In case you didn’t already know, I have a degenerative illness that will probably mean that I will be in a wheelchair before I die. I already need a walking stick to get around. I have a car that is modified so I don’t have to use my feet (it has a kinda joystick thing to do the accelerating and braking, but when I asked for the lasers and rocket launchers… they looked at me like I was a twat). I am officially disabled. I have a card with my name on to prove it. I’ve also got a cripple bus pass.
Tonight, the subject was raised in the pub. Ok, they had kinda spotted the cripple thing. The stick was a hint, but the way I unsubtly hassle people to give up a stool at the bar for a cripple may be the clincher (invariably, the cripple in question was me… in case you thought I was altruistic). The matter raised was the bus pass.
In the UK, cripples (or using PC speak… disabled people) get a free bus pass. But it is not valid for all the busses. It has a cut off time. So if I’m having a night out, I have to leave earlier than people who are catching the bus to the same place as me. I know. An injustice. It’s not like the bus fare goes up for those later buses.
Tonight was not the first time that this prejudice (in my opinion) has been brought to the attention of people I have been drinking with. The general resulting conversation goes something similar to this…
“But, that is wrong!”
“Yeah, I know.”
“No… Seriously… That is wrong!”
“Um, yeah. I know.”
“Someone should do something about it. They can’t discriminate against the disabled like this! I am disgusted by the way less able people are discriminated against…”
(This is where I tend to tune out the vitriol).
I valiantly resist the urge to interrupt their well meaning rant with, “Go on then… Stand up and fight our corner. What? You think that I and others like me haven’t shouted about the injustice of an enforced curfew on those of us that can’t walk right? You think that because we have problems standing up that we also have problems expressing our feelings and minds? Because we are less able in some things that we are less able in all things? Don’t sit their ranting about injustice and that someone should do something about it. Do something, or shut the fuck up! Otherwise you are belittling the efforts of those who have tried, and got nowhere!”
My opinion? Empathise and sympathise (if you do). But don’t bang on about it, wax lyrical or rant on a subject that you (probably) know nothing about. It is the life of the person that brought the issue to your attention. And they almost certainly just brought it up in passing. Before you go off on one, consider how much of a cunt you will make them feel by shouting about the injustice that is their daily life.
You may feel that you have shown how caring you are, for the next ten minutes before you get distracted by another topic. But the person who probably made a passing comment about their life, which got turned into a topic of conversation and a rant, has to live with the fact that a daily hardship has just been turned into ‘Shakespearian – Once more unto the breach’ overture.
OK, this is a rather minor example of the shit that some people have to live with. There is much bigger shit that both I and others have to deal with every day. And we have kinda got used to dealing. Yeah, it does occasionally come up in conversation. But (most of the time) we really don’t want it to become a crusade.
So unless you are damn sure that everyone concerned is trying to raise an issue and promote action, I would advise that you simply go with ‘Shit. That sucks!’, looking concerned about the issue for a couple of minutes… And maybe a hug if they look particularly unhappy (although a hug anyway is generally well received).
[Addendum – For any of you that may be jumping up and down shouting that I can’t use the word ‘cripple’. I can call myself whatever the hell I like. I can call myself a ‘skinny ginger doucheburger’ if I want. But it doesn’t mean that I won’t punch someone else who calls me that.]