TW: Ableism and Death, Mentions of COVID19
This week has been a jarring time for disabled people in the United States. The national narrative veered hard right and went from “we need to do all we can to flatten the curve” to “maybe we should let the virus run its course and let disabled and elderly die to save the economy.” For those like myself, we were unsurprised by the turn but disheartened that those perpetuating this idea seemed to be everywhere.
Normally ableism is rampant but far less acute and consuming. Within what felt like minutes, the entire world felt like it was ready to take to the streets, gather disabled and elderly people and sacrifice us to the god “Coronavirus” for the sake of the Dow. Capitalism always has a reason to harm or kill, but what was truly alarming was the number of nondisabled people—self-proclaimed allies, the wise and the woke—celebrating the fact infamous public figures had contracted the virus.
As news broke that convicted rapist, Harvey Weinstein, colonizer, Prince Charles, and far-right Prime Minister, Boris Johnson had contracted #COVID19, Twitter seemed to celebrate the karma that had befallen them.
“If this virus is good for anything, it’s for those who perpetrate evil.”
But there are grave errors in that line of thinking, and they reveal the deep and entrenched ableism that exists within everyone living under a capitalist regime. COVID19, like any other disability, disease or illness, doesn’t have a moral compass and by projecting one onto the virus, people are subtly saying that those who also contract it are just as deserving.
Communicable diseases aren’t discerning. COVID19 wants lungs, that’s its only M.O. No one deserves this virus—not even those you hate.
Disabled people are not unused to hearing coded sentiments describing how evil disease and disability are. On multiple occasions, I have heard statements like “it’s such a shame because you seem like a nice girl” and “you will triumph over this curse.” Disability is seen as punitive and therefore, those that live with disability have either done something horrible to earn that punishment or must work to beat or overcome it. “Wheelchair-bound” is a phrase that uses bondage to describe a mobility aid. “Obesity-related illnesses” and diagnoses are the fault of “lazy” and “rudely entitled” fat people. Addiction, classified as an illness (now) is still seen by many as just “degenerates and criminals wanting an escape.”
When people moralize illness and disability, they’re allowing a diagnosis to act as a corrections officer for those subjected to their personal morality. No one deserves COVID 19 and too many individuals are failing to realize that they can act as executioners to complete strangers regardless of their “deserve-ability.”
The fact is that Weinstein contracted coronavirus because he is imprisoned at Rikers Island which is experiencing an outbreak rate that is higher than that of New York City. For those in jails and prisons, this disease is a near-automatic death sentence. And, regardless of your position on prison abolition, all can agree that the prison industrial complex victimizes many underprivileged citizens. Prince Charles is a public figure that interacted with many people before being officially diagnosed and is a member of the age group seen as most disposable. Boris Johnson is a fool and victim of his own incompetent leadership.
COVID19 is disastrous and devastating, but has never read up on the Me Too movement, has no opinion on colonization and doesn’t know Johnson.
To disabled people, during a week in which capitalists are demanding our demise, it can feel like we too are being made to feel we deserve punishment by COVID. Disabled people are made to feel like burdens, leeches and scam artists for demanding the right to live. Whether it be in the name of karma or capitalism, the disease doesn’t operate on any value system.
We cannot wish this disease on anyone because it never stays with just them.