My neighbour just put up a fence. I'm a little sorry to see it, though. Every morning, I would sit at the kitchen table, coffee cup in hand, while deer, wild turkeys, and other wildlife strolled, unimpeded, through the neighbourhood. For the first time in years, the binoculars and camera weren't gathering dust on a closet shelf.
But I need to be realistic: cattle will soon share this land, and I see the value of keeping them safely penned in, while keeping out unwanted visitors, such as our overly inquisitive Golden Retriever. The cattle will have plenty of room to roam, and I won't have to spend many nail-biting hours fretting over the garden we've been carefully cultivating all summer.
Besides, our neighbour went to a lot of trouble to make the fence aesthetically pleasing, not just functional.
But what about the fences we erect to keep people effectively locked out of our communities? There are plenty of subtle, and not so subtle, ways of keeping 'unwanted visitors' out of the mainstream pool. Like perpetuating negative stereotypes of groups of people, for example.
I was reading an entry from Barriers, Bridges and Books, an excellent blog on disability advocacy and cultural change. For the last couple of weeks, the author has been discussing the importance of the disability community coming together as a whole, with one voice, in response to a "movie coming out this August called Tropic Thunder that bandies the R-word all over the place and describes the experience of having an intellectual disability as being "moronic, stupid, dumb and imbecilic.""
We've come a long way, baby, but in 2008, a big-budget comedy is still attempting to keep the intellectually disabled 'in their place'.
But what, exactly, is that place?
As the author pointed out, "An actor does NOT have to accept stupidity, being a total imbecile, etc. from themselves to portray someone with a cognitive disability. This is NOT what it is like to have a disability."
Someone once said, "The walls we build around us to keep out the sadness also keep out the joy." But isn't there a happy medium? Don't we need boundaries, both within ourselves as well as in society?
Boundaries are necessary, but they shouldn't be used to fence people in. Particularly when the people are being treated like cattle and systematically herded into a no-man's land of ridicule, indifference, and social isolation.