A Disabled Manifesto

Awkward and embarrassing, in we get,

Claiming access to services and goods,

Legally, without your hindrance, or let.

~

Thrawn* and used to solving problems, unmet,

We do not need your grudging care and shoulds,

Awkward and embarrassing, in we get.

~

Ignoring invitations, tête-à-têtes,

We enter, undiscussed, despite your moods,

Legally, without your hindrance, or let.

~

Unsurprised when, once again, you forget,

To mention our exemptions, as you should,

Awkward and embarrassing, in we get.

~

Entering sans muzzle, in spite of threat,

Refusing lanyard, star, triangle, hood,

Legally, without your hindrance, or let.

~

No handmaid, doctor, proctor, Pharma pet,

May act in bad faith where the law is good,

Awkward and embarrassing, in we get,

Legally, without your hindrance, or let.

~

(c) Alan McManus, Creative Commons licence: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives.

* “thrawn” (Scots) = stubborn, with connotations of strength of conviction under long suffering and a perverse unwillingness to desist in spite of the odds.

White graphic of wheelchair user on blue background

Thanks to Petr Kratochvil for releasing his image Disabled Sign into the Public Domain.

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Heartbeats Under a Lone Star

The chances are that your stance on the recent Texas Heartbeat Law differs not at all from that of (at least) the majority of people you recognise as family, your close friends and your social media mutuals. Their stance, of course, is determined by their collective identity. Broadly, very broadly (because these terms are colliding and confused these days) Left or Right:

The Leftwing will believe this law that prohibits abortion (termination of pregnancy is a euphemism when the intent is always to kill, not remove) after the fetal heartbeat is discerned is the most insidious attack on female emancipation (they’d say women’s not female because that adjective, for reasons that no-one has yet explained, is now shunned by feminists) since the Epistles of St Paul. Well, okay, they won’t, because hardly any of them have ever read any of the Bible.

The Rightwing will believe that the Heartbeat law is the first step, long-awaited, towards making America great again (which apparently they feel it was, at some unspecified point) and one that drives back legions of devils (and/ or feminists) and protects women, children born and unborn, and is due, somehow, to the divine favour currently shining on one D. Trump who will yet reascend the Presidential throne—as long as they all Trust The Plan.

Both Left and Right are utterly convinced (and very self-congratulatory about it) that they, and they alone, really support the well-being of women. Ditto for children and this smug sensibility extends to the Left with the ethical sleight-of-hand that:

A) The products of abortion are no more than fetal tissue and the fact that foetus means baby in Latin is neither here nor there.

B) Abortion care includes what is being killed in the womb (or someway outside or even completely) as it’s selfish to bring unwanted children into this big bad world so it’s no more than kindness to kill them.

In my view (goodbye social media acquaintances) both sides are almost entirely hypocritical and don’t actually give a damn about the welfare of women and the idea that they actually care about life in or out of their womb is, if it weren’t so tragic in consequence, laughable.

Why do I say this? Is it just to stir up both sides so they’ll read my book on the subject? Well, they’re very welcome to but, as it was published some years ago and annual sales have risen to about the price of a posh fish supper (and I’m vegan) I don’t really see that as my major motivation.

It may be that, despite the above polemic, I see good women fighting each other over this and wasting so much valuable time and energy in a screaming match that in its modern form is at least a century old and doesn’t even attempt to be a debate. I was very careful when I wrote that book (and the many women on all sides that I reference are well worth reading) but I’m not convinced now that being careful accomplishes anything so here’s my thoughts:

The Left is hypocritical because if they actually cared about the welfare of women they wouldn’t ban any information (including personal testimony) on the often profound physical and mental stress caused by abortion that can last for decades.

The Right is similarly hypocritical because they make it so very difficult, socially and economically, for so many pregnant women to feel able to give birth—and to bring up a child with decency.

The Left concede more rights to lobsters than to babies that survive initial abortion attempts (a saline bath sounds very clinical but its purpose is to burn the skin off the screaming baby) and only refer to such situations by focusing on the distress caused to staffers! As for the findings of human pain studies in utero, they just don’t want to know.

The Right misrepresent the Biblical tradition (which is ambiguous on the moment of ensoulment) and typically promote an anti-maternal economics that ignores completely the prophetic tradition of hospitality to the stranger, care of the widow and the orphan, leaving the edges of the field for the poor to glean and forgiving debts in the year of Jubilee.

Both sides save face, reject all and any critique of their stance (selective abortion is racist, classist, ableist and sexist—and precisely those same prejudices, along with religious sectarianism and demonisation of other faiths, create a climate of snobbish rejection of pregnant women by communities intent on keeping up appearances and producing progeny of the right sort).

What’s the solution?

1) Realise that someone’s stance on abortion is likely to be coherent with their view of pregnancy (baby or blood clot) and reinforced by the collective ideological identity they value.

2) Accept that criticism of your own stance is possible—and that you may even learn from it. At least you might earn the right to be heard if you demonstrate an ability to listen rather than keep shouting THEM down.

3) Try to see your side from the other (and there aren’t just two sides on this) and acknowledge the possibility of your opponent being motivated by as benevolent an intent as yours.

4) Agree to disagree, if that finally is inevitable but ask yourself what part of the project of your interlocutor might overlap with your own.

5) Try to be honest with yourself about your real motivation regarding ostentatiously adhering to the ideological purity of your familial and social circle. Is that badge of honour more important to you than strategically collaborating with someone they despise—for the real well-being of women and children?

6) Ask yourself how much you and your cronies actually do, practically, to support women who want to give birth and bring up their children well. If you had access to the resources of the other side, how much more could you do? Would you be willing to work with them for that—knowing they’re still campaigning to change the law in a way you utterly oppose?

7) Consider the expression of ambiguity on this issue. How do you deal with it? Sweep it under the carpet or allow the uncertain voice of what “the woman who had been Jane Roe […] Norma McCorvey” called “the messy middle” to be heard?

Chrome stethoscope with yellow rubber cover looped over a red image of a heart

A Fairytale

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there was a very purple potato and an exceedingly twisted paperclip.

The potato was very vain and he wasn’t content to stay underground, like all the humble spuds. Instead, he threw his weight about and levered himself up through the soil until he managed to get a place in the sun. There he lazed, belly up in the back garden, and occasionally flopped over and lazed some more. As the sun grew warmer, the potato grew lazier until his flip-flops from lying on his frontside to lying on his backside got longer and longer apart…and his potato skin got more and more purple!

Meanwhile, upstairs in the office space at the front of the house, the paperclip was busy at the computer — tapping out a poison pen letter to herself. (She hadn’t always been a paperclip and had actually started out as a long straight crocodile clip. However she hadn’t liked just being in a box with all the other small stationary items as she felt herself destined for greater things. So she’d started to cry crocodile tears, to get attention, but all that had happened was that they’d rusted her snapping jaws…until they’d broken right off! All she’d been left with was her long steel stalk and, when she’d thought about how unjust her fate was, she’d started twisting sideways and had bent herself so much out of shape that she’d become a paperclip!)

Just as the exceedingly twisted paperclip finished the email to herself, and tapped “SEND”, a movement outside the window caught her eye. She twisted around and looked out.

There she saw a beautiful snow white songbird, with wings flecked with vivid green and purple. The paperclip saw how the songbird soared and swooped around the house and sang — and she envied and hated her. She had to find a way to bring that beautiful free bird down!

As she twisted herself off the desk and out of the door, along the landing and down the stairs, a plan started to form in her twisted steel brain. Twisting into the kitchen and out the back door (picking locks was very easy for a clip of her talents) she headed right up the garden path, ignoring all the lovely green and white and purple flowers around her, until she arrived at the potato patch.

The fat potato, presently sunning his big purple belly, was very surprised indeed to see a mangled item of office stationary twisting up the garden path. “Not In My Potato Patch!” he thought, starchly. He was even more surprised when she ignored him completely and instead bent back to peer up at the netting covering the strawberries in the wooden cold frame. “Well!” thought the purple potato, “what about ME?” And he flipped and flopped his big belly and his backside until he was balanced, precariously, on top of the wee wooden posts that made up the low fence around the vegetable patch. “She’ll have to see me NOW!”

But the exceedingly twisted paperclip had a plan and she was sticking to it. Twisting herself past the potato patch and up one side of the cold frame, she poked and twisted and tore…and pulled the netting right off the strawberries! Twisting back down the side, pulling the netting behind her, she paused when she got back to the potato patch.

A huge, discoloured, fleshy potato was lounging on top of the low wooden fence, obviously trying to pretend he was comfortable and that he wasn’t looking for attention! She eyed him for a moment and then stared down at the netting. A gleam came into her eye. She twisted round to glance up at the songbird, still flying freely and singing sweetly, then twisted right round again.

“Hello spud! Want to help me bring down that bird?”

The fat potato opened one eye, and then shut it. Not pleased at all at this blatant lack of respect for a potato in his position! However, suddenly he realised that she might go away and he’d get no attention at all — and that was the worst thing ever! So he tried to sit himself up, but potatoes of that age and size aren’t very flexible so all he succeeded in doing was to fall off his perch. Right on top of the paperclip!!!

“Je suis pomme de terre!” He said, in what he hoped was a passable French accent. Then added. “I will help with your scheme. That bird has been annoying me all morning! Flapping about and squawking! I hate attention seekers!” But the paperclip, deciding on action rather than talk, stabbed her steel point up into his abundant flesh, scuttled sideways to entangle his bulk in the netting then twisted as she had never twisted before and threw the purple potato up, up into the air towards the songbird, with the netting trailing behind like the tail of a comet!

The potato was horrified at the thought of being stabbed through the heart but, fortunately, he didn’t have one so it was only a flesh wound. Hurtling through the air he looked below to see if the flowers were looking up at him. But they weren’t. They were giving all their attention to the bees and the butterflies.

Then, the potato struck the side of the guttering, flopped over and rolled in, just as the netting flipped over the songbird, who had just alighted on the roof to sing from there.

Startled, the songbird suddenly found herself entangled, her wings pinned to her side and her feet caught in the netting! She let out a trill of terror…and all the green and white and purple flowers lifted up their pretty heads and saw her plight!

“Help me! Help me!” sang out the songbird. “This could happen to any of us! Flower fairies come to my aid!” The songbird was a great friend of the flower fairies, and she often sang songs for them while they danced in the sun or the dew or the moonlight.

The potato couldn’t understand the language of birds and flowers because he only understood selfishness and cruelty. Beauty and compassion were beyond his ken. So, while he was huffing and puffing and humpfing his great discoloured bulk along the gutter to try and see what was going on, he didn’t know that three great bands of flower fairies had risen up from the green and white and purple flowers to fly to the aid of their friend.

Suddenly he saw them all! The sky full of whirring wings and colour as the clever fairies, used to helping each other, lifted the netting right off the struggling songbird — and flew it back down to the cold frame. But then they saw that it wouldn’t stay in place as it had been ripped away from the little tacks that held it. One sharp-eyed fairy spotted the paperclip and joyfully caught it up in her agile hands, using it to lever up the tacks so that the netting could once again be stretched over the strawberries. There was only one place left where the net was too torn, so the fairy drove the point of the paperclip deep into the wood and that pinned down the netting safely.

Meanwhile, up on the roof, the fat potato was outraged that once again he wasn’t getting the attention he deserved! Rolling over in indignation, he almost went over the edge of the guttering and flopped sideways to save himself from falling off the roof! But, so intent on the beautiful songbird and her helpful friends, he didn’t see the downpipe beside him and fell right into it! Down and down and…right down into the drain below than washed down into the sewer!

The exceedingly twisted paperclip is still stuck in place, finally doing something useful, but what became of the fat vain purple potato no-one knows. (Or cares.)

However, the songbird is free to fly and to delight the flower fairies with her songs as they do her with their dancing. After all, they sport the same three colours — and they know that, with love and freedom and mutual aid, good fairy magic will always triumph over the evil plans of the envious…and beautiful songbirds will keep singing!