“If an ordinary person is silent, it may be a tactical maneuver. If a writer is silent, he is lying.”–Jaroslav Seifert
I have been debating rather to write this for months. But today, I found it could not be denied. I ran across Jaroslav Seifert’s quote and he threw down the gauntlet and challenged me. When he said “If a writer is silent, he is lying,” what he told me is “Erik, when you write, write your truth.” Well, okay, I’ll do that. But in order to do that, I have to look deep inside myself and think about things that I don’t like to think about a whole lot, confront feelings I’d rather not admit to having, and write words that, were I to voice them aloud, would leave a bitter taste in my mouth. Before I write another word Let me first elucidate that I write these words to illicit neither pity nor adoration. I write these word because, as Seifert so eloquently reminded me, they are my truth.
I want to talk about being labeled, and how the labels that are attached to us can affect our lives. I’ve been labeled all my life: Spastic, Gimp, etc. These labels greatly contributed to my ambivalent feelings about my disability. But the word I was labeled the most is “Special.” Everybody said I have “Special Needs.”
The word “Special,” is a homonym that can vary its meaning depending on what society thinks about it. Being labeled special can either garner admiration or pity depending on the thoughts of the person who says it, and the person who receives the label. It can elevate, or lower people and influence their personal truth. The truth that Siefert compels me to set down here is that I don’t like being considered “Special.” I don’t like having a disability, or using a wheelchair I’d rather not have “Special Needs.” I also know that they’re a part of me, something with which I must contend.
Here’s how I try to think of myself. I’m a disabled man, yes, but I am a man first. I want what men want, I think what men think, and I feel what men feel, that doesn’t make me special. I am equal to anybody else. I don’t want to be special I want to be equal. I do what people do. I make choices and live with the consequences, but it doesn’t make me special, it makes me equal to everybody else, that is what I want to be.