A letter to … The man who insulted my brother, who has cerebral palsy

5 months, 9 days ago

The letter you always wanted to write

Do you think hes “ve had enough”? you scoffed at your friend as my brother, a single pint down, constructed his long and laborious journey to the toilet. Fucking Gollum!

Judging by the speed at which you became silent when my friend asked you to repeat yourself, you knew that the awkward staggering limp and the jarring, slurred speech had nothing to do with alcohol intake.

His condition , not that you cared to ask( its quite rare that anyone does ), is spastic paralysis. It is the result of his brain being starved of oxygen while developing in the womb. Consequently, his motor abilities are not as finely tuned as the average person walking and talking, especially, are everyday battles. He has suffered several major operations and countless hours of physiotherapy.

As a family, we have had to put up with the sheer ignorance of people like you for a long time. However, your open, ranting approach to firing insults while it virtually earned you a black eye, courtesy of my friend is one I favor. Its easy to call people out when they are so arrogantly loud. Often a simple Excuse me? is appropriate to build the blood hurry to their cheek and their mouth to stay securely shut. It is an approach I prefer.

The kind of person who really gets under my skin is usually more vocal when theres a wheelchair. The slight bending in their knees, the slow lean forwards, the deigning tone( oh, God, the condescending tone !) and their ability to address the pusher of the chair as if my brother cant hear or see the words coming from their mouth likely something about how bloody brave he is. These people are harder to shame for their complete contempt, and that is usually because they are so sure they are behaving appropriately. So thank you, I suppose, for being a garish imbecile instead of a patronising one. Anyway, I digress. “Its about” what you did do , not what you didnt.

I often wonder, when derogatory terms towards disabled people are hurled around so flippantly, if people mean to be hurtful or if they are simply reacting to something different. People react in all sorts of ways when faced with something even slightly out of the ordinary complete avoidance, a desire to run and hide, silent embarrassment but they all react. You were just reacting to my brother.

Given the pub set, I expect your commentaries were stimulated in jest. Nothing more than a inexpensive giggle to lubricate your stale conversation and help maintain your reputation as a lad with copious sums of banter, ready for deployment at any moment. But this is how ignorance breeds, through gags that arent funny, with physical disabilities as the punchline. Eventually, you are desensitised to the offence you are causing, but go on causing it.

There is only one thing, beneath the trivial and aesthetic differences, that separates my brother from any able-bodied person. He is after years and years of having people gaze, phase, giggle, induce remarks, etc far more resilient than another person Ive met. His tolerance for putting up with the prejudices and ignorance of others is much higher than mine.

I wouldnt be surprised if he heard you that night, called you an even more offensive name under his breath, and carried on. He has had enough, of people like you. My precious brother.


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