I'M NORMAL. US. AND. THEM.
I was talking to some folks around a dinner table about some crunchy, hairy topics, mainly what our thoughts were regarding assisted suicide – you’d think I was utterly obsessed with this topic. I’m not. I’m just the little canary, squealing in the mine while everyone around me ignores me and keeps working, not knowing they might end up like me, a small little bird, a sacrificial lamb for the greater good. I wondered at that table, how did I end up here? Around a bunch of ‘famous’ people, with cameras and slick but hearty food?
I remind myself that everyone is valuable, everyone should be respected and listened to. The harsh Claire knows the rhetoric, overpopulated world, not enough money, high taxes, why should we care about anyone but ourselves? Our families? People who are different or some see as a ‘problem’, due to cost, extra time and monitoring, what do they offer humanity? What can they offer the neoliberal gal who loves marathons, walks on the beach and secretly wishes there were more steps to tone that ass, or at the least, not have those ‘funny’ people around who challenge the idea of normality, a high quality of life. Sickness, illness, disability… it’s a contagion right? Not for me thank you!
It was an interesting discussion. I felt out of place, but then I often do. I talk a lot, in my head mainly, so as a dinner party guest, perhaps I’m not the best choice. I smiled, like a good girl, attempted to eat even though I couldn’t pick up the food, the pain humming through my body I tried to numb with whiskey, bad idea on my cocktail of drugs. Luckily it came up later, not on the table, not in front of the cameras, but in a sick bag I stole from the plane on the way home.
And they talked about the ‘handicapped’, and how their families reacted to their own opinion on the issue. How Maori have ‘evolved’ and customs change to fit ‘the new world’. And again we all spoke of the vulnerable, how mothers with disabilities would have choked being called that word. Kiwi mothers are unstoppable, impenetrable, warriors… vulnerable doesn’t exist in that world apparently.
I was that mother, minus a child. I was told ‘it’s best us handicapped don’t procreate or the little children might crawl into ovens as our homes are death traps, set up to ensnare children’. Am I a witch then, with my ‘child eating oven’ I wondered… as the fertility doctor spewed forth the reasons why I shouldn’t be a mother. Welcome to my strange life. That could never happen I often get told. And I think, what good is a lie? I get enough attention thanks, but then my dad always said the truth is often stranger than fiction. He was right.
Vulnerable. Well F**k me, I am vulnerable and proud. It’s no shame to be different. What is a shame is to be so locked into your world, you refuse to listen to the other voices. White noise you say, while we sit there, trying to look normal, yet knowing we are different, and vulnerable.
So the question is, would I want assisted suicide if I had a terminal illness? Admittedly, I might if I wasn’t blessed with my condition. I’m lucky, because all the fears put forth, the lack of dignity, a fear of being a burden, not being able to do all I used to do, I live with that daily, and they aren’t scary. I understand why people might think they are, but I can say, they aren’t. I’m privileged with information not many experience.
In the end, after masticating on chicken and beans, there was a sense of uneasy friendship within the group. And then something happened, something I wasn’t prepared for but like a shot of adrenaline, it pulsed through my body and smacked my brain with a shot of stunning reality.
This was never about looking after the vulnerable. Who gives a shit when the reality is that choice has become a personal right. In our post-colonial individualist culture, we deserve the right to die how we want. We can hide from our fears, and now we can die without ever meeting them or understanding them. What joy! What freedom!
Collateral damage? Not my problem. Not unless it’s my partner, my mother, my child, my whanau. But luckily, that happens to other people. As long as I can go to bed at night knowing I have choice and maybe, just maybe, it will be ok, that no one will die because they didn’t choose their outcome, it chose them.
And the little canary keeps on singing, but it’s not a warning, it’s a lullaby. A lullaby…
Ring around the rosy A pocketful of posies “Ashes, Ashes” We all fall down! – although for the lucky ones, it will be their choice la de dah...