I have relied on accommodations all my life from kindergarten to the halls of academe. I can count on one hand the times a simple request was treated with courtesy, understanding, and warmth not to mention efficiency. When I write about ableism, whether in the academy or on a common bus, I’m pointing to the fact that hostility to the disabled is rife, both in the United States and abroad. As I grow older—I’ll be 63 in March—I’m seeing how effective neoliberalism has been at creating systemic structures that make it harder for the disabled to live, and yes, this translates intersectionally across historically marginalized differences. This is hardly news to those of us who live in coverts of fragile identity, but one feels the need to keep typing. This morning I’ve awakened to see the GOP is trying to tie Medicaid to new work initiatives—a thing so heinous I can’t find the proper analogy for it—one pictures a plutocrat dangling medicine on a string before an elderly woman with a wheelchair—“C’mon, if you want this, stand up!”
When in the service of cruelty the powerful initiate stumbling blocks for the weakest and count themselves “prudent” and “efficient” one must remember that the role of democratic government is to assure the common good of the people. The only way to rationalize an opposing opinion is to say that many lives don’t matter echoing Hitler’s famous characterization of the disabled as “useless eaters.”
I am angry today. At 63 I’ve come to realize I’ve entered a doubly abject cohort—I’m disabled and old. I’m lucky because I have a job, at least for a little while longer. If all goes well I’ll get to appear useful for a few more years. But when I’m older, blinder, more inform, will I have to leap for a string? Will my job be crawling across the floor for amusement?
This morning it’s starting to look that way.