Bear Witness

Today I find myself thinking about my childhood, not unlike a lot of days honestly. I like to think back to what it was like for me growing up, the childhood I had. So much of what I remember brings me joy. Remembering the feeling of being a little kid surrounded by love and support and understanding.

Those aren’t just memories of my childhood though. They’re my lived reality to this day. My support system is strong and far reaching. I’m surrounded by people who love me and want the best for me. And when I feel like I’m not being understood, I know there are people in my life who will listen and try to connect with me the best they can.

This probably sounds like a given to many of you reading this, at least I hope it does. This is the childhood, this is the life, that everyone ddeserves, and that’s what makes today so difficult. Today is the Disability Day Of Mourning, a day when disabled people the world over remember those in our community whose lives were cut short, taken from them simply because they were disabled.

Today I not only think about myself, I think about my best friend from church camp, some of my first friends at preschool, my disabled students group from college. I think about my disabled family and friends and their disabled loved ones. I think about the disabled teachers and counselors, school nurses and other professionals I’ve known. I think about my disabled mentors and elders who I look up to and aspire to be like every day. So many disabled people, each one with a life worth living.

In thinking about each of these people, I’m even more saddened by the knowledge that for each one there are hundreds, thousands of others who never got that chance at living life to the fullest. That chance was taken from them either by a caregiver, someone they put their trust in, or by someone else close to them. Still others are killed by complete strangers. But regardless of whether it is a parent killing a child, murder of a spouse, or the killer was unknown, the point is the same. Every day disabled people are murdered simply due to the fact that their lives are seen as less than.

These “mercy killings” as they so often get labeled are see as a benevolent end to the suffering disabled people experience. But what fails to get taken into account isn’t whether or not the person was suffering to any degree, it’s did they have a life apart from whatever suffering they may or may not have experienced. Did they have hobbies, dreams, goals? Did they have friends and family that they loved and who loved them? What was their favorite color, their happiest memory?

These aren’t questions that get considered or cared about because the fact that a person happens to be disabled is apparently tantamount to them deserving death. It is this level of Ableism that myself and other disabled people, self proclaimed activists or no, face and fight every day.

This day matters because we matter and because those who are no longer here mattered. This is why we are dedicated to preserving the memory of our disabled siblings and predecessors. It is why we refuse to back down in the face of constant hatred, abuse and outright willful ignorance, because each and every disabled person’s life matters.

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