As the state networks wind down their work in developing a SPIL, I am weary and discouraged at how many of the networks are fighting with each other.

It isn’t so bad when CILs and the SILC are collaborating and trying to bring the DSE along. The DSE is part of the network, but not necessarily part of our community, so I understand when there is disagreement there. After all, they do not necessarily agree with or even comprehend IL philosophy. They sometimes impose things they shouldn’t and we are forced to advocate with them to take back our power. It is a constant effort to educate them and show them what consumer control looks like at every level. More about the role of the DSE in IL in another post.

But among CILs and with the SILC, we should all be part of the same team. There is a big, wide, ableist world out there and most of us are weary with THAT fight. How on earth do we have the energy to fight each other? But somehow we do. I know of a state where two CIL directors are at odds and will not attend the same meeting — not even on ZOOM. States where the SILC and CILs are wrestling for power instead of working together. States where the CILs are split on approval of the SPIL and there is barely a majority to sign for approval. I hear harsh judgment from one person in the network about another, and I am beyond sad.

Let me suggest that there is not a single way of looking at the circumstances around us. My viewpoint may or may not agree with yours on more than one thing. We all come from different backgrounds, different decades, different parts of the country, different life experiences. We will not agree on everything.

But there should be one very important thing we do agree on, and that is to listen to and respect each other, no matter what. Don’t give me a line about a person having to deserve that respect. Stop. None of us is perfect, and we need to allow imperfection in our community. If we don’t, if we judge harshly, we get in this mess of fighting each other all the time. Let’s agree that every human being is deserving of respect, no matter how angry we are at their behavior. If you judge that someone is out of line, behaving in an ableist manner, doesn’t get IL philosophy, has acted in their own interest rather than in the interest of IL — so be it, but it doesn’t give you the right to dismiss them as the enemy and drive yet another wedge in what could be a very powerful alliance. It is so easy to criticize them, especially to our friends when the person isn’t around. Let’s stop!

Instead let’s get close to them. Remember that many of us are wounded by the ableist world, have been disrespected, taunted, ignored, dismissed, abused. Take the time to listen to those we disagree with first, then draw them into our community by helping them understand what that powerful, consumer-controlled community is. As peers, let’s support one another and find our way to a stronger and more and more powerful team.

There is a place for calling out the things that weaken IL, but that place is face-to-face, one-to-one and not in complaining to each other about “them”. If we listen, if we learn from each other. If we pool our experience and our expertise, we can be more powerful. We wonder why our movement is weak? This is at least one element that weakens us. And we are in control of how we respond to each other and make our movement stronger.

Why can’t we all get along?

5 thoughts on “Why can’t we all get along?

  • June 4, 2024 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks Paula, you are so right that working in coalition is necessary to making change happen.

    There are so many different and diverse skills necessary to achieve system change.
    Making a safe space to share ideas and needs is imperative to inclusive and safe space to find commonality. We will be better working together.

  • June 4, 2024 at 1:16 pm

    Thank you for this Paula – we all need to look within ourselves, me included and see what we can do to lift everyone up. I will commit to working harder to give everyone grace, and focusing on whatever steps we can take to reach our goals rather than how we take those steps.

  • June 4, 2024 at 3:45 pm

    The idea that criticism within the IL community is not allowed will be the end of our movement. It’s not just the DSE that can be overtaken by non-disabled people who will never support our movement. That can happen within CILs, too. And when it does, it needs to be addressed. Then we can truly support each other as peers.

    • June 5, 2024 at 9:05 am

      There is a need for us to make sure this movement is and continues to be OUR movement, absolutely, and some of the risk to our control does come from within. I am not saying criticism should not be allowed. I am saying we need to be willing to do that face to face, one to one and NOT in the back room, sitting at the bar, criticism that tears people apart rather than giving them a chance to tell us what is happening (sometimes including surprises about their own disability and shame). We must listen and when appropriate support. And if not appropriate, certainly push back against those who won’t support the movement. But our peers are in all different stages of understanding the movement and we can find out where they are and invite them along.

      • June 6, 2024 at 3:40 pm

        I think the decision to take this conversation public instead of being satisfied with communicating your opinion in a one-on-one setting might be cause for empathy for the person you’re criticizing.

        Disability is either an identity or it’s not – we can’t have it both ways. People who do not identify as disabled and / or who experience deep shame about an identity they refuse to accept should not be running CILs. That’s the result of the decision we made as a community that disability is defined as a voluntarily-adopted identity.

        There’s plenty of room in the movement, but leadership of CILs is exclusive to disabled people who unequivocally support Independent Living.

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