“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

"What would you change about yourself?"

If the average person were to look upon someone with an intellectual disability, they would see that impairment as perhaps the defining characteristic of that individual's life.  They would also, no doubt, see that impairment in myriad negative ways.  Hence the fervor for prenatal diagnosis and abortion of people having the characteristic of intellectual impairment.  One only needs to consider the "impairment" down syndrome to see this fervor.  But, how do people who have this characteristic called intellectual disability feel about themselves? 
Surely they would agree with those with "normal" intelligence that their lives are terrible because they have that characteristic. 
Surely they would do anything to not have that characteristic. 
Surely they see themselves as the pitiable souls that they are.

Or do they?

You know, it would be instructive to ask them how they feel about themselves.  If we were willing to understand how they feel about their lives, could that possibly impact how those of us with typical intellect might also feel about them?  One would hope so. Think about other people who have been or continue to be devalued.  As a man, should I simply project on women how I think they feel about their lives because they are not men?  Surely they all wish they were men like me.  How about people of different races or ethnicities than myself.  Should I project on them how I think they feel about their lives because they are not the same color as I am.  Surely they all wish they were the same color as me.  Those two statements are very offensive and no one in their right mind would state them. 

However, those of us without intellectual impairments think we know how those with intellectual impairments think about themselves.  We think we know how much they would desire to be different then they are.  We can get away with those projections on this particular devalued group, because it is OK to see people with disabilities in a negative light.  It is OK to project my perceptions on them.  It is OK even to take their lives on the basis of my projections of who I think they are and how I think they perceive themselves.  I can't get away with such pronouncements in the other areas mentioned above, but regarding people with disabilities there is no condenmation for my perceptions.  Why?
Obviously they are suffering, right?
Obviously they wish they were more like me, right?
Obviously they would choose nonexistence over being born or living with an intellectual disability, right?
I mean it is obvious, right?

If you really think those things, click on the link below and have your eyes opened.
http://sproutflix.org/content/one-question
 
I wish we would listen to people to find out what they think instead of projecting on them what we think.
May God forgive us...
 
McNair

15 comments:

Ann said...

Thanks, Jeff! You put some of the thoughts that have been rambling in my head into a framework.

Lynn said...

God bless you Jeff! Who are the disabled ones? That's my question ; ) I think we all know the answer. lots of love Lynn

Lynn said...

Thanks Jeff and God bless you! Who are the disabled ones? That's my question. I think we all know the answer. lots of love Lynn

zareena said...

Awesome post.

I can't tell you how many times people, whether they were being mean and ugly on purpose, or honestly don't know, that I'm happy just the way that I am, and I wouldn't want to be them for all the money in the world.

There are times when it really used to blow my mind the way people responded to me. As if my life was just so bad, and theier lives were so much better and/or that they were the only ones who can make it worth living.

*rolling eyes*

seeandbesafe said...

The short film was very interesting. I guess I never thought about intellectual disability from that perspective. As someone with an acquired physical disability, my personal take on my situation is that I do sometimes envy my non-disabled counterparts as society is built around the needs and abilities of those with "normal" ambulatory abilities. This however is refreshing and has challenged my previous perceptions. Thank you.

seeandbesafe said...

The short film was very interesting. I guess I never thought about intellectual disability from that perspective. As someone with an acquired physical disability, my personal take on my situation is that I do sometimes envy my non-disabled counterparts as society is built around the needs and abilities of those with "normal" ambulatory abilities. This however is refreshing and has challenged my previous perceptions. Thank you.

Jordan said...

Really good as usual. I loved the video and spent about an hour watching others on the sproutflix site. I am loving Laz D.

Anonymous said...

If you have ever met a intellectually disables person they are some of the happiest and most friendly people you will ever meet. Who are we to judge them and say that they are different or strange? Maybe we are the ones who are that way! We should accept everyone for who they are just the way they are. We should do what ever it takes to help them succeed in their life what ever that maybe, accept that others may need more help through life and that is that....it doesn't make them any less human!!

Anonymous said...

That video was very powerful. Not only did they not mention anything about their so called “disability,” but the answers they gave would have been pretty common answers from a group of “normal” people. In fact, many of the answers included ideals that would be considered honorable. Happiness, being less mean, less angry, having more hair, all of these ideas are normal. But I would think that when most people want to change something about themselves it is often a physical trait.
The idea that people should project their ideas of how others ought to be feeling about themselves is sick. If they are happy people, who in their right mind would try to convince them of their unhappiness?

Anonymous said...

When we watched this video in class, I was truly touched. My whole life, I have always avoided people with intellectual disabilities because I never knew how to talk to them. I always thought they would not be able to understand me or relate to me. After taking your class and reading this blog, my perspective changed. Being able to spend some time with your friends with disabilities, I realized they are just like everyone else. Everyone has something they struggle with, and theirs just happens to be stereotyped as a sickness or hindrance. Truth is, everyone is hindered by something. Thanks, Dr.McNair! This was my favorite class of my whole college career.

Anonymous said...

While watching this video in class, my heart broke. I had never really paid attention to those with disabilities before and therefore felt timid around them. Not knowing what to say or how to act, i simply avoided them or didn't purposefully go out of my way to interact with them. However, after watching this video and hearing your passionate stories, i have realized they are normal people just like everyone else. They have the same desires and frustrations in life that we take part in and deserve everything we have. When asked what they would change about their life, all the answers were universal and could be applied to each and everyone of us. None of them mentioned their disability or the fact that they are supposedly "suffering" but instead focused on the normal frustrations of life and attributes that most of us can personally relate to.

Anonymous said...

This blog was very moving. Everyday we walk around and whether we are aware of it or not, we judge people. We judge them about their appearance, their mannerisms or basically anything else and we don't even know them! We don't know what they are going through or their circumstances and we have no right to pass judgement. If the tables were turned, and someone else were passing judgement on me, I wouldn't like it at all. In the same way, we have no grounds to judge anyone with a disability; they are a human being just the same as you and me. They like themselves just the way they are, and so should we.

Evers70 said...

When I first started to help chi8ldren with disabilities, I had the problem of being far too oversensitive when talking and interacting with the disabled. I would make very close parameters for myself not to say certain words that would make them feel out of place. As I started to help them more and more, however, I came upon the realization that the only person I was trying to make comfortable was myself. I was in a perpetual notion in my mind that I was not saying the right things; I would speak to disabled people as if they were different people, when, in Fact, they were just people. I am not saying that I can say whatever I want around them- I would not call a black person the “N” word, or a gay person a word that rhymes maggot and starts with the letter “F”, but at the same time, I would treat those people, just like any other people group, like people. We have to come to a conclusion, as Christians, that God is sovereign, and that he has knitted everyone in the womb by his hand (Psalm 139:13). This video reflects the soul of this notion, that people are people. What I found most interesting about the whole thing was that, in most of the responses, they said “to be a better person”. If I am not mistaken, isn’t that what everyone wants?

Anonymous said...

I agree with these statements strongly. The points made by Dr. Jeff McNair, open our eyes to the reality of how highly we view ourselves and how we thing that all people should be like us, and look like us, as well as speak like us. I enjoyed the video because it made it easier to understand that most people with disabilities do not see themselves as "different" or wanting to change anything about who they are as a person. Trusting their honesty and their to be real & genuine in their answers, their hearts shown through to be normal people. Though they have certain disabilities, it does not define them. Some mentioned they wished they were prettier or, smarter or funnier, however don't people without disabilities desire the same thing? Don't we all want things in which we cannot have, or which we cannot attain. We choose to be the bold, tenacious people that we are, by allowing who we are to shine through and be the individuals God created us to be.

Joshua Atkinson said...

Dr. McNair I really appreciate you instilling this mindset into my life. I have truly had a skewed view of how disabled people should be looked at and how they look at themselves. This video really shows how the people don't have their lives and they don't want pity from others because of the disorder that they have, if anything they want to be treated normal. It is through this mindset that I will always try to show as much love and compassion towards people with a disability and not because I pity them, but because I know for a fact that it is how our Lord Jesus Christ would treat them if he was here now. Thanks again Dr. McNair and may God always bless you in everything you do.