Sunday, February 8, 2015

Blog 3 - Thoughts after FDR class / discussion

First off, I realized that I lose my train of though (sometimes) when making posts like this.  So, it is quite possible I might ramble or jump from topic to topic or idea to idea.  Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile process and exercise for thinking about everything.  My apologies.

Now, I think what drives this issue for me and makes me get lost in my own thoughts sometimes is something good that was mentioned in class.  I recall Prof. Peace mentioning that he wants everyone to be uncomfortable about how disability is perceived and represented now and in its history.  I agree and believe that this un-comfortableness really can provide the fuel for moving toward understanding and breaking down ableism.  However, this is not to say that such a process is quick and simple.  Understanding is really where that has to start, and where the un-comfortableness will come in.

The uncomfortableness comes in various ways as well.  It might be by realizing something you've done or believed personally, now and/or in the past.  It might be that "oh my god" factor when you think about something, or witness something, or read particular narrative related to disability.  It might even be contradiction.  Sometimes things just don't make sense, like most "isms" I think, which is evidence of them just being wrong.

Before I get to lost in my thoughts and ramblings, I'd like to think a bit more about representations of disability.  One of the things that makes me uncomfortable, and I haven't figured out how to dissect the way I should handle it involves an event that I've supported in some capacity over the years.  The event is for a young man who was paralyzed playing sports.

I witnessed this young mans injury as it happened, and his road to recovery  has been well documented.  His journey is so well documented, and in fact, he is somewhat of a celebrity now.  His story is certainly on the high level of the traditional inspiration narrative.

To try and relate this to class as best I can, I remember Prof. Peace mentioning Erving Goffman's work on passing.  I am not too familiar with that particular aspect of his work, but I've had some exposure (minor) to his work on identity and performance.  FDR, as we saw, put on one heck a a performance in the way he and the people around managed his image.  We spoke about how everyone knew the truth, but no one said anything.  I've been wondering how much of this has to do with him fitting into or playing a role that the general public is "comfortable" with.

It seemed that while everyone knew about FDR's condition, he fit into that "fighter" category– as in one who wouldn't give up and/or would "overcome" the challenges in front of him.  What this leads me to is a consideration of how I don't think I know anyone who is considered a person with a disability who has a celebrity status, unless he or she is playing that sort of role.  The young man I mentioned earlier has been on TV, he has received awards, and he documents his "grind" all over social media.

There are several events a year to support his cause.  His hope is to return to the place of his injury, one day, and get up and walk away from it.  This young man is an icon in my local community and has been a major symbol of one of my favorite institutions.  But as I learn more, I become more troubled with how I should handle my affiliation and attraction to this person and the events.  In one class, Prof. Peace mentioned that one famous person and his organization set the disability rights movement back about 20 years.  Unfortunately, this person I am speaking about is affiliated with that organization– there is my personal dilemma.

I know we can try to educate and discuss matters, but would an actual advocate boycott these types of events, or even protest them?  Is there a way to not be so extreme on each side?  Do these questions sound like bullish!t to someone who is marginalized on a daily basis?  Can any good come from these types of events or organizations?  Is this why there is a disconnect between scholarship and advocacy?  These are the questions that come into my mind, and where I start to lose my thoughts and get a little uncomfortable.

What happens this year when the phone call comes to register for these events?

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