When asked to choose between politics and friendship, I choose friendship.

[Note: There are disability slurs in this post, and I deliberately chose some of the worst ones I could think of (as well as some words that can be offensive but aren’t slurs), in order to make the point of exactly how much I will choose friendship over politics.  So don’t read it if the r-word and such are going to upset you.]

If
And only if
You have the deepest love in your heart
And the deepest respect in your bones
Then
You can call me retard
And I will not be offended

If our every interaction
Shows that your respect for me
Has deep roots
That dig into the soil
And bring up clear water
To nourish both of us

If our every interaction
Shows you serving us tea
Made of the water of life
Steeped in love
For as long as it takes

If the music of life
Makes us resonate
Down to the very bones
As if whoever made us
Made our bodies sing
In perfect harmony

Then it’s okay with me
That you talk about my disabilities
As a tragic personal obstacle
That I am brave to overcome

And it’s okay with me
That you call me words
Like retard, and cripple, and idiot savant

And I would rather spend time with you
Oh how I would rather spend time with you
Than someone who has memorized
The list of ableist words
And directed the community to shun
Anyone who says them
Especially the worst of them, retard

I would rather spend time with you
Than with the people who shun you
Gladly and openly
Happy to have a target for their anger
At an ableist world

And understand
To me the two worst words in the world
To call a human being
Are retard and vegetable
And yet I would let you call me those things
And prefer your company
To the company of some people
Who understand all too well
The destructive power of those two words

Make no mistake about it:
These are words that draw blood
They are words that kill
They are words that have already done
More killing than you could ever imagine

I don’t deny
That when you say these words
They strangle me
They threaten to leave me for dead
They draw blood
They punch me in the gut
And you are oblivious to this

But when people shun you
They are saying
“You are a bigot and I am not
Because I hide my bigotry
Better than you hide yours.”
They are saying
“I have the skills to look shiny
And you don’t
Nanny nanny boo boo
I’m the winner
Of the social game.”

Every person I have ever met
Is a bigot in some way
Every person I have ever met
Has viewpoints
That cut, that punch, that draw blood
Even that kill

The people who can hide that side of themselves
Fare better in these parts of the world
That I seem to frequent lately
They can play the social game
They can land on top
Even if they have not an ounce
Of love or respect
In their hearts
Or their bones

Nobody announces to the world
“Here comes an ableist bigot, shun them!”
Even if they are more bigoted than you
And less loving and respectful

You are one of those rare people
Who allows hard-core love
To flow through you
And influence everything you do
Who roots their every action
In respect

But you don’t just say the wrong words
You say the worst words
The words that even I agree
Are terrible, bone-crunching slurs
That rip my heart out of my chest
Still beating
Words that tell me
I may be in mortal danger

So nobody can see your love
They are too busy seeing the slurs you use
To see who you are

Yet still, I love you
I can’t help loving you
Your love and respect
Nourish both of us

I don’t ask anyone to feel sorry for you
I don’t ask anyone to excuse your bigotry
I don’t ask anyone to like the words you use

But I would ask some questions:

Why are you worse
Than the people who
Erase the word retard from their lips
But not from their hearts?

Why single you out
When every last one of us has opinions
That draw blood, that destroy
That maim, that kill?

Why target people for community shunning
Instead of looking inwards at ourselves
And our own secret bigotries
That we are loath to change?

Why do we measure people
By their ability to not do something
That signals bigotry
On a shallow level
Rather than
By their ability to do something
That signals love and respect
On a deeper level?

You have clasped your fingers
Interlocking with my fingers
And formed a connection
That stood against a hostile world

You have stood in front of me
When other people threw rocks
You have taken beatings for me
And made sure nobody forgot
Not to mess with you

You have proven to me
That I can trust you
With my life

You have proven to me
That I can trust you
With the words
That normally take my life away

Retard Vegetable Cripple Psycho Lunatic
You can say them all
And I will trust you
With these verbal weapons
Of mass destruction

I will trust you, you saying those words
Over those who would never say those words
But would never stand in front of me
To take blows that were meant entirely for me

I will trust you, you saying those words
Over those who would never say those words
But would never touch me
Much less clasp my hand in love

I will trust you, you saying those words
I will defend you, you saying those words
I will not desert you, you saying those words
I will not shun you, you saying those words

I will not participate
I will simply not participate
In the way my community treats people
Who say those words

Because there is always context
Because sometimes that context involves
Love
Self-sacrifice
Protection
Respect
Inner beauty
Connection
Community

And all of those are more important
Than words
No matter how much blood the words draw
No matter how much they hurt
No matter how much suffering and death
They may be connected to

I will not participate in social sanctions against you
I will not make it clear to every passerby that you embarrass me
I will not apologize for your behavior
I will not renounce our friendship

Maybe nobody understands
Maybe nobody needs to —
We have something
Much more deeply rooted
Than the worst slur
Could sever

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