Giving Thanks/Devaluing Lives


There was a weird thing I noticed in my facebook newsfeed on Thanksgiving: tons of posts where people gave thanks for their good health. Good health is not a *bad* thing, and I’m glad that my friends are feeling well, but I couldn’t help but notice the tone and the implication(s). Often, the statuses were along the lines of “everything is pretty shitty but ya know, at least I have my health.” This implies that if the health were to go, things would leave the realm of “pretty shitty” and enter “unimaginable horror.” Or maybe I’m reading too much into things. But regardless, these statuses definitely have one pretty obvious implication: a life without good/perfect/ideal health is significantly worse.

Hmm. How do we feel about that, Internet? I don’t feel so good about that. It makes me think of the way sometimes someone will ask me “how are you feeling?” and if I say “good,” they get this look in their eye like oh, you poor poor dear. This look says some combination of a) you must be putting a brave face on it! b) you must be lying c) I feel so sorry for you! and d) you really don’t know the meaning of the word “good” anymore, huh? Or, possibly, the ever-present e) all of the above. And sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re ballsy and follow up with “no, really, you can tell me,” and often they’re wrong.

Because sometimes I actually do feel good. Sometimes people who have less-than-perfect health wake up feeling good or perfectly fine. And no, thanks, it’s not some downgraded version of perfectly fine, it’s the same perfectly fine (for a lot of us, anyway).

So basically, to get to the point: this is ableism. Straight-up garden-variety ableism. The belief that a disabled or sick life is always worse, always less enjoyable (if it’s enjoyable at all), always worth less, sometimes so bad you should maybe just end it, that belief is discrimination against disabled people. And sick people. And fun people like me who are sickly disabled (lolz) (I just made up that non-term and it was super fun).

I don’t want to add to the noise (and there is a lot of noise on the internet right now trying to drown out what we should really be listening to) (by which I mean all the amazing and necessary writing and news about racism/Ferguson) (the links I have provided are only a few of the many things you should be reading on these topics, and if you have time to read this blog post, you most certainly have time to read about Ferguson as well) but I also can’t help but think that any time we allow a human life to be devalued, we allow things to get worse. And every day when I check the news, it seems like things (everything! racism, rape culture, ableism, and all of it personal as well as systemic) are getting worse.

[and ableism in the world is already doing really bad things. Disabled kids are getting killed by their parents. The media is perpetuating the narrative that a parent killing their disabled child is somehow understandable, or asking us to take a look at the parent’s side of things in cases of attempted murder. Things are really really not good out there in the world]

So I don’t want this to get worse too. I want you to know a lot of things instead. Here are some of those things.

1. My life is not worth less than yours.
2. I have a lot to be thankful for. I could do a whole list! But instead I’m doing this list.
3. Because disabled people can also internalize ableism, I am shamefully thankful for my “health” and my ability to pass as a healthy/non-disabled person.
4. Please think about your words! Words that you only mean as a comment on *your own personal* current situation can be read by *other human beings* and taken to have broader meaning. Because they do have broader meaning! It is very likely that you are writing “at least I have my health!” because society told you to value your able-bodied-ness above all else, and you should begin to realize that, much like racism and misogyny and classism and all our -isms, ableism is not acceptable and needs to be discussed/deconstructed/no longer tolerated. Please take note of ableism in everyday life and do what you can to combat it.
5. This is also applicable to other things! When you write “at least I’m not [insert “bad” thing here, like being homeless or starving or unemployed or fat]!” that devalues the lives of people who are those things/are in those situations.
6. For your own personal mental health: know that human beings are super strong things and even if you are/were disabled or poor or female or homeless or fat or ugly or starving or any other “non-desirable” quality (thanks, society) you are/would still be alive and that’s pretty exciting. You might even feel good some days. Also you could just blame society because all of this is society’s fault. Ugh, society, right? And then because humans can take action instead of just sitting around blaming society, you could write about things online or go to protests or petition legislators or become a legislator or find some other awesome way to change things. Go do that.

Fuck the white heteropatriarchy! And happy Thanksgiving.

One thought on “Giving Thanks/Devaluing Lives

  1. When I read these kinds of posts I am grateful to you the writer. More posts! That would make my holiday not brighter, but maybe more in focus.

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