Friday, December 05, 2008

Carousel, Domestic Violence and Disability Advocacy (pretty much in that order!)

I hope you enjoy this video. The female singer is the incomparable Renee Fleming. She is from our area so we claim credit for her (no, we have never met her—does that matter?) I love this recording. Aren't they wonderful? The very beautiful and inspiring song they are singing is from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel. Isn’t it lovely?

My high school put on Carousel my junior year and I LOVED it. The songs were beautiful, the story of the tumultuous life of a young girl who works in a factory who falls in love with a carnival barker was SO touching, the French horn part was awesome, and there was so much EMOTION… It was perfect.

This song, a couple of the others and the scene where the girl shares that, in spite of everything, their love was worth it had me weeping every time I saw it.

And I was in the pit band.

I saw it many, many times!


Well, I saw the movie for rent a few years back and I grabbed it. I gathered my family, primed them with “when I was in the pit band” stories until everyone’s eyes just about rolled out of their heads, made treats and settled down to watch it.

Everyone liked the movie most of the way through, but during the ‘touching declaration of love’ scene my daughter turned on me and yelled, “WHAT did she say? I CAN”T believe you like this movie!!”

Do you know why? Because it’s a story about domestic violence, that’s why.

Actually, it’s a story about passion, but its vehicle is an abusive relationship.

My daughter was incensed and I was pretty taken aback myself…

So, what had happened? What changed my view of this show from “love it” to “love the music, but have some serious reservations about the story?”

It wasn’t maturity—I was young in high school, but the teachers who chose it and directed it and the folks who sat in the audience weren’t (most weren’t ancient, but they were adults.) And my kids were younger than high school age when we watched it.

The difference is cultural.

In the 1970s ‘hurting the ones you love’ was seen as an unfortunate, but accepted part of some relationships.

Today—thankfully—much of society recognizes abuse as wrong and NEVER acceptable. Even the kids get it.

The culturally accepted belief or conventional wisdom about domestic violence has changed.

And, this change did not come easy. Activists struggled, fought, and WORKED on many fronts to get this narrative to change. They worked with the medical community, law enforcement, the media, policymakers, the entertainment industry, the educational establishment and more to build this change.

Today, unlike when I was in high school it is understood by way more people that
-violence is not part of love
-if someone hurts you it is their fault, not yours
-that you shouldn’t stay in abusive situations

Abuse hasn’t ended—yet—but it is recognized as wrong by more and more people every year. The work of these activists has saved lives. The work of these activists is changing the world.

Now, let’s talk about the disability community.

Whether we are hardcore activists or moms and dads looking for a single classroom for a single child, we have a role in creating a cultural narrative about disability—where we live and beyond.

This happens in big and small ways. Not everyone needs to storm the capitol, but everyone does have a role—every one of us teaches the people we reach something about disability every day.

So, is the message of your life that people with disabilities are valuable? That they belong? That disability is just part of life? Is your message advancing a disability-welcoming (or at least disability-neutral) belief? Are you creating a positive culture for yourself or your children? Or aren’t you?

Our presence builds our credibility which builds our influence (have I mentioned this before? Why yes, I have!) Our message—as we live it—changes the world…

One day my grandkids will watch some story about a person with a disability fighting some obstacle, and instead of being inspired by heroism they will be incensed that the obstacle was there in the first place.

I believe it will happen.

I know it will happen.

And I cannot wait!

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