I thought my days of writing were behind me. I thought I was ready to just accept full retirement and kick back. I thought the community would show more “common sense” during a world-wide pandemic. However, with months of pandemic induced isolation leaving me with only my thoughts (and trust me, I’m not the kind of person to be left with their own thoughts), now is not the time to go silent, much to chagrin of many.
I should know better about thoughts, I recently “thought” a certain restaurant would have a wheelchair accessible bathroom which, as it turned out, was the “secondary store room” for cleaning materials. Do you want to know what I thought while driving home with shit in my pants? Those are the types of “micro-inequities” that strip dignity in a hurry and more reason why I need to keep speaking out.
That would be like defeat and totally deny the last fifty years of my activism. I have been an advocate for social justice most of my life and as a person with a disability you learn very early to 1. be your own best advocate or 2. you become a “product” for a growing healthcare system. I choose activism while living my life accordingly. Now that I am retired with nothing but my wheelchair and my computer I thought there has to be some “wisdom” buried in all of my life experiences so why not share them. Better than just talking to the walls, swallowing my feelings while feeling totally disconnected from the world.
Canada has a good history with “recovery economics” and I’m hoping to be able to use history and personal experience to influence future “influencer’s”. I have too many of my generational (baby-boomers) friends who just want to enjoy their retirement which they worked hard to get to. Now they want their retirement time to enjoy the years they worked so hard to achieve. I can’t hold that against them however so many of them are no longer prepared to confront the social injustices created by “privilege” (hell half the time they don’t even recognize their own privilege) let alone take a stand for many marginalized groups.
I was three years old when I contracted polio and I have spend my life fighting for the rights to be a person, not a diagnosis. Now you could say I am a victim of my own success. Besides that 90% of me that lives in a world of “normalcy” the other 10% is the activism in me that demands my attention to for “social justice”.
With that fifty years I cannot sit back now while a group of hard core hate mongering ideologists strip rights and social protections away. It is hypocritical of me to advise others not to be just keyboard warriors on Facebook but to actually reach out and make your voice heard. So here I go if I’m not prepared to do the same I can’t abandon my principles this late in life. Now is not the time to go silent. So join me, sit back, read and I will attempt to put some of this into perspective from a pandemic survivors point of view.
I grew up in the Alberta Children’s Hospital due to societal beliefs of the day that “feared” people with disabilities. We were seen as “unclean” and a health threat to the community. Society saw the diagnosis, not the person. This started to change following WW2. The community of the day realized you couldn’t reintegrate those injured veterans, those same individuals that had given so much for their country, to just have that same society turn their backs on returning veterans. Welcoming them back into the community had to be done and veterans set the course for the disabled community of the future.
The Travelled Road
We grew up believing we can turn around,
Based on the path that travels the ground,
But the path of life is a one way street,
And we must deal with the souls we meet.
There’s no turning back to change the past,
The experience we have lived forever last.
There are other souls on life’s long road,
Carrying their memories as part of their load,
We meet these souls along the way,
Some move on while others stay,
What connects us to those so near?
What divides us from those we fear?
We travel long on the road of life,
Findings our joys, surviving our strife,
Meeting new people and making new friends,
Those special few who stay till the end,
Experiences shared make us who we are,
The road of life goes on so far.
Terry Wiens – May 2006