Friday, August 15, 2008

Don't Fence Me In

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.



Gordo said...

Human nature is to fear 'others' that are different. To fence these 'others' in ... or out ... is a long standing societal habit born of simple ignorance.

The philosophical positives espoused in this blog continue to impress. And, should be applauded, and supported, for its courage and innovation in leading along a different path to mainstream education, towards the inclusion of 'others'.

I sense the essence of Ralph Waldo Emerson's “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks, Gordo, for your insightful comments. I agree that fear is the result of simple ignorance, and this is why has made it their mission "to educate, and positively improve, mainstream social attitudes in order to make all persons with intellectual disability feel I.D.E.A.L…. Included, Deserving, Equal, Appreciated and Loved."

Another quote I like, "The humblest individual exerts some influence, either for good or evil, upon others," (Henry Ward Beecher) seems to be appropriate, under the circumstances...

Gordo said...'s I.D.E.A.L. is a truly great mission, maureen lee!

Another popular quote that seems to be appropriate, under the circumstances is "There, but for the grace of God, Go I".

A simple fall may cause a head injury to change a life forever.

'Normal' persons need to generally see themselves as, constantly, at risk by being only an instant away from becoming one of the 'others'.

Maureen Lee said...

Yes, you're right, Gordo - Acquired Brain Injury, which can be caused by serious head injuries, poisoning, brain tumours, lack of oxygen, stroke, or certain infections such as meningitis, is one form of intellectual disability.

Thank you for reminding us that just because we may not have a congenital intellectual disability does not mean we cannot acquire one at some point in our lives.

Voucher Codes said...

Your article is very close to reality.

Jennifer said...

Very touching article. And very insightful comments too! I too agree with Gordo when he says, "There, but for the grace of God, Go I". Why is it that we only reach out to those whose affliction touches us? Why is it that we only reach out to those who are close to us? Why not, recognize that any one of these people could be us!!

Yvonne said...

Maureen Lee, your always positive attitude is one of many features that make this blog such a fun and informative, good read.

"Good fences make good neighbours" and we are blessed when you show us how to see the converse can also be true. You see this unbidden fence as 'good neighbours make good fences', a nice twist on the proverbial lemon into lemonade.

More of ‘us’ need to discover that there is a whole new world on the other side of ‘our’ inner walls, with much joy for ‘us’. Far too often, ‘we’ do not seem to even be interested to see over our walls. Gordo, you ‘got it right’ that only simple ignorance is the cause.

By its outstanding example, and by educating ‘us’, is building gateways in "The walls we build around us to keep out the sadness also keep out the joy." Good on all of you. God bless.

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks Jennifer & Yvonne for your feedback. Ideal-Way will continue in its efforts to bring the intellectually disabled into the inner courts of the larger community, thereby ensuring they are a part of our community, not just in it.

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