COMMUNITY IS NOT A PLACE BUT A WAY OF LIFE

From a speech by Herbert Lovett in Dallas, May 1996. Herb Lovett, who was killed in an auto accident in March 1998, would have been 53 on August 27. We commend his book to everyone concerned with abilities and inclusion: Learning to Listen: Positive Approaches and People with Difficult Behavior (1996).

We are in the beginning of a liberation movement, where people are freed from being told that rights are privileges. 

  • Rights are not privileges. People with difficult behavior are constantly being told they have to earn their way to community. But it is everybodyís right.  
  • Community is not a place but a way of life. 
  • Community means you choose where you live, with whom and what you do with your life. 
  • You do not earn your way into ordinary schools. 
  • You do not prove yourself ready to a team for the job you want. You apply to your employer and start working.  
  • You do not prove to a team that you¹re ready to have a home of your own. You live in one.  
  • You should not have to be charming to get the help you need.  
But we have people all the time having to prove they are good enough. And that is just wrong. And whose behavior is difficult behavior? 
  • When someone spends all day working and they get a meaningless treat at the end of it, who is behaving badly? 
  • When someone gets ignored for being inappropriate or sent off alone or is kept isolated, who is behaving badly? 
  • When someone gets drugged up or tied down, who is behaving badly? 
  • When someone gets to earn a trip to the mall for not annoying people, who is being manipulative? 
  • When someone gets ignored for being inappropriate or is sent off alone or is kept isolated, who is behaving antisocially?  
  • When someone gets tied down or is drugged up, who is behaving aggressively?  
  • When people get routinely physically restrained, whose behavior is out of control? 
  • When people are kept apart from what they enjoy doing apart from the places they want to go, and apart from the people they want to be with, whose behavior is antisocial?
  • And when people keep doing the same meaningless rehabilitation exercises year after year or keep the same behavior plan year after year and nothing good changes for the person, who is slow to learn and fails to profit from experience? 
People with severe reputations are our teachers if we are wise enough to learn from them. Their behavior -- protests and civil disobedience if you like -- are often telling us:
  • You are not giving me the help I need
  • You are hurting me
  • Your ideas may be good but your actions arenít 
  • You can do better.
Community is not about therapy, though we can all grow in it.  If we listen to people and heed what they are telling us, not just with their words but with their actions as well, we temporarily able-bodied can grow past our difficult behavior and become honorable members of community as well. 

In memory of Herb Lovett, funds are raised to bring people with disabilities to TASH. Donations may be sent to: 
                                    Herb Lovett Memorial Fund  
                                           76 G Street 
                                     South Boston, MA 02127
The text came to us in an email from Michael Dowling, 27 August 2002.