How Dare You?

How Dare You?

chicken soup

If you read my last column, you’re well aware that there has been some drama around Casa de Hughes over the last few weeks. I can now happily say that the situation has been resolved and we’re trying to get things back to a more normal, humane pace. (Though with two kids and summer break upon us, I use “humane” in the most liberal sense of the word!)

But right at the end of all the fracas and hubbub, I had the experience many of us know so well — the handicapped space showdown. After everything we’d been through, I was tingling and exhausted, so I decided to skip the walk across the hot parking lot to my kids’ taekwondo class and opted for the space right in front of the “kwan” (school building).

An older man was walking by, and he stopped to stare as we all got out of the car. The heat was oppressive, the first hint of the Georgia summer slowly slouching its way toward us, so I was moving pretty slowly. I huffed to try to subtly let him know I was tired, that this was no business of his, and he walked on a few paces. Then, the man turned and looked again. Again, I tried to show him I was tired, and he walked on. But he stopped a third time to watch me walk into the building, and that was it. After the week I’d had, I decided that I didn’t have to put up with the staring anymore.

I raised my voice to make sure he heard me all the way down the breezeway. “Sir,” I said, “I have multiple sclerosis and am very fatigued today. I’m only telling you because you seem so concerned.”

He tucked his head down and walked away, no further stares or conversation needed.

I don’t normally do this kind of thing, but it was just one of those weeks in which I was tired of being judged. And while I couldn’t holler back at the other folks who were making my life hard, I could stand up for myself with this man who was judging me because I don’t “look sick.” He couldn’t know everything I’d been through or how I was feeling, but he proceeded to judge anyway. I don’t think he meant to be cruel or that he even knew that what he was doing was wrong, so I tend not to dwell on such moments after they’ve passed. There’s simply nothing for it. And since I’m a proponent of dignity culture, I’m going to keep letting it go.

I recently read a fascinating interview with Bradley Campbell, associate professor of sociology at California State University, and Jason Manning, associate professor of sociology at West Virginia University, about their new book, “The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars.” In it, they discuss the three types of cultures in the West: honor, dignity, and victimhood. The difference between them has to do with “what people find offensive and how they handle their disagreements.”

Unlike honor culture, in which people are always on the lookout for slights and eager to fight to gain or regain honor, or victimhood culture, where people are “quite touchy, and always vigilant for offenses,” dignity culture sees everyone as having an inalienable moral worth that cannot be taken away.

“In dignity cultures, there is a low sensitivity to slight. People are more tolerant of insult and disagreement. Children might be taught some variant of ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.’ It’s good to have ‘thick skin,’ and people might be criticized for being too touchy and overreacting.”

I don’t want to spend my God-given days looking for slights and insults. I don’t want to waste my time seeking retribution or to regain honor. My value doesn’t come from other people after all. What they think of me matters far less than what God thinks of me. God tells me that I am beloved, that He chose me before the foundation of the world, that I am cared for and guided by His loving right hand. What does one man’s silent, disapproving stare matter in the face of all that? Not a damned thing.

Yes, I have dignity. But so does he. So do you. Everyone around us does as well. Too often, we lose sight of that, and perhaps — just perhaps — that’s why the world is such a mess these days. Maybe if we started viewing each other as dignity-filled, wonderful creations, we’d stop caring so much about parking spaces and slights and would be free to love one another well. Let it begin with us.

***

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

12 comments

  1. Deirdre Cupples says:

    Hi after reading this, it made think of my friend who has MS. Now they like not to place a label on themselves, so they like to live their life as normal as possible, but this cam be hard in today’s society. The judgemental views on other people is so diverse, especially younger people who have a disability that is not visable. I myself have Rheumatoid arthritis, at 45. I get elderly people staring at me for parking in disabled spaces even though I have a disabled badge to show I am registered disabled. This makes me angry inside but I never say anything to them, for I was brought up to respect your elders. This story has made me think,they are not respecting me, by judging my invisible disabilty. So whether you have RA, MS or any other condition that is not visible, stand up for yourself.

    • Jamie Hughes says:

      There’s a time and a place for it certainly. People need to be aware that not everyone lives and looks like them. Kindness…always kindness.

  2. "Aunt Jane" Harmon, OTR, retired says:

    Amen, Sister…and amen to Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, too. As we move further away from the dignity culture we must not only recognize the problem but plant our feet firmly on the dignity culture. Once so grounded it becomes continually easier to carry out the job of educator to the world.

    I am a huge fan of Nextdoor.com, a private website for neighbors in their neighborhoods (available currently in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, France and Germany, and spreading). We laugh at the realization that if you go out wearing a Nextdoor t-shirt, you’d better not be in a hurry! People either want to know what it is or have a story to tell about how it has benefitted their neighborhood.

    I learned early on that having a service dog changes your timetable in the same way. As long as I can spare the time, and there are very few when something urgent arises so my planned for buffer minutes are simply not there, I am happy to educate. We’ve given wonderful, even healing experiences with a big dog to children and adults who WERE afraid of dogs and answered all sorts of questions about disabilities and living with them, including “How do you go to the bathroom?”

    If a child is curious about how the lift in my van works, I invite parent and child to watch while I’m either loading or unloading, letting the parent decide if their own schedule will allow it. All the while, I’m engaging in intentional conversation about invisible vs. now very visible reasons to use the parking space. I always intentionally engage my captive audience in elevators, too. If I am with an informed companion, we will talk about some intelligent and relevant topic, among ourselves or with our fellow passengers. At a minimum, it is always a chance to demonstrate that people are people and some live with disabilities.

    We demonstrate our chosen place with the dignity culture when we choose to respond with patience and love to the person, not what was said verbally or nonverbally.

    • Jamie Hughes says:

      Jane, you’re a good egg….and a patient one at that. Thank you for taking the time to educate folks so willingly. I know it’s doing some good in the world. Just don’t wear yourself out trying to set folks straight!

  3. Cyndi says:

    I have VERY mixed emotions on this subject. While I fully support and agree with you regarding the realities of invisible disabilities and the absolute right to use handicap parking in such cases, I also know I myself have often, rightfully or wrongfully, “judged” persons I have seen pull into a handicap spot only to hop out of the car and all but dash into the store, movie theater or other location. Happened just this morning at a Starbucks — just before getting out of the car the passenger tossed the handicap sticker on the wind shield. The driver then hopped out and the passenger stayed in the car until the driver returned. Yes, perhaps I’m overly sensitive to this because when my husband and I are together in the car I refuse to let him park in a handicap spot unless I am getting out as well. Also, while I don’t like the idea of others judging based simply on what they cannot see…I’m glad there are those out there who do look askance at someone they think is abusing the handicap placard…especially when their reason for doing so is to SUPPORT me and those who have the need for those spots! Thus my conflict — I’m proud of and thankful for those uninvolved third parties who want to stand up to abuses…yet the reality of invisible conditions clouds the issue. Okay, so maybe the simple answer is “don’t judge”…but my personal reality is that I do like and greatly appreciate those willing to support persons with handicaps. Liked I said…very mixed emotions on this one.

    • Jamie Hughes says:

      Hey Cyndi, those folks you mention are using the pass incorrectly. To legally park in a handicapped space, the person to whom the placard belongs must enter or alight from the vehicle. It can’t be used by another person for any reason. You are right to comment on this, and they should know better.

    • GoatGal says:

      When given the option of a handicapped license plate or a placard, I chose the latter. With MS I don’t always need to park in a handicapped space, so I don’t use one. Some retail places seem to have fewer handicapped spaces than others, and I want to leave them available for those less able than I. But when temperatures soar and the asphalt seems like a bed of coals, I am grateful for the use of a closer space and my placard.

      • Jamie Hughes says:

        That’s exactly how I use it as well. If I’m feeling well (which is most of the time), I park in a regular space. However, on those days when I’m too beat to walk across the lot, I take advantage of the space. Also, if there is only one space left, I NEVER take it. It’s funny how we all set up rules for ourselves, isn’t it?

  4. Graeme Waymark says:

    I rarely drive. I do not go shopping with my wife; however she does take me to appointments and visitations with others. I know that she never uses the handicap pass when on her own and we do not use it when it is not needed. On the other hand, there are times when I am not wanting to be left alone or need to know that I can reach my wife quickly. On those occasions, she parks in the H.S. and I wait in the car with engine on. I have a cell phone with me in order to call her phone if an emergency develops. Even though this situation occurs rarely, it does point out that one can not ever fully understand the motives and intentions of others by just interpreting their actions. In my opinion, it may be even illegal for me to remain in the car, but there are occasions where we all jay-walk in life and this is one for us.

    The flipside of all this is the interpretation of someone staring and wondering: ‘is that person judging or pondering positive thoughts of how to support me’? That always reframes me to believe there are other motives in a person’s stare! (grinning)

    • Jamie Hughes says:

      Graeme, that is a legitimate option as well, and people should leave room for that as well. I normally, like you, try to give people the benefit of the doubt when they stare, but there was no mistaking this gentleman. The look on his face said it all. 🙁

  5. Linda Gonzales says:

    I have MS…I do not drive, I never learned, having grown up in NYC…imagine the nonsense I have had to put up with in the streets, while crossing, getting out of taxis, etc. Once, while getting out of a taxi at the front entrance of the local bus station, in Philadelphia where I am now, because of construction there was only one lane available…a driver behind me blew his horn the entire time that it took to get out of the cab – takes me some time, believe me – even though he could clearly see that the cabdriver was occupied retrieving my walker from the trunk, and I was WAVING MY CANE at him – just so he could understand what was going on. No, he did NOT understand, he did not care at all, and his female companion sitting next to him in the car was SMILING the whole time. I fear for our humanity, I really do…

    • Jamie Hughes says:

      Linda, I am so sorry that person treated you that way! Really, it is inexcusable. (But that’s Philly, right? I have an uncle from there, and he jokes about “Philly Phrendliness” all the time!) Everything moves too quickly these days, and patience is in short supply. One day, we’ll have to hit a wall as a culture and slow down, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon.

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