I remember playing that game, either in school, in therapy (to improve my depth perception, with mixed results), or in waiting rooms, in those old Highlights magazines. You know the one: there’s a big picture of a room–say, a kitchen or a library–filled with items that don’t belong there. Your job becomes finding the items that don’t belong, circling them, and in most cases, crossing them off from a list at the bottom of the sheet or page. It’s a fun game.
But for people with disabilities, “what’s wrong with this picture” isn’t a game. It’s real, it’s raw, and it’s ugly. To show you what I mean, I’ve added a link to a video from Allison A. Hillman. Ms. Hillman works for Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI), and has seen things most of us have only seen in movies, on TV, or in nightmares. Click the link and take a look:
(Or, just go to youtube.com and type in Allison A. Hillman; the video is the first hit).
See what I mean?
Now, you may say, Chick, you’ve really gone off the deep end this time. That’s happening in Third World countries, not here in America. Americans know better. But do we? You guys know what time it is, right? Right–Example Time. Reality Check. Take a look at these videos: one from the ASPCA, and the other, a trailer for the movie hDolphin Tale.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=9gspElv1yvc (or type in “ASPCA Infomercial” and click on “Sarah McLaughlin Animal Cruelty Video.”)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V82taXARXhs (or click on “Dolphin Tale Trailer.”)
Do I believe we should be cruel to animals? Absolutely not. Abusing God’s creation = abusing the power He gave us to make sure they’re provided for and well-loved. Do I believe animals are unimportant? No. However, I do see massive, unacceptable irony in these clips, in that people will do everything they can to make life better for an animal. But when it comes to a person–a person–with a disability? Not so much.
You’ve heard it or seen it. When a parking space or automatic door, electric toothbrush or some other technological tool, is earmarked as “special for the handicapped,” it “costs too much” or “is too much trouble.” (Yet, when a store puts in automatic doors just to make an “upgrade,” people love it). If a teacher or administrator told you that your child without a disability had significant trouble with reading and math, and would never master either, you’d tell said teacher or administrator to take a long hike, and get your child the help they truly needed (not “special” help in a closed-off room). But when this happens to a child with a disability, they’re placed in the “special room” (which kids without disabilities often call the “retard room”), and placed on a service list so they can be “assured” of “proper placement” when they age out of special ed at age 22. If someone grabbed hold of your non-disabled child by the leg and pulled or yanked until he or she screamed and cried, you’d turn that scumbag in for child abuse. But when a therapist does it to a child with a disability, it’s considered acceptable. In fact, Kathie Snow writes that when she saw this happen to a two-year-old, the little boy’s mother snapped, “You better cooperate or I’ll spank you when we get home!”
Yet, when an animal is injured or “disabled,” we do everything we can to make sure that animal has “the best life possible”–sometimes at the animal’s expense. To get personal for a second, I’ve seen it up close. My grandmother has a dog, Cuddles, that is unfortunately paralyzed. This poor animal cannot move or even go to the bathroom without human assistance, and is clearly suffering. Yet, instead of “put it to sleep” (which was often the solution for PEOPLE with disabilities way back when), this dog has been provided with expensive physical therapies and its own wheelchair. (Yes, they make wheelchairs for dogs). ???????!!!!!!!?????
Thomas Aquinas explained this a lot better than I can. He (or maybe it was Augustine; can’t remember right now), said there was a natural order of things–a chain, if you will. The chain works like this:
Notice where humans are. “Created a little lower than angels” (Hebrews 1). That means, as beings with souls and the ability to reason, humans need “the best life possible” even more than animals do. Now, again, that doesn’t mean you should take your dog or cat and throw them against a wall. That would be cruel and ungodly. But it’s even more so when we, literally or figuratively, take humans–of any ability level–and throw them against a wall.
So, let’s find what’s wrong with the picture of the way we think, and make it right.