Today, as I perused my Facebook feed, I came across a news story about a young autistic girl who faces being deported because she is autistic, and considered a drain on the taxpayer. Her mother (a GP) and brother can stay, but she must leave.
The story is terrible enough – the choices facing the family of this 16 year old girl, the callousness of government departments, the plea for compassion and kindness that is being ignored.
The most awful part is what I saw in the comments. Now, in fairness there were many many comments talking about how ridiculous this was, how unfair and unkind, how we should care for one another. But there were also many stating that OF COURSE the government should make this decision. OF COURSE we should be refusing to allow this child to stay with her family here in the country where her grandparents (who are residents) live with her and help support her, she goes to school, she has friends, she has her life. OF COURSE we should only be accepting the best and brightest into this, our wonderful “boundless plains to share” country of Australia. Of course.
Because of course, disabled people cost lots of money. We’re a drain on public resources. We take up space that could be taken up by better, stronger, healthier people. Of course we do, right? And of course, people hide their bigotry behind the “reasonable” argument that well, we have to consider the financial cost. Because no one wants to be *seen* being a jerk towards a disabled child, so framing it as a logical economic decision avoids that, doesn’t it?
Answer: No. It doesn’t.
Deciding who should be a part of our community based on how much they may cost us is a shitty way to build a society. When we look at someone and see only the financial cost they may incur, we have lost something inside ourselves. When we decide someone’s worth based on how much or how little we may need to support them, we don’t get to call ourselves a community. When we commodify other humans, we lose something that makes us people.
Now some people might ask what this post-coffee rant has to do with parenting, since it certainly reads more like politics. But parenting IS politics. How disabled children and adults are treated, the value they are given, the acceptance and respect they are shown, those things all depend on the society we live in. And when we stand by and let not just things like deportation, but conversations reducing disabled people to a dollar figure happen, we are telling our children that they can’t expect to be treated like other members of our communities. That their worth will depend on whether the “cost to the taxpayer” has been outweighed by their “contribution” to the community. These things are the very antithesis of respectfulness and connection.
Teaching your children, especially your disabled children, that they deserve respect, they deserve acceptance and kindness, and that their worth is not measured dollars, those things are revolutionary actions in a society where people still think of disabled people as a burden to avoided where possible.
So go out, and teach them by getting loud, and getting angry. Show them that you will stand up for them, that you will hold a space open for them to shout out, in whatever way works for them, about their lives, about their joys and sadness. About the people they are, and the roles they want in their community. *Show* them that you respect them enough to push back against the idea that the cost of having them, of having us, is too high. Because the cost if you don’t is even higher.