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Sunday, October 19, 2008

One More Great Saturday

My nephew giggled with delight as I tried to catch up with him in our bike race back toward the car. A fun, late-morning ride on a sunny, crisp fall day on Martin Luther King Drive that he may or may not remember very long is one I surely won’t soon forget.

It was probably the first time in his young life we’ve had a chance to go all out in a physical activity. I only discovered biking with the Pennsylvania Center for Adaptive Sports back in August. While he was a baby, it was easy enough to play with him and keep him somewhat amused. As a toddler, he was a little tougher to keep entertained as he began to run and want to rough house. A smart kid, he quickly learned the “gentle touch” of my cerebral palsy made it a little tough to fake wrestle, and it was more fun to run around the yard than it was to stay in my range when I’m playing with him on the ground. Soon enough, it was off to play T-ball or with his friends in the neighborhood.

Yesterday, though, it was fun to beat Uncle Rob at a race. I would love to put the word beat in quotes, suggesting a wink-wink, I let the kid win. But 20 years of fairly consistent use of a stationary bike hasn’t been much of a substitute for the real thing. He beat me, fair and square.

Of course, I can’t resist adding that I beat my brother in one of our races. To be fair, he was riding a hand-cycle for the first time in his life. And, no, it’s not really the point. Enjoying a physical activity on somewhat equal footing with my able-bodied brother for possibly the first time in my life was much more important. But when you grow up as one of four boys, “who won” is always part of the story (unless it wasn’t you).

As I continued to pedal around after my nephew and niece got bored, my mom joked that I didn’t want to give up the bike. She was right. It was only my third time on the foot-pedaled three-wheeler. Luckily, no one else was waiting – at least I hope not – and the volunteer who owns the bike didn’t seem to mind.

With one week left in the program until April, I was soaking up every minute. Since discovering the program, more Saturday mornings than not have been spent feeling the fresh air as I cycled around on Martin Luther King Drive. The little kid in me that never got to ride a bike is making up for just a bit of what he missed. The sports fan in me hears about the Paralympics attended by some of the rowers from the program, and can’t help a moment of wondering if there was a biking competition and what might have been if I was a bit younger. The adult in me wonders how difficult it will be to obtain an adaptive 3-wheel bike, complete with about a $4k price tag, so I can ride more than once a week from April through October.

But mostly I’m just happy to have found this volunteer-driven program that survives on donations and what funding it can find. I’m happy to ride around Martin Luther King Drive. I’m happy to soak in some fresh air while getting in a good workout on a bike that moves past trees, the river, and other people (or at least continues to move as other people are passing me!). I’m happy to start thinking about another Saturday of biking by Wednesday.

And, for a day, I enjoyed watching my nephew look back and smile as he beat me back to the car.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

McCain Shows Class on Rumors, Prejudice about Obama

I never expected to write this much about the election, and I’m not dumb enough to think anyone is reading my blog to gather political insight. I really only intended to write about the election once or twice to make my own small statement that people with disabilities need to become part of the country’s conversation on everything and anything. My hope was, and still is, to say that simply by doing that.

Just last week I wrote about some of the condescension coming from the McCain campaign against Barack Obama, as well as their efforts to link him to terrorists. I honestly believe it was playing into the fears and prejudice many people have about voting for a black presidential candidate. John McCain was confronted with these attitudes at a recent town hall meeting he held (in fact, I think it was last night). Video is below:

McCain flatly says that there is no reason to fear an Obama presidency, and literally takes the microphone away from a woman saying that Obama is an “Arab” (she likely meant Muslim) and unequivocally corrects her stating that he is not.

McCain deserves real credit here. Sure, some will say it’s too late or that he flamed the fans of these fears that are based on race. True or not, he stepped up to the mic, literally, in what is quickly becoming an ugly campaign and said enough was enough.

While I’m at it (“it” is, I guess, saying things that may be pro-Republican), I agree with those suggesting that voting for Obama because he’s black is as bad as not voting for him because he’s black. Let’s hope the geniuses voting on this basis cancel each other out.

On another note, I think the timing of the release of Oliver Stones’ W., a movie about our current president that apparently makes George W. Bush look like a dope, is just as wrong as some of the Republican ads. It’s acting as free promotion for Obama, and, while I know nothing about the legalities of financing campaigns, it’s clearly skirting some of the rules of campaign contributions. If the film is based on fact, I have no problem with it. But the timing of it stinks. The studio will call it business; it’s really just bogus.

There’s less than a month left in this seemingly never-ending campaign. It would be nice to see more moments like the one McCain provided this weekend. Then maybe we can elect a president based on issues instead of insults.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jumping into Election '08

I almost feel like a little kid with those inflatable floaties on my arms about to jump into the pool for the first time. Writing about this presidential election is like putting a target on your chest and saying, “Ok, start shooting.”

I’ve watched more CNN than I ever have in my life over the last year or so. I registered under a particular party when I was a very young 18 because I asked my mom what party she and my dad were in and went with that. I knew the basic characterization of each party, but not much else. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal; after all, I figured voters tried to get to know the individual candidates and vote based on what they thought of them.

How silly of me.

About to vote in my fifth presidential race, I’ve never felt stronger about the side I’m voting for. Since it will likely become clear, I’ll just state now that I’m voting for Barack Obama. As I feel a need to put up my defense shield, let me add a few things. No, I didn’t decide that the minute he started running; I waited, listened, and learned. No, I’m not a Democrat, though I may actually change my party after this election. I freely admit I don’t understand the intricacies of our government, but feel I grasp the major issues at least as much as the average person. And, sadly this is relevant, I’m a white guy.

While I feel strongly about this election, I don’t see John McCain as this horrible candidate . . . until he starts talking about Obama. On the real issues as I understand them, I simply side with Obama. I think more drilling for oil prolongs the problems that our use of oil has created environmentally and in terms of national security. I also think McCain’s idea that you simply don’t talk to certain nations is outdated. The world seems to pretty much hate us, or at least a big section of it does, and the fact that our army is the strongest on the planet no longer keeps us safe.

But I at least see McCain’s point on these and other issues. If things ended there, I’d likely cast my vote on election day and pretty much assume the world would continue on without much change to my daily life regardless of who won.

What I can’t get passed though is the condescending attitude of McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin. McCain prattled on for months that Obama wasn’t ready to be president, and then went out and picked a woman who is so ridiculously unprepared her own party finds it scary. Are we not supposed to notice the double standard? Is it a coincidence that the black guy is “unprepared” but the white woman is “a fresh voice?”

When Palin says, “Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country,” it’s disgusting. Her comments were really nothing short of saying, “You’re not really going to vote for a black guy, are you?”

And maybe it’s a stretch, but it just reminds me of my bosses at the publisher I used to work for finding ways to push me aside because I’m disabled. No, they weren't quite as dumb as Palin to say it out loud, but when I take a website from 0 sales to $250k worth in a year and I’m told people are being brought in to “help” me, it just feels like the same garbage. It’s the wink-wink, we know the crippled/black guy can’t really do the job / be trusted, but we can’t put it that way so let’s come up with every BS excuse around the disability/race and hope people get the veiled reference.

One report has McCain / Palin supporters shouting racist remarks at a rally, as the candidate stood idly by. Sadly, the message is apparently getting through.

The Republicans keep saying “the gloves are off” -- what the hell does that even mean? They already blatantly lie, and thanks to Sarah their racist attitude is pretty much out of the bag. What’s left? Contending that Obama was with O.J. on the night of the murders?

In one of their latest ads against Obama, McCain’s campaign has literally taken an obviously edited snippet of video to make it sound like Obama is trashing our troops as “air raiding villages and killing civilians.” A condescending voice follows the clip saying something like, “How dishonorable.” The voice is correct, just misdirected. In fact, it is completely dishonorable of McCain to approve such a blatant attempt to dupe voters.

CBS reports:
The fact is: That’s just part of what Obama said. He was actually saying, more troops in Afghanistan would reduce civilian casualties.

In August of 2007, he said: “and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there.”

People are finally buzzing because McCain called Obama “that one” in the debate Tuesday night. Who cares? That’s too easy to explain away. Don’t let him off the hook that easy. I was actually wondering just before the debate if McCain would have the guts to speak out about the racist e-mails that we’ve all received about Obama. Instead, it’s quite clear he is counting on the ignorance that generates those e-mails to win this election.

I wasn’t sure I saw what I saw when McCain refused to shake hands at the end of Tuesday’s debate until I read others discussing it. It seems sad that’s the type of thing that gets attention, but as Inquirer writer Dan Rubin suggested in his blog Blinq (see previous link), this isn’t the behavior of a guy that’s going to reach across party lines.

While I’m at it, here’s a few more things about this campaign I’d like to vent about:

• McCain can’t even come up with his own campaign slogan. Obama talked about changing Washington, so McCain simply adopted the same slogan. McCain saw the support Hillary Clinton received, so he picked a woman for his running mate. Is there an original thought in this guy’s head?

• Palin thinks having a child with Down Syndrome makes her an advocate to people with disabilities. This is an infant, and Palin has just scratched the surface on learning about disability (assuming she has the capacity to learn). I truly wish her well in that journey, but being at the start of it does not make her an advocate. Besides that, she cut funding for special education in Alaska. (CNN later claimed such reports are untrue.) And, finally, she needs to hire a damn babysitter and stop using the baby and her little daughter as props!

• The truth is, I haven’t heard enough from either candidate on disability issues. In fact, I haven’t heard Obama or McCain utter a word about disability. I expected more from Obama, and McCain can’t wait to tell you how he’ll support veterans, yet has not uttered a word on disability. Which veterans does he think need the most support? Those that come home perfectly able-bodied and without psychological damage?

• Every time McCain calls himself a maverick, he sounds dumb. It’s like a guy that really wants to have a cool nickname so he just makes one up for himself.

• Wasn’t McCain a pilot in the military? How does that make him such a brilliant war strategist? And if his ideas on Iraq were so brilliant, where were they before he ran for president?