Inspiration Ain’t Free

Posted on November 23, 2016

In Fact, It May Just Have Cost Us The Election

For the first time in history, thanks in part to #CripTheVote and an empowered community, disability made its way into the election. We were included by Hillary’s campaign and mocked by Trump’s. But 48 hours have passed and if you read Harry Reid’s statement on ‘The Election of Donald Trump’, you’ll realize disability is already long forgotten.

But the disability community knows something nobody else knows. And it might explain how we got to where we are. We know first hand about the destructive nature of inspiration. My friend Lawrence Carter Long likes to say “Inspiration without perspiration is nothing more than aspiration”.

I remember feeling so deeply moved by this video in the final days of Hillary’s campaign:

This video reaffirmed my feelings about the person I thought would break that final greatest glass ceiling. And guess what I did? I liked it. I liked it because I felt inspired.

The disability community, a community that is only ever written about as objects of inspiration, has a word for what I did. We call it ‘Inspiration Porn’. Inspiration Porn happens when our able-bodied counterparts feel inspired by our ability to ‘overcome’. It allows them to objectify by gawking at us, ultimately benefiting by feeling inspired. Our status has yet to be elevated by another person’s inspiration.

We now live in a world where inspiration is a tic that rolls off our collective tongues. Is something interesting? That’s inspirational! Does it make you feel good? It’s inspirational! I mean, how many times have you seen, read or heard: I’m so inspired. This will leave you feeling inspired. You’re such an inspiration.

And this is a problem, because what is it that we’re inspired to do?

Inspiration is not a passive feeling. Inspiration is a trigger. A trigger to do something, to take action. And more and more we’re not acting on those feelings.

I asked a designer I admire about empathy and she said “Empathy is exhausting. Personally I’m done with it. But compassion, you can do something with compassion.”

What’s the difference?

Compassion is active. Empathy is absorbed. Compassion is the true definition of inspiration. Something moves you and you do something about it. Empathy is the modern interpretation of the word. Something moves you and you feel it.

And I can’t help but think, what if Hillary’s supporters were selfish?

Think about it, Hillary’s campaign made that video. Yes, it’s called ‘The Story of Us’ but they made it. And we temporarily benefited. It appeased us to like the video, to share it. Our empathy absolved us of the need to travel to Wisconsin or to Pennsylvania or to Florida or to Ohio. We had this in the bag. Why? Because we were inspired.

We were being selfish. We were benefiting from the messaging of Hillary’s campaign, Hillary’s story, Hillary’s fight and we did nothing to support it.

Hillary didn’t need our empathetic inspiration. She (and ultimately we) needed our compassion as a call to action.

We need to move forward by understanding the pitfalls of an emotion that no longer leads us to action. We need to move forward by approaching whoever inspires us by asking “What can I do? you have moved me help! You have inspired me to action.” That’s how you show compassion to someone who has moved you.

That is how you create progress and ultimately elect the first female president.

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