Whenever topics surrounding social justice come up, it’s not uncommon for certain phrases or responses to come up again and again. Although the specific wording might vary, the phrases share similar characteristics in common: they’re dismissive and are meant to shut down the conversation without acknowledging any need or responsibility for solving the problem under discussion. It’s not uncommon for otherwise well-meaning people to use these specious phrases because of fundamentally flawed initial assumptions.
I was driving along in the car with my dad, listening to the news on the radio, when the sign in front of the Legion building usually considered the Polish Legion, caught my eye:
“Lest We Forget”
Like most Canadians, I’ve seen or heard this phrase over a hundred times, especially at this time of year. It’s the phrase that goes along with the bright red poppies that will be adorning people’s coats in the next few days as we approach Remembrance Day.
Formerly Armistice Day, the date marks the official end of the First Word War when the armistice was signed on November 11 at 11 am. Since then it has come to be a memorial to all the wars fought since then and a remembrance of all the blood that was spilled in armed conflict. It is a remembrance of all the victims of the wars, of the suffering, and of the terrible price that was paid in human life. Over the years, as veterans of the First World War died off, it became more of a remembrance of the Second World War, and with it, the Holocaust.
Lest we forget.
For all that I’ve seen the words countless times, on this particular occasion, they hit me pretty hard.
The news for the last few years has been like one punch to the stomach after another. It practically reads like an American parody of Nazi Germany: children stolen from their parents, people locked up in unsuitable conditions, increasing harassment and vigilance of the other, the attempt at erasing trans people from the law and from public record, targeted acts of violence and hate, every day seems to bring with it a new horror, a new tragedy.
Just this past week, the deadliest attack against Jewish people on American soil took place. The next day or so, another white supremacist tried to shoot up a black church and when he couldn’t instead shot at black people entering a store.
People readily identifying as and with Nazis, while people claiming to be left-wing or reasonable, defend their right to do so without fear of punishment.
Every day there is one message that comes through loud and clear…
We have forgotten.
CW: Discussion of Racism, Brock Turner, Abuse, Assault.
There is this concept that I was taught growing up Catholic. It’s basically this: in order to actually earn god’s forgiveness during the sacrament of confession, it wasn’t enough to simply perform a recitation of your sins. You had to truly be sorry which meant not only regretting having done it or “feeling bad”, but acknowledging and accepting that what you had done was wrong, as well as a determination to do what you could to not repeat the sin. Without these elements, one could not actually receive absolution – supernatural forgiveness.
I disagree with a LOT of Catholic doctrine and policies, not to mention the acts of the church itself, but there is a lesson in this concept, which when removed from its religious entanglements, has a lot of relevance to our modern society. It’s one, ironically enough, that many Catholics themselves forget as well.
Too often, we as a society act as though people are entitled to forgiveness, especially if they say that they’re sorry or demonstrate some sort of bad feeling about what they’ve done. Too often, the mental and emotional labour of a given conflict is forced on the injured party.
Despite having been the one initially harmed by the interaction or inciting event, the onus is still on the victim to solve the conflict through a demonstration of forgiveness, often while the initial harm remains unacknowledged or outright ignored in favour of prioritizing the transgressor’s bad feeling. Beyond that, there is this sentiment that even acknowledging that hurt was done, or in any way bringing up the result of the transgression is treated as an unfair attack on the inciting person.
College Humour made a humorous sketch video showing what is meant to be a hyperbolic example of this in a situation where a white man makes a racist joke “by accident” to a woman of colour during what appears to be a work party.
For all the various experiences I’ve had as a disabled person, a long distance move is a relatively new one. I’m lucky in a lot of ways because the place I’ve moved to isn’t completely new. Although it has been 13 years since I’ve lived here, my parents have been here that whole time. As a result, I have access to certain resources that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. Among these resources is faster access to a family doctor – the same one that has served my family since I was a kid.
I’m lucky because that’s not the case for most people. There is currently a pretty significant shortage of Family Doctors or General Practicioners as they’re sometimes called. Your GP is meant to be the point person of your medical care. They’re responsible for managing the big picture of your overall health – receiving updates from all your specialists, all test results, providing referrals to specialists, and in many cases managing the vast majority of your prescriptions.
As part of my move, I had to transfer my prescriptions from Ottawa to here. Since I was using the same chain of pharmacies, I didn’t much foresee a problem. That’s because I didn’t know about a law that prevents pharmacies from transferring prescriptions that are categorized as narcotics. It’s part of the ongoing war on patients masquerading as the various wars on drugs. The problem is that narcotics are the recognized treatment for a variety of different conditions including ADHD. If I needed a refill of my medication, in this case Vyvanse, I would need to find a family doctor and get a brand new prescription.
The problem is that plastic straws are necessary for the survival of people with certain disabilities. Necessary for Survival. Without them People Will Die.
I wish I could say that that statement marked the end of the matter and the question of whether or not it is worth proceeding. Instead, what’s followed is endless weeks and arguments about whether we’re really sure that’s we will really actually die, and don’t we know that that doesn’t really happen.
While I’m not one of the people directly affected by this ban, I say we because while the specifics here don’t apply to me, I recognize all too well ALL of the arguments that showed up during the debates. They’re the same arguments I’ve faced whenever the subject of any disability accommodation comes up. These same themes form many of the backbones of systemic ableism. They are the arguments that are essentially used to excuse banning people from immigration on the basis of disability, the arguments against raising disability support payments, putting together socialized pharmacy care, building accessible housing, providing easy accessibility, and so on and so forth.
CN: mentions of suicidal ideation
For the last little while, I’ve been struggling quite a bit. I’ve been trying desperately to fix the situation I was left in last year. I’ve been just barely getting by with help from friends, by taking out more debt, and by surviving off of stores I’ve had sitting by just in case.
Rather than getting any easier however, things have just been getting worse. My roommate had to move to BC for work and while I was able to find someone to take over his room, the rental agency had issues with him replacing my former roommate on the lease. I couldn’t very well leave my old roommates name on it, and my own financial situation means they are not willing to have it be in my name alone.
As such, I had to give my notice for the end of summer.
I knew the rental situation in Ottawa had gotten worse in the years I’ve been living at this place, but even so I was unprepared for the reality I am facing. The rent costs have skyrocketed to such a point, where $300 over what disability considers a reasonable housing allotment gets me a room in a house with six other people, and I can forget about the house being accessible, meaning I have no idea what to do with my wheelchair, let alone how to be able to live in a place I can’t physically navigate.
Essentially, the way things stand right now, at the end of August I am homeless.
Someone carves a swastika into a school desk or draws one inside a textbook. They don’t understand the symbolism. They don’t understand the horror, the pain, the death, that was brought about as a result of that symbol. They’re just trying to be edgy.
Youth of all stripes make the news when they joke at doing the Nazi salute or dress up in Nazi costumes, even those in the public eye like Prince Harry take their turn at parading around the costume. To them it’s just a joke. They never experienced what it was like to face a world where Nazis didn’t just exist, but wielded terrifying power.
It isn’t long before comment sections explode with the use of racial slurs. Words that were considered egregious social faux-pas are used like common expletives. They’re just kids enjoying the power of anonymity. They’re basement dwellers making themselves feel better by pretending to more power than they have and living fantasies of superiority.
CN: Discussion of Statistics in relations to disability, other social issues, sexual assault, and abuse.
There are times when I am talking to someone about my life- about the fact that I’m scared of new proposed laws making it harder for me to survive in Ontario, or about how I’m one particularly unlucky day away from being homeless – when I get the feeling like the person I’m talking to thinks I’m exaggerating. They get this look on their faces that makes it clear they’re just humoring me by not pointing out how ridiculous I’m being. Meanwhile, I’m already minimizing how severe my situation is out of fear of being accused of exaggerating. Worse still, my circumstances are relatively minor compared to that of many of my friends and readers.
When they don’t automatically dismiss what I’m saying as being hyperbole, the people I speak with assume that my case is rare – an exception. A circumstance not worthy of planning against because it’s unlikely to happen again. And yet? Every day I meet someone new in the same type of situation I find myself in. It’s become so textbook, some people look at me as though I’m performing magic when I manage to guess the ridiculous circumstances they find themselves in or repeat almost verbatim what they’ve heard from doctors, therapists, or other people.
It’s a matter of framing, of perspective.
To someone in the mainstream, what is happening to me must be the result of either something I did wrong, or something extremely rare, or impossible. It seems like the probability of all the things going wrong that go wrong happening seem impossible.
What are the chances that every relationship you’ve been in is abusive?
What are the chances that so many of your doctors end up incompetent? That so many doctors end up holding biased opinions?
What are the chances that everyone around you is so terrible? Doesn’t it seem more likely that you are the problem? Statistically speaking that is?
Echar pa’lante is a saying which means ” keep moving forward”.
Just six months have passed since Maria devastated the Caribbean. I wrote about my hometown in Puerto Rico and about my grandma. I wrote in the hopes of educating people who may not be as familiar with Puerto Rico other than knowing about the capital, San Juan. I wrote it in the hopes of getting help for my grandma.
Six months later and the island is still recovering; still struggling.
Last year Matter released a new line of Barbies with different body types. I’ve written reviews for Tall and Curvy. Petite will come shortly (pun not intended but appreciated).
Just in time for the holiday season of 2017, Mattel released new body types, skin tones and hair styles for Ken. There’s the Original, Slim and the one in this review, Broad.