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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ewing Adds to Slippery Slope Republicans Have Us On

          Are Republicans just trying to piss people off at this point?

          Just days after Todd Akin coined the disturbing phrase “legitimate rape,” another Republican, Mark Ewing of Alaska, running for the state House, said, “We are spending millions and millions of dollars educating children that have a hard time making their wheelchair move and, I’m sorry, but you’ve got to say, ‘no’ somewhere. We need to educate our children, but there are certain individuals that are just not going to benefit from an education.”

          I’m sorry, too, Mark, but I’ve got to say, you’re an a--hole. I try to keep certain standards with my writing, but this is one of those times that more polite terms just don’t cut it. (I had to force myself not to spell out the actual word in deference to some level of professionalism.) Of course, Todd fits the same descriptions, but I’m going to focus on your stupidity today. These days you just have to make tough choices when it comes to responding to the idiotic statements coming out of the mouths of Republicans.

          People are already trying to come to Ewing’s rescue by explaining what he really meant. You know, those let’s-get-real geniuses, who just happen to generally be white, upper to middle class (financially, that is), and don’t usually have to deal with imperfections in their lives like someone with a bothersome disability.

          They want the rest of us to believe that Ewing was talking about kids who are so severely physically and mentally disabled that they can’t possibly benefit from an education. Let’s say for a moment that they’re correct – they’re dead wrong, but let’s pretend. What exactly would Ewing like society to do? Lock such people away? Just sort of let them die? And what does it say about a man (and, as in the past, I have to use the term man only in the biological sense for a politician) who thinks this is the answer to budget woes?

          By the way, in my experience most kids who fit the above description are more than likely in school all day with a small group of children with similar disabilities in one classroom – if they get that much. To suggest it’s costing “millions and millions of dollars” in a local race is complete BS, and implies costs nationally that are just as phony. Despite the Ewings of the world, even if his supporters’ premise about the kids he was referring to was accurate, budget cuts aren’t a viable excuse to deprive kids with the severest of disabilities the chance to have all of the stimulation they can get by being around other people. If that’s actually all a kid could get for an education, it’s as important as the education of anyone else.

          But, let’s do “get real.” Ewing wasn’t referring to kids with the most extreme disabilities. He referred to “children that have a hard time making their wheelchair move.”

          At the risk of validating a suggestion I’ve already heard that I make these things about me, I’m not as adept as some at making my wheelchair move. I essentially use one arm and my legs to move my manual chair, and I even use a power chair to go places independently – like to college, for instance, before I graduated with honors.

          No, I actually don’t think Ewing was referring to people with disabilities similar to me. But exactly where would he like to draw the line? Before I was mainstreamed I went to school with a lot of kids with Muscular Dystrophy who could barely push a wheelchair. Would they have just been sh-t out of luck under Ewing? MD is a progressive disability. Most kids with MD, I believe, are essentially able-bodied at a very young age. Do we cut off their schooling after they need a wheelchair or wait until they can’t push a manual anymore? Maybe Ewing has a speed limit in mind? Slip under 5 m.p.h. and time’s up?

          Actually, I went to school with some kids with the exact types of disabilities Ewing referred to. Guys like Timmy, who I knew for years. His cerebral palsy was much more severe than mine. Talking was such an effort it would often make him sweat, his limbs were strapped down to his wheelchair, and he probably never got much passed a fourth or fifth grade education. He was also a pretty funny guy who liked all the same stuff other kids did, and, like a lot of the kids I knew, lived in a home for kids with disabilities. I shudder the think what would have happened to Timmy if Ewing and his apologists ran the world. Keep him at the home all day? Or would even that be too expensive? How about 20 years from now when society has adjusted to the Timmy’s of the world staying in a home all day because they’re not worth the expense of sending them to school and the economy tanks again? I suppose it will be time to “get real” and take away their homes.

          Oh, by the way, if I remember her stories correctly, my mom was once told by doctors that I would never move. They probably thought I’d physically be a lot like Timmy. I wonder how much chance I would have had to prove them wrong without going to school where I received physical therapy.

          Hopefully, the consequences of what Ewing really said sound asinine to most people. The problem is Ewing’s words don’t sound absurd to all people. Based on his words I feel very safe guessing that Ewing has had no experience having someone with a disability in his life. His words were flip, thoughtless comments spoken out of ignorance, stupidity, and arrogance.

          It wasn’t long ago that while everyone dismissed Martin Harty, another Republican, as the dumb old man that he was and still is if he’s alive for suggesting that people with disabilities be shipped off to a place like Siberia, some Republicans were defending his right to speak. Now, some people want to explain Ewing’s words as if they have validity on some level.

          The Republican party has us all on a very slippery slope that seems to be getting slicker by the day. Voters need to wake-up and give them a dose of reality in November.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

NBC Not Airing the Paralympics Says Plenty . . . About Us

          Earlier this week my usual early morning check on Facebook brought me to a post from one of the smartest people I know who discusses disability issues. She posted a link to an article with a headline decrying the number of hours NBC dedicates to covering the Olympics versus the hours it airs games from the Paralympics – NBC: 5,000+ Hours for Olympics, 0 Hours for Paralympics.

          It’s a familiar complaint within the disability community, and a legitimate one on some levels. But the fact of the matter is that we shoulder some of the blame for what many seem to suggest is a lack of respect for the disability community. NBC doesn’t air the Olympic Games out of some sense of national pride. It’s a business decision. They reportedly paid $1.18 billion for the U.S. rights to air the Games. The only reason they do that is because they believe it will help them ultimately make money.

          I certainly don’t know all of the ramifications of airing the Olympics, but obviously airing commercials is a huge part of the deal for NBC. It’s a safe bet they can charge companies premium dollar for a 30-second ad during in the middle a summer day for two weeks instead of whatever they get for a rerun of The Ellen Degeneres Show. Prime-time coverage no doubt skyrockets the price. They can also pump viewers with promotions for their regular prime time shows. In fact, pushing their own shows may be the bigger factor as the report linked to in the last paragraph suggests NBC was projected to lose money in actually airing the Olympics, but may end up making a small profit. But, ultimately, the article suggested that profits equated to “gross revenue at $1.25 billion.”

          This only happens because people watch the Olympics. Again citing the same article, this summer’s Olympics were “the most-watched event in U.S. TV history.”

          More to the point – and I know I’m spelling out the abc’s of television, but bear with me – consumers were watching the Olympics in record numbers this summer.

          If people with disabilities really want to do something about the Paralympics reportedly getting zero hours of coverage this month, we need to do more than complain about NBC. This is a classic example of a topic grabbing our community’s attention, everyone crying “foul,” and nobody discussing the real problem nor even trying to do anything about it.

          NBC cares about revenue. Advertisers mostly care about getting their product in front of consumers.

          The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012 recently reported, “As of January 2012 only 20% of people with disabilities were either working a paid job or seeking employment in the national labor force, compared to 69% of the general population.”

          Obviously, if our community had jobs, people with disabilities would be more a part of the consumer base. The more we become consumers, the more television networks are going to care what we want to watch.

          Of course, employment leads to much more important things than networks caring what we want to watch – home ownership, security, more options in life in general. You know, little things like that.

          So, once again I’ll beat the drum that we need to force so-called advocates funded by tax dollars to help people with disabilities get jobs to do their jobs. The fact is that the accepted figure for unemployment of people with disabilities was 75% for years.

          Blaming the economy for the 5% increase in the already horrific unemployment rates among people with disabilities is a joke. It represents a complete failure by agencies charged with helping the disability community get into the job market.

          By the way, it’s about time we start insisting that all advocacy agencies for people with disabilities to do their part by hiring qualified candidates with disabilities for meaningful jobs. I was a “client” of more than one agency charged (read: paid) to help me find a job and worked for another advocacy group. Never once did I see anyone with an obvious physical disability employed in a job that would bring a professional type of salary by these places. In a job I held for two years with an assistive technology foundation, my part-time salary was paid via a grant from an endowments center across the state and I was treated like a poster child. Yet, the rest of the staff, all able-bodied, was paid directly by the foundation. If these agencies, especially those trying to convince companies that hiring people with disabilities is a good idea, aren’t willing to employ the community they serve, they have failed before they even started.

          We need better. We deserve better. But somehow we better figure out ways to make it happen, because clearly no one else intends to do so.

          It’s the only way we’ll ever have an impact on decisions like whether or not networks air the Paralympics – and other, more important decisions in our lives.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

You Got Your Politics in My E-mail!

          In a series of forwarded e-mail from someone I would barely call an acquaintance, I was recently told that I am essentially a bad Christian and/or Catholic if I vote for Barack Obama in November. One e-mail extolled the virtues of the Catholic church. It’s sheer size seemed important to the author, which seemed to equate to a certain rightness in being a Catholic. I was then urged to pass the message of “replacing our present president” on to “all of my Catholic friends.”

          While the identity of the forwarding fool no doubt irked me as much as the message – a classic example of those proclaiming righteousness the loudest while displaying no actual sign of it in their life – something else bothered me about receiving these messages.

          The more I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that these messages were nothing short of an invasion of privacy. They are a violation of personal space. They literally come right into my home.

          Most people will tell me to just hit the “delete” button and ignore it. Yet, due to the subject line, even that solution allows the basic message to register with the recipient. In my experience, blocking a person’s address is problematic as I inevitability hear about other e-mails that I’ve missed when using that option. Taking the person out my contacts at least filters the message to another folder aptly named “Junk,” but the problem of deleting the message persists.

          Perhaps it’s petty of me to suggest that I just damn well don’t want to have to delete someone else’s politics, but I don’t. E-mail is my primary source of communication with most of my family and friends. Hearing the “ding” that comes from my personal e-mail account is akin to most people’s cell phone ringing. I even have a separate account and e-mail program for my blogs, shopping online, and other activities that people should expect will bring unwanted messages.

          But regardless of my personal heavy use of e-mail, we should all have a right not to be accosted by political propaganda, racism, and religious blather, in our personal space.

          Sure, we’ve all been guilty of forwarding the occasional e-mail to a few too many people. But the political climate has changed in the last six years. The tone is incessantly angry, personal, and charged with the aforementioned subjects of race and religion. To forward your views to every address in your contacts is simply ignorant.

          I finally responded to one of the many messages simply stating that I voted for the president and would be doing so again. The message should have been clear: stop sending me your opinions.

          Instead I received another forwarded message with the same type of propaganda as well as a reply stating that the individual was “sorry to hear” of my voting choice. I voiced my utter shock at his surprise, and offered a more direct request for him to spare me what was often his racist babble. This also failed to stop the e-mails.

          Another, more direct response of “lose my address” to more propaganda – after trying to simply delete yet another e-mail – didn’t do the trick, either. I received a reply stating that this person would “still pray for me.”

          One of my biggest shortcomings is that I don’t generally react very well to this type of thing. I had already replied rather calmly three times (and somewhat politely, at least the first time). In fact, I think I maintained some decorum in all three requests to stop receiving the e-mails – I at least hadn’t ripped into the guy.

          The need for a fourth response . . . well, I could have told anyone that wasn’t going to go well. I may have suggested that the sanctimonious asshole save his prayers for himself. It took the deletion of yet another response from him and a threat to file a harassment complaint – and a few other things we won’t discuss that were in my fifth response – to stop the e-mails (so far).

          Admittedly, this is where I’m always questioning whether or not my experience is the same as what others would have experienced. I don’t know if the sanctimonious one would have offered prayers to an able-bodied responder. Certainly, people with disabilities aren’t the only ones who experience patronizing behavior, though I’m guessing we’re more familiar with it than most. Interestingly, in my experience it often comes from those claiming religion as a guide for their actions. However, in this case, I’m guessing my disability had little to no impact.

          Post your politics on Facebook. Tweet them for all the world to see. Even blog about them, as I have on occasion, ‘til your heart’s content. It’s your right as an American citizen.

          That’s your space. I can choose to “friend” you or not, hide you from my “news feed” or not, and follow you on Twitter or not. I can choose whether or not to check out your blog and absorb all of the political genius you have to offer. You can even e-mail your actual friends or acquaintances who agree with you or enjoy debating politics with you.

          Just keep your damn politics out of my inbox and the inbox of every friend, acquaintance, or flat out stranger, who was unfortunate enough to have you come across their e-mail address.

          Because unlike the commercials that showed the accidental mixing of chocolate and peanut butter that turned into a delicious Reese’s peanut butter cup from years ago, unwanted political messages aren’t so tasty.