I saw this anti drink driving ad for the first time today (it's been out for a while, but we don't have a television so I'm a bit behind). At first, I was moved by the bravery of this young man telling his story. I felt hopeful that his message may be powerful enough to stick in peoples minds and remind them of their mortality at that crucial time when they're feeling invincible under the influence of alcohol.
Towards the end of the add however, I noticed another message. One that didn't make me hopeful at all. One that made me feel quite dejected. I'm talking about the message that people with a disability, particularly a physical disability, are incomplete. (I want to add here that I am in no way criticising this person or his message, I'm talking about the ad as something separate to the person.)
Hearing this young man talk about his disability and then seeing the words “Drink drive. You lose.” appear on the screen, I can't help but get an additional message - “Disability. You lose”.
This is absolutely not a fair or accurate portrayal of people with a disability. Using a wheel chair for mobility does not make someone less of a person, it does not make their lives any less meaningful or fulfilled and it definitely does not make them 'losers'.
This ad shows a person with a disability in an incredibly negative light. It says 'Drink and drive and you'll end up like this. How terrible'. So what happens when people who've seen this ad meet a person with a disability? Will they see them as equals? Or will they see them as someone they wouldn't want to end up like, someone to be pitied, someone who's lost something and so is incomplete? I feel compelled to ask, please be aware of this damaging message and choose not to accept it. These are the kinds of negative and ignorant attitudes that I fight to change every day. This is the part of me dislikes the ad.
There is another part of me that thinks maybe it's worth it. If this ad stops just one person from drink driving, if it saves just one life, maybe it's worth it. This selfish part of me thinks if that one life was M's, it would be worth it. For those who don't know, M is my husband, soul mate and father of our children. He was on his way home to celebrate me becoming pregnant with Miss V when he was killed by a drink driver.
So I'm feeling conflicted. On one hand I dislike the ad because of what it says about people with a disability. On the other hand, if it saves lives maybe the ends justify the means? These opposing thoughts have been playing on my mind all day, even interrupting my time with the girls (Not kewl!).
Then I got to thinking about emotional intelligence and I realised I've been missing something.
The third hand. The one that I think is truly behind my emotional reaction. The shameful and selfish hand that says “What about me? What about what I've lost? Isn't losing a life more important than losing the ability to walk?”
These are perhaps the real thoughts behind my emotions, and they tell me I have more work to do. More grieving and more healing.
Now a new thought comes to mind -
Thank goodness for chocolate.