Search This Blog

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Every Day Ableism, Ignorance and Hate

Tuesday was not my day. I went out to have lunch and do errands. Simple. Not really. I tried to exit my building and a large moving van blocked the ramp and side walk. I wait 15 minutes for the movers to return. They were nice and apologetic. I walk to the nearest corner. Each and every curb cut is blocked. If I want to get to where I am going I will need to navigate in the street. This is a risk and in the back of my mind I recall a wheelchair user was hit by a car and killed not far from where I live. The risk I tell myself is manageable. More blocked curb cuts await. I am forced to go three blocks out of my way. It has taken me over 30 minutes to go what should have taken less than 5 minutes. Disability is a time sucker of epic proportions.

It is the summer and without students on campus and multiple road closures, many bus routes are detoured. No one quite knows where the bus will be on a given day. Not to worry. I have memorized the route. I walk the bus route itself and eventually a bus will come by. Of course this works when the weather cooperates. Yesterday was one of those cooperating days. Upon meeting a friend for lunch yet another curb cut was blocked. I enter the street yet again and ask the men in a huge garbage truck to move.

After lunch, I meandered my way home. Among my errands was a stop at the pharmacy. Three blocks after I went to the pharmacy my urban radar went off. A hundred feet later I know I am being stalked. I can feel the presence of another person who is failing at being stealthy. Next thing I know out of the corner of my eye a hand comes over my shoulder to snatch the plastic bag off my lap. Luckily for me the hand comes over my right shoulder. As I see the hand I spin very hard to my right and take my forearm and slam down on the stalkers elbow as hard as humanly possible. Two things happen at once. The frame of my wheelchair hits the man in the shins--that hurt for sure. At the same time my forearm forcefully connects with the man's elbow. The man looks like a deer with his head stuck in the headlights. He is shocked. I am not the easy mark he assumed I was. I am quite pleased with myself. The man yelped and ran away down a nearby ally. Unbeknownst to me a building security guard witnessed what took place. He was impressed. We chatted a few minutes about crime in Syracuse and we joked that guy is never going to try and steal from a wheelchair user again. After a moment of silence we agree crime and drug addiction is rampant in the city. The man likely followed me from the drug store. I am not sure if I am sad or angry or simply vulnerable. 

Nearing home I stop in the shade near the fountain in Clinton Square. It is a pleasant place to stop. As I attempt to find my inner Zen, a well dressed man comes up to me. My radar is yet again going going off. He said "I know the handicapped are poor. You must be poor. I am going to buy you food. What do you want to eat"? My first thought is he thinks I am a homeless guy. But no. I look pretty good today. Indeed, I have made a concerted effort in the last few weeks to look neat and clean. I am essentially prepping for Yale. Being the worst dressed professor at Syracuse is one thing but quite different at Yale. Not a chance I look like a homeless person. I replied in a non confrontational manner. "No thanks. Leave me alone". The tone of my voice I think made it clear I wanted to be left alone. Mercifully the man did as requested. 

Tuesday was atypical. However, street harassment is routine when I have the nerve to walk around the city alone. What I find unusual is that routine harassment has taken a decidedly nasty turn in recent months. This happens when the American people elect a demagogue to the presidency. Each day brings one shocking story after another. A war is being waged and like other vulnerable people I am in the cross hairs. When Trump was elected I instantly thought those that voted for him were filled with hate and ignorance. My views have not change one iota. Half the population of this nation have embraced a draconian view of the world. That world does not include people with a disability, the poor, elderly, and any person that does not conform to a very narrow norm. That norm is predicated on one being an employed tax paying member of society. If you need social supports and an education well that is trouble for we are entering an era of ruthlessness that is as bald as it is ugly. Trump's budget is without question ruthless. Link: The only solace I find is that many others share my views. One person in particular is on an impressive roll writing about the current political climate. The always fascinating Lance Mannion wrote: 

They hate us. All of us. The budget makes that plain. Before it’s a financial or policy document, it’s a manifesto. A declaration in numbers of how much they hate us.
They hate the poor, that's obvious. They hate and despise and fear the poor, especially if they're brown. But they hate the sick too. And the old, at least everyone irresponsible enough to get old without having put together a $500,000 portfolio. They hate children. Other people's children, of course. They dote on and spoil their own. But other people's children are coddled and raised to think life owes them so those kids need to be taught a lesson. They hate everybody who isn't rich because we should be rich. That's what life is for. To make money. Lots of it. And if you didn't do that you've wasted your life. If you didn't do it it's a sign you didn't try, you didn't work or work hard enough. It's a sign of your bad character and moral failure. And that's what we all are in their eyes, moral failures who expect them to bail them out when our bad character gets us in trouble. Even if we aren't constantly coming to them with our hand out in one way, we're doing it in another, demanding we be paid more than we're worth, demanding benefits we haven't earned or deserved.
We're all thieves and parasites, moral failures, degenerates and defectives. Sinners! Sinners against God and Nature and we must be punished. Link:
Unimaginable. That word springs to mind on a daily basis. I fear I am the Mad Hatter. Lewis Carroll never used those exact words in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The phrase used, "mad as a hatter" predated Carroll's writing. The popular image however seems apt. 

I feel as though the world has spun off its axis and nothing makes sense. I hear words and cannot fathom how a human being can be so twisted. Trump's budget directed recently stated: 
We are never going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs...We are going to measure compassion... by the number of people we help get off those programs.
Paging Ayn Rand! Selfishness is now a revered trait. How dare the elderly need care. How dare the paralyzed need a wheelchair. How dare the deaf expect ALS interpreters at any public event. How dare the poor be hungry. How dare those addicted to opiates seek treatment for addiction. How dare the poor want an education. How dare people with mental illness seek care. I do believe it is time for a tear party. Nothing else makes sense. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Count Down and Goodbyes Begin

As is my custom, I was up in the pre dawn hours. This is my last week in Syracuse. The last three years have been good but it is painfully obvious the time has come to move on. I cannot imagine ever returning to Syracuse. I have met and become friends with a small cadre of friends who truth be told are family.  Life time relationships have been forged and they will always be cherished. Via long distance, my Syracuse family will be nurtured and loved. These people I will miss to the depths of my soul.

Syracuse has served as a perfect way station. With my parents both deceased as well as two of my closest siblings there is no reason for me to live in New York. Indeed, there is no need for me to live east of the the Mississippi River. I am fulfilling my life long dream of moving west. I will not miss much. Coming of age as an adult and scholar in New York City will remain a foundational part of life. Columbia University was difficult and rewarding. Earning my PhD and seeing my son born were highlights of my life. I had some horrific lows. Divorce. The death of my father and years later my mother. A massive life threatening wound and a year spent in a Clinton bed utterly dependent upon my family--especially my sister Ellen who was the most generous giving person. I would not be alive if not for her. And growing up. Oh my I went through the medical mill and thanks to Arnold P. Gold I reached adulthood despite long odds.

Today begins the process of moving. It has been a gut wrenching morning. I have not moved much in my life because I find moving difficult. I knew I would shed tears today. I am a neat person but dog hair gets everywhere. I know this all too well as ten years after my first labrador Burt died I found some of his hair in the back of a closet when I left Katonah. I knew I would find much of Kate's hair today. I found a lot. I cried a lot. I vacuumed a lot. The overcast gloom and rain fit the occasion. I am doing my best to not move a single hair of hers. I have applied for a service dog and it is time to look forward. To quote Satchel Paige "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you". I have no interest in looking back. Looking forward is exciting. I will of the first time since my son was born live in a modern and exciting city. No more suburban boredom. No gritty Syracuse. Though I should note I will miss parts of Syracuse. The Onondaga Creek Week, Grey Rock Farm, my old view of Cazenovia Lake, and the delicious local kielbasa and bacon.

This move is all about the future--a future that is completely unknown. I am especially curious about what it will be like to live in the West. Will do gooders harass me? Will people continue to congratulate me for the ordinary? You know, the stranger that tell me I am inspiring because I can drive. Will people ask me why I am traveling alone? Is Denver mass transit really as accessible as I have been led to believe? Will I forsake the New York Mets for the Colorado Rockies? The very idea seems preposterous. I know for sure I will remain a New York Ranger fan. It helps that the Avalanche are truly terrible and will be for a while. Will I take all the drives I am dreaming of from Denver? I am only eight hours from Signal Mountain Lodge, Grand Teton National Park, and the Chapel of the Transfiguration.  To know I live near the only place in my life I have found solace and spiritual belief brings me a sense of serenity that has been absent most of my life. It is my hope that I will thrive as never before surrounded by the beauty and majestic mountains of the west. As a life long pessimist, it feels decidedly strange to be brimming with optimism.