This article is reprinted with permission from Daman Wandke
A Perspective of Liberation
By: Daman Wandke, 2005 DO-IT Scholar
"What is liberation?" According to the dictionary, liberation is "being set free " or a "release from social stereotyping. " My belief is that liberation is two-fold. One form comes when a person or group who is stereotyped chooses to overcome the labels set upon them by individuals or society as a whole, and therefore finds liberation within them self. The second, I believe, comes when an individual or society that places labels on others takes the time to look inside the labeled person or group rather than simply seeing the outside; and thus, become liberated in knowledge.
People that are singled-out because of their differences have two options, to accept their fate or to triumph over it. An example of overcoming their fate is the survivors of the Holocaust. All peoples who were not of pure German descent, were not only set apart from society, but abused. We cannot begin to imagine what they endured; surrounded by death, humiliation, and starvation. Yet a great many of them were able to withstand the Nazi's persecution and survive. This contrast illustrates the negative prejudice placed upon their people by the Nazis, and despite their inability to change their circumstances, they were freed by the liberated world for the people that they were, not the people they were perceived to be. In contrast, the Nazis were also seen as a non-liberated people and subsequently met justice for their crimes against humanity.
A different perspective was that of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He wanted to be president but thought that if the people knew that he had a disability, he wouldn't win. He learned how to walk by holding onto his son for support, even though he was paralyzed from the waist down from Polio. He was afraid that he would be stereotyped by Americans, and hid his disability from the world. After political success as president, he disclosed his condition to the public. After seeing the inner accomplishments, despite his outward state, the public accepted him for who he was and not what he was afflicted with. This social acceptance of his disability not only liberated society as a whole, but allowed FDR to liberate himself as well as set in motion changes that would affect the world, such as his aid to those of the Holocaust. These motions of change are illustrated in his quote, "We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred is a wedge designed to attack our civilization. "
In today's society, laws have been made and rewritten creating equal opportunities for all. On the surface, these laws would appear to equalize liberation, but liberation is not and can not be equal for anyone. I know this from first-hand experience because I have Cerebral Palsy, a physical disability, and I fall into a stereotype; characterized as unintelligent because of this disability. I am lucky that I live in a community that overall, does not set stereotypes. Occasionally, I run into to a person that looks only at my physical traits, labeling me before they take the chance to meet me. When people react this way, they are not hurting me, because I have already liberated myself from these negative thoughts; but they are limiting themselves from knowledge. These individuals are most often not thinking; they don't realize that they are being close-minded. The people that are willing to step outside this narrow viewpoint can learn so much more, because they have a chance to know anyone, not just those that they are most comfortable around.
One experience that I will never forget shows how easily a person with a disability can be stereotyped. I was volunteering at a summer day camp a few years ago. Watching the campers play outside, I noticed a girl throwing rocks. With my crutches, I walked over to her and asked her to stop. She stood up, looked me in the eye, and said, "I don't have to listen to you because you can't walk." At that point, I went to the camp director and she explained to the girl how I was no different than anyone else. I think and hope that she was able to see that there was a person on the inside, and not just a "cripple," by the end of that encounter.
Quite the opposite, the following example is a person who found his liberation through my eyes and wrote about it in an essay. At this year's homecoming dance, I started a "train" with the help of one of my friends. As we started the train, now known as the "Daman-Casey Express ", some people joined on without a second thought. Others kept away like I was contagious. He described these people's thoughts; writing that people stood back because they thought I had a "contagious wheelchair-kid-disease ." He went on to say that, "Being compassionate has allowed me to form better and more worthwhile relationships with people. Relationships that have taught me of patience, perspective, and the relative importance of things in the world. These friendships have also taught me how to enjoy life in different ways, how to always see the good in people, and how to understand their actions. Likewise, courage to blaze the trail for others to follow has taught me how to be assertive, but still have direction in my life.that catalyst was Daman Wandke. "
The world is in the process of learning that discriminating is wrong. But what is a disability? One definition in the Encarta Dictionary says, "an inability to perform some or all of the tasks of daily life." The word disability is the opposite of ability. Each and every one of us has our own version of a disability, something that hinders us. Whether it is a diagnosed disability or simply a weakness, no one should be singled-out. Everyone has abilities or talents and disabilities or limitations. It is by meeting those with different perspectives and life experiences that people can broaden their knowledge to the best of their ability. Depending on your occupation, education level, or recreational skills, your daily tasks are different. Are daily tasks different when comparing a child to an adult? How about a professional pilot to a network engineer? I am a sophomore in high school taking college level classes and I am a web developer and a systems manager when I'm not at school or doing homework. Do I have a disability? Am I handicapped? Well, that depends. are you liberated? I am.