Our election is done. When voting many people reflected on the first time they voted. The first time I voted was in 1992 for Bill Clinton. Soon after he was elected, I was diagnosed with MS. I don't remember much from that time other than going to the doctor a lot, but I do remember that was my first vote.
This election cycle has been much different. I wonder the elements were the same but if I was in the middle of college now with doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with me, if I would have been invested in this election at all. I really wonder.
Back in 1992, my only issue really was that I couldn't run, walking was sometimes difficult, and I slept 10-11 hours a night because I was exhausted.
This election cycle was different because permission was given to show hatred to many groups of people, including people with disabilities. Right now people are saying we need to move on to acceptance, that we need to be positive, that we need to address inclusion by speaking out and with our actions, and the list continues. And I am not there. This is not one of my positive posts. But I feel the need to write it so someday I can look back and see how I felt - so others can look back and see feelings that were out there perhaps.
After permission was given to mock people with disabilities, things started to change. I use the accessible parking spots. More noticeably in the past few months people have parked in those spots as drop-off spots, or just parked there because they felt like it, without a disability hangtag or license plate. There has been an increase in the number of times this occurs, but also in how people react. Several times when I have got my wheelchair out, people who were parked in those spots just looked at me as if to say, "you can't do anything if I park here." And that is just wrong.
There are also many people who are nice. People who know me know I like to be as independent as possible and generally leave me alone when I am navigating things. People near where I work, who use the bank in the building where I work and thus do not know me, always want to help. The other day a guy was coming toward my car as I was standing up from my wheelchair. He just grabbed it and asked how I wanted it put in the car. On occasional days, this does not bother me. In fact, that day I didn't feel like putting Nemo, the wheelchair, in my car, so it was great what he did.
With the behavior concerning the parking spots, there is other strange behavior that makes me feel uneasy and is hard to describe. With the election done, I am left feeling unsafe and vulnerable. I want people to understand that many people feel this way and while we would like to move on and work toward inclusion, at the same time we feel we must be invisible. Doing these things together does not work well. So I am left with invisible. I want to crawl in a hole.
A candidate moves forward and becomes president. Nothing may happen between him and people with disabilities. What is so troublesome is knowing that a large group of people followed this person and were given permission to behave in ways that make people like me feel unsafe. What is so disheartening is knowing a large number of people accepted that. And that is where I get stuck.
I suppose by writing this blog I am working toward being inclusive, even though I am going to say I feel a bit scared in writing it. You see, threatening language by supporters of our next president told me "you are just afraid that he is going to kill all of you." No, that is not it. I not afraid of him. I am afraid of the people who made such mean-spirited comments who have been given permission to do so. And I don't know how to go forward from there.
The good news is that I continue to walk more, I continue to do things I could not do for a long time, I can write with a pencil. And I want to stay on this track. So maybe I stay in my bubble and focus on the things I can control, knowing that God is with me through it all.
But please look out for us during this time - not just people with disabilities, but also so many other minority groups that are marginalized. Do not expect us to get to acceptance. I suppose grace enters there.