Someone asked me to do a post about Meryl Streep because there are so many posts about her speech, some admiring, some ridiculing her.
Well if today were not the 20th anniversary of my beloved brother Paul’s suicide & if I hadn’t recently seen the video of a young man with learning disabilities being tortured or read of two other instances of young people with learning disabilities being ridiculed, I might not honor the request to write a post about her speech. But I did want to write a tribute to my brother whose loss was one of the most wrenching of my life so I shall combine the two.
Meryl Streep is what she is & she ain’t what she ain’t. She & I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of questions. That’s how it goes. But the 30 seconds in her speech about the humiliation of a disabled reporter by Trump & her succinct condemnation of the power relationship involved in abuse was moving & powerful so why would anyone ridicule her for saying it? Humiliation is the way of the world for the oppressed so there can never be enough condemnations.
My brother took his own life by stabbing himself in the stomach after 40 years of being ridiculed & tormented as a person with disability. He was taunted all his life as a “retard” & made to feel small & worthless. He was intelligent, insightful, witty, generous, & so sweet & kind, but being humiliated for being disabled made him hate himself so much he overcame the elemental human instinct for survival. He lived with more psychic pain than most can imagine–or that only the oppressed can imagine–because he didn’t have the sense of self & social power to defend himself. He knew he was worth something as a human being but he knew he would never get others to understand that.
With great indignation, he would tell me how companions would ply him with alcohol, shave off his mustache which was his pride, & then drop him off on the side of the highway far out of town in the middle of night & the middle of winter. That was his life. That’s the life of those with disability & of the oppressed if they don’t have the power to defend themselves.
So I put aside all the criticisms of Meryl Streep & tip my hat to her because despite all her privilege she understands how shameful & vile it is to humiliate & ridicule someone without the social or psychic power to defend themselves & she spoke out against it. Maybe she doesn’t get a lot of things but she gets that. Paul would have been so heartened if he had heard her words. May his sweet soul RIP.