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To Those Who Write Off People With Health Conditions During the Pandemic

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Disabled. Invalid. Crippled. Weak. Lame. Incapable. Homebound. Broken. Discarded.

Look carefully over this list of words. Now, consider that one in four Americans are dealing with some sort of condition that significantly impacts their ability to live “normal” lives. Language matters. See how quickly we progress from “disabled” to “useless?”

I am angry. I am dismayed. I am hurt. And I’m tired. I have a very limited amount of energy, and I am done wasting it on people and places that are so willing to dismiss and discard me and others like me. So I’m asking you, please, just hear me for a moment — while I have the energy to say this — and consider the cost of your words and your actions.

When you say so flippantly that people who are “at risk” should just shut up and stay home, do you realize what you’re telling me? That I don’t matter. That I don’t deserve to be able to participate in society. That I am inconvenient for you and should just stay out of your way, instead of asking you to help make this world one in which I can live — fully and safely.

When the school district tells my family that we must choose between my daughter getting the education she has worked so hard to earn, or keeping her alive, they are telling us very loudly that she doesn’t deserve to be invested in or accommodated. Please understand that we are not “choosing” online school — it is the only option that keeps her safe, and potentially the only one that keeps her alive. Would you honestly consider that a choice? She will lose out on her advanced classes, foreign language and electives, and derail the path she’s carefully plotted out for her high school education — but she’ll be alive.

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When you post on social media that we can’t spend our lives in fear, and we have to get back to “normal,” you are telling me that you’re sick of working together to keep us safe. You are tired of the accessible options that opened up to include everyone, and you’d rather wipe us out and erase our existence than to have to sit through one more Zoom meeting or (heaven forbid) wear a mask to Walmart.

Maybe you feel defensive about my words. Maybe you are angry at my accusations. That’s fair. So help me understand. My daughter is 15, and she is bright and brilliant and has so much to offer this world — her music, her words, her creativity, her perspective. And she is so determined to not let her health issues become the stumbling block that holds those things back from a world that deserves that contribution. I would contend that anyone who knows me has benefitted from my words, from my art, from my insight. So why, then, is our society so willing to write us off as useless, just because we have physical impairments that mean we have to navigate this world differently?

When the pandemic first hit, we proved very quickly that we have the technology and means to be an incredibly inclusive world. Doors opened for us that have always been a distant dream. And now those doors are slamming shut in our faces, stunning us with breathtaking cruelty and dismissive righteousness. Your “rights” are being treated as more important than our lives. Your freedom to act without consequence is regarded as worth fighting for, but our needs to be part of society are kicked to the curb.

Help me understand. Because I truly cannot grasp the reasoning here.

Getty photo by image source.

Originally published: August 16, 2020
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