lacrosse championship teams. For her contribution to sports she would eventually be considered the Mother of Women’s Sports in Puerto Rico.
Cabo Rojo boasts many beaches, including El Combate (The Battle) so named for a fight between Caborrojeños and the people from the neighboring town of Lajas. It was in that fight that Caborrojeños earned the nickname “mata con hacha” (kills with axes) because they wielded axes as weapons. Along with El Combate beach, there’s Buye, La Playuela and my favorite Boquerón.
To end this, I ask you to please continue putting pressure on your representatives to ask the federal government to do more for Puerto Rico, now and in the weeks and months to come. The United States has a moral and ethical duty to Puerto Rico. Donate time and money if able to reputable charities. Check on your Puerto Rican friends.
Please help me help my grandma. I love her dearly and haven’t seen her in 3 years and all I want is for her to be taken care of. I can make sure that happens but I need your help. Thank you.
They said the people who supported him were fringe elements, just a bunch of extremists without popular support. Rabble-rousers making up the audience of beer halls; a bunch of drunk fools getting into trouble. Just a bunch of children.
His book was a bestseller.
His explicit hate and racism was said to be just for show. Not genuine, but just a way to gain the masses trust and attention. Interesting how no one considered what the fact that such hate would gain the trust of the masses actually meant.
No one thought he would make it very far in politics. He was a joke. There was no way he would actually win.
When he did, the whole world looked at the electors in shock, confusion, and a sense of horror. No one thought he would win.
Even after he won, no one thought he was really a threat. No one believed that he would actually manage to achieve his horrifying promises. It was all just rhetoric they said. He was too incompetent. He was too weak.
When armed resistances started up, protesting and threatening violence against any who spoke against him, it was excused as the childish antics of angry young men. Not a representation of what they really thought, but just a manifestation of the anger they felt at being disenfranchised by bad economic times.
The rise in vandalism and violence was excused as childish antics and not an indication of how they really felt.
The world mocked him. Comedians at the time drew attention creating caricatures of him as a bumbling angry clown with a funny appearance.