Scapegoating of the Disabled 2013


Today I posted on facebook a link that came across my inbox. I editorialized before the post,

“I am a proud voter and a proud beneficiary of social security disability. Both keep me alive to some extent. And now this….I hope they add MARCY WESTERLING to the list – come get me.”

Flyer Targets People with Disabilities

August 2013

August 2013

People with disabilities are now the target of a hate group in the Portland area. Neighborhoods are being littered with this handbill attacking people with disabilities who receive public assistance. With an underlying tone of violence, this vigilante attack states that people’s names are being posted where they can be seen by taxpayers. The author suggests that receiving benefits makes people with disabilities a threat to the republic.

The Portland Commission on Disability requests that anyone who has received or seen this flyer to please report it so they may track it. Thanks to Human Rights Commissioner, Linda McKim-Bell for bringing this to the Commission’s attention.

Publicly sharing my name for broader use in this context was a conscious but quick decision. I was taught that to stand up for justice, you must stand up out loud.

Adding my name also deals with the issue of ‘passing’. I have passed throughout my life. I am an Aryan of the type Hitler claimed. I am as white and fair as they come. I look heterosexual, if there is such a look, but certainly the presence of a husband helps the case. I am slenderish, menopause and cancer treatments rounding me out more than a bit. I have lived a life of privilege, and even within the sour luck of being diagnosed with metastatic disease, I have managed to work a tough system to gain access to Disability and Medicare – two fantastic programs denied so many because of the waiting periods and reduced income.

I have lived a blessed life.

Standing up for a just society sometimes means that I have to go outside my comfort zone and declare my privilege. I don’t look disabled. I don’t even look sick most of the time and when I am sick, it is invariably because of the treatment. You mainly feel cancer when you are dying. I am not dying right now. I am just terminally ill. There is a big difference for some of us.

I stand up for every person confined more dramatically by his or her disability, vomiting in a bowl, restricted to an institution, or machinery. There are so many faces of disability including the many that don’t qualify because they don’t know to try or they fear the stereotyping that this flyer displays. The flyer says disabled = slackers, the ruin of our democracy.

I share a concern over our democracy but more over how every day whistleblowers are criminalized versus valued, and my list goes on.

We have a lot of disabled people in this country. By some accounts it is a growing number, and perhaps, a growing issue. A dialogue about disability is probably overdue but these flyers should not lead the debate. They could if we were to stay silent. And furthermore, of course, we can find slackers in our bunch. They are there by the pound on Wall Street and in every other layer of society. Let’s not find the 1 case in 10,000 to make a dishonest storyline work.

Disabled is a label few would choose – to be put ‘out of action’. You only need to hang with some disabled to see a lot of action but it may be different action. Some of us blend in well, others are quite obvious, and for both categories the onus is hard – proving you are normal versus taking on the pity/compassion of others. Adding in the label of slackers’ is not just wrong, it is too much because we are a group of people who wish to not have so many barriers to get through before resting.

As a currently able-bodied disabled person, I share this great cartoon and caption. I hope I look great but believe me there is a lot of effort to pass for today. And I am never sure about tomorrow.sick

Warmly, marcy


19 responses »

  1. This is shocking, Marcy. Thanks for letting us know about the horrible handbills and for your clear thinking and insight. Love, Barbara C.-G.

  2. I am a member of an international FB group and we have been having a heated discussion all day about this because the third person to respond to the post felt the guy has a semi-legitimate complaint. He finally crawled away, trailing blood behind him. . .

  3. Thanks for again living your life out loud, marcy! I saw your FB post and was shocked and so appreciated your getting out this information. Thank you again for your clear thinking and expression on this issue in this post. You never cease to amaze me.

  4. wow, as one of those with a disability no one can see (and my husband as well), I am disgusted that this would happen anywhere, but in Portland, my home town? It’s horrific! Thank you for opening up your life to us, and especially for this post. I will share and share.

  5. I grew up here in Portland, and know that it harbors groups of resentful, uneducated and selfish folks – just as in any other town in the US. There is no rational rationale for these folks, other than they like to complain about something, as long as it’s not their own behavior and evil thoughts. I’m sad that a woman of your compassion and merciful Marcy ways has to be exposed to this, but it is also life. I’ll stand up with you. My disability is also disguisable, so that I can occasionally get work. It’s the standing up that keeps us going. Those others, they’re just hateful, ungracious and ungrateful chaff. Blessings to you, and thank you.

  6. Like a popping bubble in a simmering pot of hate. The person(s) writing this express sentiments of many who judge – people like that shouldn’t be allowed the vote, income, medical care, societal participation, autonomy, privacy, even life.

    What they forget is they is us. And all are each an accident, illness, decade, new birth away from living with disability.

    Then they too will be faced with how to survive in a world that measures worth by income and productivity, not existence.

    As the saying goes, we’re human beings, not human doings.

    And, because of disability, many of us live as beings.

    Marcy, I too am thankful for the government disability programs that support me and provide expensive medical care for an expensive cancer.

    I too continue to contribute and participate in society.

    We must. We are needed.


  7. Bravo! It is vital so speak out on the designation of “out” groups, whether people with disabilities, people of color, or felons, including the greatly despised “sex offender.” “First they came for the Jew . . . .” Thanks, Marcy, for the courage you always display.

  8. I am always shocked when I encounter people who think the disabled are slackers. I know so many disabled people, and am among their number. I am disabled and I vote. I have the right to vote, and people like the anonymous “Artemis of the wild” can’t take that right from me without a serious fight. I’m right there with you, Mrs. Westerling, in speaking out loud.

  9. I agree, you are so brave, Marcy! How can “Artemis” look on those less fortunate and feel something is being taken from “her?” How does helping those who need it constitute a threat to democracy? Corporations vote themselves money in the way of tax breaks and legal loopholes all the time, yet they are touted as examples of the American way, democracy at its finest. I am so sorry that this hateful message appeared so close to home. And so glad that it is being seen for what it is and taken seriously.

    • Rather than focus on those corporations, for whom this republic really stands, these cowards pick those of Us they consider low-hanging fruit. They should be ashamed of themselves!

  10. I also have a visible advantage: i look tall, strong, younger than i am, healthy, white and middle class male. But actually i am (mostly invisibly) disabled and can’t get the bus drivers to lower the bus so i can get on (only for short ladies, preferably if young and pretty, but they’ll accept reminders of their grandma). I’m actually new at this and still trying to find out how to “be handicapped” and survive the social workers’ scorn. My only joys: when i was physically able i never put down people with disabilities and always tried to help where a hand could — and now those who treat me and others badly get my curse: some day you’ll be old and disabled and nobody will help you! And they are making that bed they’ll have to lie in when their turn comes. Just you wait, Enry Iggins.

  11. I am sad to read this flyer. I am afraid many people feel this way. If you don’t look disabled, many people can’t imagine that you are. It’s kind of like, if you’re not bald, you don’t have cancer! I’m also in the group that doesn’t look disabled, but is. Sorry folks, I can’t work, while on chemo once a week! I sure have learned a lot about not judging people since I got cancer! I’m sure a lot of these “haters” will, too, when it happens to them or their family member!

  12. I was surprised to hear from my cousin back in Michigan that “The internet is all abuzz with some strange person in Portland telling people he/she/they will expose everyone who receives disability in their neighborhoods….what nonsense is that???” I didn’t realize it had gone viral. So I started looking for reaction and was at least a little heartened to see that there seem to be more people appalled by Artemis of the wildland than people appalled by us voters with disabilities. Although sadly I have encountered plenty of people over the years who do resent those of us with disabilities (particularly invisible ones) getting their tax money.

  13. I’ve had dog shit. Broken glass. Letters asking me politely to move elsewhere. Letters accusing me of trespassing on my own land. Human shit. 2 attempted burglaries. An unusually close call with a 12 gauge. Gangs of Yoks at me in the street. The police? Ah, they’re siding with the neighbours. After all I’m costing them £300 a week.

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