Our Era of Intolerance


I follow some of the social networking groups for people with MS, and a lot of what I read is sad, but not in the way you might think. Yes, it’s hard to read the about the plight of others who deal with physical pain, but it’s reading about those with emotional pain and scars that is especially rough.

I’m referring to the torment men and women feel about not being the kind of spouse or parent they think they should be. Then there are the single people who are alone and lonely, lamenting the bleak prospect that their disability might make them a social pariah for eternity. I’m also talking about people who lose the ability to sustain a job because their physical limitations prevent it, or their employers put so much pressure on them regarding unscheduled absences and lack of dependability that it isn’t worth the relentless emotional strain.

What I find incredibly sad, however, is reading posts from people whose friends and family question their integrity by suggesting or implying that they aren’t really sick, and that their symptoms are psychological.

Is this kind of callousness the exception or the rule? I’d like to think it is the former, but am afraid it is becoming or has become the latter.

For some of us, our disability is obvious. All you have to do is see the way we walk, or how we navigate our walkers or wheelchairs to recognize we are dealing with something that prevents us from being whole. Your senses provide proof that something is wrong, which makes our condition understandable and acceptable.

But for many, the symptoms are less obvious. You can’t see pain. You can’t see crushing fatigue. You can’t see cognitive fog. You can’t see depression or the general malaise that can emerge from constantly fighting a losing battle. These are not tangible things, so it’s easy and convenient for able-bodied people to be derisive and dismissive.

While I think it’s bullshit, I understand how people who are unrelated and unconnected to us can make those kinds of judgements. After all, we live in an intolerant age, at least in this country, where the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue practices and promotes this kind of thinking. What I can never understand or accept is how family and supposed friends can be so unsupportive and cruel.

Perhaps these attitudes have always existed, and I was blind to them until MS opened my eyes to the plight of others. After all, people who have been living with mental illness or who are not neuro-typical have been dealing with this kind of prejudice for ages.

Still, why is it so hard for people to accept what their eyes can’t see? What makes individuals so dismissive about anyone who is less than whole, who may be odd or quirky, or who simply beats to their own drum? Why is someone who struggles with a physical or mental/emotional illness considered flawed, damaged, and therefore less of a person. Don’t we all deserve a little respect?

Is it insecurity? Do individuals feel uncomfortable or threatened by what they don’t understand? Or do people have the need to prop themselves up by tearing others down?

It’s sad to think that people are more supportive if you are stricken with something like cancer than dealing with a condition that isn’t as obvious, as easily understood, or curable. I hope I’m wrong about this, and am allowing the grim scenarios some of these posts describe to color my judgement about the world we live in. That would be ironic, because I don’t watch news programming of any kind for that very reason. The news is so negative, and paints such a bleak picture of society today, how could anyone who constantly exposes themselves to that message not be pessimistic about the future?

Maybe I should take a respite from these sites.

I was a child during the turbulent 1960’s, so I didn’t understand or feel the civil unrest that existed during that decade. After watching a recent documentary on the year of 1968, I concluded that I would have thought society was coming apart at the seams had I been an adult back then. I also would have feared for my child’s future.

I don’t think we have bottomed out to that degree yet, but it does feel like we are experiencing a renaissance of the 1960’s and heading in that direction. Our current level of social discord permeates everything, and perhaps feeds the point of views that allow people to conclude that our symptoms are all in our head, and all we have to do is stop feeling sorry for ourselves, suck it up, and get with the program. Kindness and empathy still exist, perhaps more than we think, but it is drowned out by all the other noise, and seems harder to find.

Whatever it is that is driving this mean-spiritedness, I hope it dissolves in the not so distant furture, and we all emerge relatively unscathed.








Author: Steve Markesich

I am loving husband, a doting father, a Red Sox fanatic, an aspiring novelist and MS advocate. Feel free to check out my stevemarkesich.com web site.

21 thoughts on “Our Era of Intolerance”

  1. Most people don’t realize that being compassionate toward another individual is not something most would regret. So what if you can’t see or understand something. The only time I have felt angry about helping someone, is when I have given too much of myself and THAT is MY problem not theirs. Hold the door for everyone, smile at everyone, be kind to everyone, what have you got to lose?
    and yes I think that some people can only feel better about themselves by putting others down, which again is THEIR problem, it’s not mine

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is such a beautifully written and vital post, Steve. I have lived so much of what you describe, felt both enraged and despondent about it. There are some in my family who don’t tolerate weakness (or what they deem to be weakness); anything that makes you different is something to be ashamed of. Needless to say, I have provided them with endless challenges, but what they don’t know is that I have also always felt so damaged, so unworthy and without value, that I am not sure the wounds will ever heal. But, I am also strong and perseverant. I also choose to read words like yours and feel empowered by the fact that there are people who are writing and talking about this stuff. Thank you, Steve.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Steve this was an absolutely amazingly written post with SO much truth to it! I want to always blame all the ill intent of others on the one residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but I think these behaviors were around before he was, it has just increased drastically and thought of as okay! We all know how those of us with a chronic illness are treated is completely unacceptable, but unfortunately we can not change how others think and act. The only thing we are really able to do is change the way we handle ignorant attitudes. There are many that I work with that sit there talking about me negatively because I do not work 40 hours a week. Of course I really want to be able to, but physically I just can’t handle it.
    I really appreciate every word you wrote and it honestly brought tears to my eyes because of how truth this all is!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Remember, I wrote an entire series about this. The whole “you don’t look sick” thing. People can be a wonderful combination of cruel and uninformed, dare I say ignorant.
    You nailed it right here…”Or do people have the need to prop themselves up by tearing others down?”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. not even close, more a matter of a common thread. Just the other day another person told me that I won’t get disability because I don’t look sick. And even though you may visibly have an impairment, still noone has any idea what you go through each day.
        People don’t even know what it is they don’t know

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes I think family members do that because they have issues with control and you can’t control this. I also think sometimes they see our issues as a reflection upon them, so the easiest way to rebut it is to deny it

      Liked by 1 person

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