Archive for April 2008
Today as I rolled down the street, at a street corner, a man who was not in a chair was telling me that it would be funny for me to sit on a street corner and when the light was green and cars were passing by, to act as though I were going to cross, and then pull back and give them a “just kidding” look. A fun little prank to play on the walkies (my affectionate name for those less disabled than I am).
Yeah, I’ve always wanted to be the cause of a 50 car pile-up.
In a posting with a similar title about Earth Day, I wrote about how I used my disability to get people thinking. Sure, I used my disability, but only for good, not for pure unadulterated evil.
I am sure this man was joking, but honestly, some people don’t know quite how to communicate with the disabled as though we were, oh I don’t know, equals. The conversation I had today was right up there with the people who don’t understand why, when stuck in a crowd, I don’t just start running people’s feet over to get through. No, this was worse.
I am a history major so, as pointless as I know they are, the “what-if” questions of history are always irresistible to me. This one is also irresistible to me because I often hear of people who lose the ability to walk and say things like “I wish I were dead” or “my life isn’t worth living now.” For those of you who can walk, and ever thought about how you would react if you lost that ability, consider this:
I read a blog posting by Dusiteen where he says that he is looking for the Martin Luther King of the disabled community. A great idea itself, but it set my mind in motion in another direction entirely. So many people who have been considered activists have been gunned down, either for their beliefs, or just randomly. Martin Luther King, John Lennon, John Kennedy. None of these men were afraid to speak their conscience on peace and understanding in general or on specific issues, political or social, that sparked their interest, sympathy or even ire. All of them were shot dead. I can’t help wondering what if they were shot, but not killed. Only left paralyzed.
I realize how morbid this sounds, but think about it. What if John Lennon’s assassin’s bullet had put Lennon in a wheelchair instead of the grave. It would only be natural that some of that activist spirit would be redirected. I wonder what a song by Lennon speaking up for the rights of the disabled would have sounded like. I have written an earlier posting about John Lennon’s charitable activities on behalf of the disabled, but what if he was one of them himself?
And, as President, how would a paraplegic JFK have affected disabled rights legislation? Would the ADA have come more than 20 years earlier than it actually did, had our president been put in a wheelchair during his tenure? FDR was in a wheelchair but he hid it. By the 60s I don’t think that disabilities in America were kept quite as deep in the closet as they were in the 30s when FDR took office. This could have been an opening toward some real progress.
How would Martin Luther King, one of American History’s greatest orators, have used his power to evoke emotion in his audience to effect change for the betterment of the lives of those Americans who, like him, lived life on four wheels?
Obviously, we will never know, but I can’t help trying to construct all different scenarios, how the ’60s and the ’80s would have been reshaped by these disabled activists. What if the assassin of Gandhi, the grandfather of all political activists, had failed to kill him, but put him in a chair? Why put these men through that, even as a what-if exercise? Well, the world would be a very different place. Just imagine…
That is exactly what an intruder found out when attempting to rob Allen Kieta’s Indiana home the other day.
Kieta, who lost vision in one eye when he was two, and in the other after being the victim of a highway sniper of all things, had Lady Luck on his side when Alvaro Castro broke into his home. Because, when Kieta’s dog, Bella, began barking, he got out of bed and “ran right into” the intruder in the hallway, quickly engaging him in hand to hand combat. Kieta is a former high school wrestler himself, and had learned a few maneuvers from his father, who was a marine. He quickly recalled what he’d been taught and put it into action on the intruder.
It was then that Kieta dragged Castro by the belt into the kitchen, bashing his head against the wall the whole time “to keep him disoriented.”
Oddly enough it seems that Castro was not armed, because in the “30 to 40 minutes” that they fought before Kieta wrestled him into the kitchen and grabbed a knife and called the police, Castro launched no counter attack with a weapon of his own.
Kieta beat Castro into submission to the point that Castro apparently begged Kieta to let him dial 911 for him.
All the blood in the wake of the fight was that of the intruder’s, said Kieta’s wife.
Read the full story here.
About a week ago I wrote that I had applied for a position at my company which would be a promotion for me. Well I am happy to announce that I have been extended an offer and I have accepted.
I am definitely the only person in the building with a visible disability (aside from those who wear glasses – some consider that a disability). It never came up in my interview, as it has not come up since my first day there almost three years ago. The supervisors at that time were worried about my ability to get around the office, fit in the stations, etc., with my wheelchair. Which is understandable. They wanted to be sure that I would be comfortable in my workplace.
In my almost three years there, I only recall having two conversations with co-workers regarding my disability, and both conversations are recounted within this blog. I am glad those are the only two conversations I have ever had there starring my wheelchair. I feel that is the best way to success, to make the wheelchair a non-issue from the start.
Normally on Earth Day I won’t go any further out of my way to pick up a piece of garbage laying on the ground than I would on any other day. That was the purpose of Earth Day to begin with, right? To raise awareness that we need to take care of the planet all of the time? It was not an end unto itself. It was a starting point.
Today though, I found myself rolling down a stretch of road that has always been particularly well studded with cans, bottles, cigarette butts, sandwich wrappers, etc. This is probably so because it is also a well traveled stretch of road. So today I thought why not take advantage of this situation.
Because I have found that when able bodied people are driving along and they see a dude in a wheelchair rolling down the highway picking up garbage that for all they know, they could have left there themselves, it tends to raise eyebrows. And I hoped they were thinking:
“My God, I never realized what a pig I am until now!”
All kidding aside, I would never suggest that people in wheelchairs are any less sloppy than anyone else in their habits in the proper disposal of garbage. I am in no way any more “Green” than the next guy. But it is fun to use the disability you have been given to make a point. For instance, if I wasn’t in a wheelchair, I might be seen as just another tree-hugger trying to look environmentally conscious for at least one day (which, today, was pretty close to the truth). But because I am in a chair, I get…that look. You know the look that says “Wow, look at him go, even he’s getting into the act! Well, shoot, I’d better get out my celly and buy me a windmill to put in my yard right this instant to catch up!”
I didn’t get anyone to abandon their SUV in the middle of the road and walk to work instead. Maybe next year.
Today, April 20, 2008, marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Henry Chadwick, sportswriter, statistician, and often called “The Father of Baseball”.
Chadwick did not invent baseball, and he was not known to have played the game. But he was one of the first sports journalists to focus on baseball. And it was his early reporting of games in the New York area between newly formed teams that quickly turned this playground game into a game for men which would soon be referred to as “The National Game” or “National Pastime.” Chadwick popularized the collection of baseball statistics as we know it today, and he was strongly against the spread of the myth of baseball’s beginnings, the claim that Abner Doubleday invented the game in 1839 in a field in Cooperstown, NY. Chadwick knew that the game had a longer, richer history than that.
Now, why is this important to me? What does this have to do with the general theme of treadmarkz.wordpress.com? Good question.
First because early in life I became enchanted with the game of baseball, a “baseball history and statistics wizard” as my mom has often called me. It made me feel a part of something magical. Being born with spina bifida, and unable to fully take part in baseball, reading about it gave me something to look up to. Just to know about its history, and its players, men who, to me were close to supernatural, made me feel a part of something bigger.
Then there was that moment when I was in 9th grade, but I was at home, out of school for months, in a body cast after a back surgery. There was that one flash of inspiration while I lay there completely out of commission, not doing anything.
What do I want to do with my life? I want to be a journalist!
And what do I want to write about? I want to write about baseball!
That was all I wanted from the time I was 15 until I was about 25. I lived out that dream and I tried to write about it in a way that would fill another generation with wonder over the simple game.
Anyone who has ever written about baseball or has cherished the history of the “grand olde game” is in debt to Henry Chadwick.
Many people living with paralysis due to spinal cord injuries hold out hope that one day they will walk again. For many it is a religious faith that drives them to work toward the day they will leave their chair behind.
The other most promising source of the redemption they hope for is science. I was born with spina bifida, and I personally believe that if I was intended to walk, I would not have been created the way I am to begin with. Though I believe all of the sciences are worthwhile endeavors through which humanity can do great things, I believe that the level of ability which I was born with is one thing that science cannot overpower. I understand how those who were born “able” and were injured may feel differently.
But with all respect to my disabled readers who do strongly believe they can and will walk again, the story linked to here is for you.
You may have noticed that I write as often as I can about human rights, equality in society, etc. I have been especially concerned with those with disabilities. In short, I am a proponent of human rights. So when I received an email from BlogCatalog.com, I decided that I was going to post it. May 15 is a few weeks from now, but here is something to be thinking about until then. It will be a great way for us bloggers to come together and agree on something for just one day.
P.S. – Blogcatalog.com is a great resource for any blogger to commune with other bloggers, see what others are doing, and get your blog publicized. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.
Read the text of the email that I recieved from Blogcatalog.com below, then click the Bloggers Unite sign on the right for further details:
Join Bloggers Unite For Human Rights On May 15!
|Thanks to you, May marks the first anniversary of Bloggers Unite and this time we’re launching an awareness campaign chosen by BlogCatalog members. On May 15, let’s unite for human rights and make a statement that all people are born with basic rights and freedoms – life, liberty, and justice!
On May 15th 2008, let’s come together and all blog about Human Rights. There are dozens and dozens of human rights issues that you can write about. The one you choose is up to you.
Topics to Consider
Learn More About Human Rights
There are many organizations that promote human rights and work to protect people. We’ve picked three to help you learn more and find breaking topics.
- Amnesty International (http://www.amnesty.org/) is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. They work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity.
- Human Right Watch (http://www.hrw.org/) is dedicated to protecting human rights of people around the world. They stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, uphold political freedom, protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice.
- Youth For Human Rights (http://www.youthforhumanrights.org) is an independent non-profit that educates people about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights so they become valuable advocates for tolerance and peace.
We have an entire group discussion dedicated to Bloggers Unite (http://www.blogcatalog.com/group/bloggers-unite) where you can add more organizations that you think are worth including.
How To Join Bloggers Unite!
To join, simply visit the Bloggers Unite page (http://unite.blogcatalog.com/) to get more information. Then, on Thursday, May 15th, write a blog post that shares awareness about human rights.
Your blog post could:
- Have the title “Bloggers Unite For Human Rights” (or some variation).
- include an example of human rights so people can learn about it.
- Explain the importance of human rights and how it applies to everyone.
- Link to one of the sites we’ve listed or the most suitable site for your country.
- And add a link to our BlogCatalog Community Human Rights Awareness Campaign page so we can give you and your blog credit for being part of it.
If you have any questions, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. And please, don’t forget to tell your friends to blog about this too. Together, I know we can raise awareness and prove bloggers can do good!
This one goes back a few years, but it is something that popped into my mind last night, and I would love to read people’s thoughts on the subject:
When I was still living at home with my parents, I remember them talking about sales calls they would get from a woman identifying herself only as “the handicapped lady”. What she was selling or advocating is lost to history, but the point is she used her disability as a…well, a gimmick. I don’t wanna get off on a rant here, but it also pigeonholed her as a person with disabilities, and not much more. That was all she wanted people to know about her, it seemed.
I suppose all of us with disabilities may have used our situation, blatantly or not, as a way to gain someone’s sympathy (“I can’t do that, my legs don’t work”), trust (people tend to think that disabled people are incapable of back-stabbing behavior, but it is simply not true), or just to gain an advantage that able-bodied people would not get (billions examples from un-needed SSI payments to everyday things like a seat closer to the door – anything).
But how far is taking it too far? When is using your disability to your advantage (or as a gimmick) just unhealthy self-deprecation, and a plea for pity, i.e., “the handicapped lady”?
I haven’t posted anything in a while because I have had a lot happening in my life. First, I have had a friend review my first draft of a novel, called “War Is Over” and now I am planning to hit that hard to get it ready for publication. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase “War Is Over”, it was an anti-war campaign initiated by John Lennon and Yoko Ono Lennon in 1969. But this is not an anti-war book. It is a pro-understanding book.
Secondly, I have been preparing myself for a job interview. I was interviewed today for a new position at the company I work for. New position, new responsibilities. Fun stuff! If I get the job, I look forward to the challenge! But I shan’t get my hopes up prematurely.
Thirdly, I have been exchanging emails with a couple who have two children with Spina bifida. We will call the couple Tim and Jane. I heard about them through a friend of mine and I jumped at the chance to get to know them. I think it is important for all of us with disabilities to do all we can, first to educate able-bodied people about why we are their equals in every way except some superficial and physical ways.
But also, if we meet people who are raising children with the same disability as we have, to talk with them and, even though every child is different, try to help them to understand what may lie ahead with their child, and offer them advice on how to give the child the best chance they can at being the same as everyone else. I think I can safely say that all disabled people went through that at one time or another.
“I’m different. Why? I don’t want to be different. Wait a minute…sure I am different, but barely. So what? I wish people wouldn’t treat me like I am different!”
And finally, if you have a chance to mentor a child or young adult who is going through the same things you went through at that stage of life, it is important to do so. It’s a legacy thing but it is also a way to do wonders with the knowledge that you have which may be exponentially more valuable than you think. If the parents worry about bringing up a health, happy child who is equal to his peers, think of how the child himself/herself feels!
I look forward to speaking with Tim and Jane again.