I was out tonight with some friends and the topics of religion, affirmative action, race, and disabilities came up. I shared my feelings toward my experience with an individual whom I knew for some time who had muscular dystrophy. When I expressed that I did not like the individual and I thought him to be a rude, heartless, and manipulative person, the reaction around the table was one of shock, disbelief, and possibly disgust. It was as if I had said that I enjoyed punching babies. My attempts to explain myself were in vain. One friend said, “Awe, no, come on. He has every right in the world to be that way.” This is not the first time I have received this type of reaction when discussing such topics and I think this type of reaction is an interesting social phenomena.
In general I would say our society teaches a few things:
We must be nice to all people who are different than the proclaimed majority or ourselves.
We must not treat anyone who is different than the proclaimed majority or ourselves as if they are different.
If someone is different than yourself, physically financially, spiritually, etc, etc. it is not acceptable to express any type of dislike toward or about that individual.
I would first like to say that I do agree that it is important to make people feel included. In my daily activities and encounters I am always trying to be aware of others feelings and trying to ensure that I am being inclusive of those around me. I would also like to emphasize the fact that
I had (obviously) a very personal experience with the individual to whom I was referring. It was not my intent to persuade others to dislike the specific individual; it was only to give an example. I am not certain that I can name the example I was trying to make in a few words, but I will try and describe my position here.
I am a very genuine person. I don’t expect everyone to understand or agree with me and I don’t change things about myself to make others feel more comfortable. I also would never expect someone to do the same for me. When determining what type of person I think someone is, I evaluate his or her personality only. I don’t like people because they are tall, or thin, or intelligent, or black, or white, or Asian, or because they speak Dutch, or because they have one leg, or because they volunteer at a local shelter. I like people because they are genuine and honest about who they are, what they are doing, and how they feel about the world. The people I appreciate the most are those who are not afraid to disagree with the majority and have personal experience to support their position. I don’t believe that people should be made to feel bad or guilty that they don’t like a disable person, or a black person, or a Mexican person, or whatever type of person just because that person may or may not have had a worse time at life than themselves. I think it is less honest and more of an insult to publicly treat a person differently than I feel about them and would express to those closest to me.
The individual in question was not a nice person. I have been acquainted with this person for some time and at one point in our relationship we were very close. The longer I knew this individual the more I began to see the person’s true colors. The person was a rude, manipulative, ungrateful, hateful, nasty, spoiled, hypocritical prick. I felt more empathy for the individual’s mother, family, classmates, teachers, doctors, etc than I did fore the individual. There were moments when I could see nothing but greed in the person’s eyes. It was almost as if making “friends” and winning the favor of others was a sort of game to this person. It seemed as if the mission of the person’s life was to see how far the disability could carry the individual. These are the reasons I did not like this person. The person was exploiting the compassion, caring, empathy, guilt, morality, and sense of responsibility of others. The person knew that most people feel as if they need to share the burdens of less fortunate people in any way they can, and the person took full advantage of this and enjoyed it. It was a sport to this person—collecting as much pity as possible, feeding off of the weakest and most conforming members of society.
I don’t expect every disable person to be nice and to just be grateful that they are alive. I don’t even expect every able person to be as such. My life experience, though short, has taught me that what I think I know about people is usually incorrect. Likewise, people think they know me and know what my life has been like, but they are usually wrong. This is because I made a choice long ago to not let negative things in my life affect me negatively. I have taken the negative things in my life and tried to use them in a positive and constructive manner. Of course, this is not always so easy, and I do still have downs, but for the most part I am an incredibly happy and appreciative person. I know that this is a very personal decision and not all people choose to, or perhaps are able, to make it. All I do know is that I truly do try to boil people down to personalities and to evaluate them on that alone, especially if I will be spending any significant amount of time with them.
I am not trying to convince anyone to begin disliking disabled people. Rather, I would just like it to not be taboo to dislike people in general. It is part of the human experience to dislike people, places, and things and because of this I don’t think it should be such a social faux pas to express dislike of things that are sensitive. One should try and understand the level of dislike before assuming the disliker is harsh, evil, rude, inconsiderate, or what have you.