I remember the first time, when I was very young, when my mother said, "Connie, don't point. It's not polite." I think I was pointing at someone in a wheelchair. I don't exactly remember the conversation that ensued, but I remember the underlying message: people with disabilities are really no different than the rest of us. We all have lives; we all have purpose; we all experience joy and disappointment; we all have feelings, and no one likes to be pointed at.
Shame on the folks at NBC and 30 Rock for pointing fingers last night. (As if this wasn't enough) The depiction of a young woman, a blind young woman out on a date with one of the characters on 30 Rock (I don’t watch it enough to know names) was just appalling.
Here’s the interesting thing: I didn’t even hear the dialogue last night. OK, I heard one line. I had just turned the channel and my timing was such that I saw a lovely young woman, carrying a cane and being guided through a building. I heard and saw just enough to realize that this woman was being guided through the building but was being mislead to thinking she was being escorted into a restaurant. I heard the young lady say something like "funny, I feel like I've been walking in circles…"
Just then my daughter called and since she means more to me than a television show, I turned down the volume. What I saw happening on the screen caught my attention however, and what I saw came through loud and clear.
The writers at 30 Rock took a character, a woman who happened to be blind, and poked fun – and pointed fingers - for a laugh. Millions of laughs, I'm sure.
I’m not amused. There is a reason why disability awareness and sensitivity training programs have been developed over the years. But clearly the power players at NBC and 30 Rock have yet to pass around that memo. And why should they. Pointing fingers is good for business. And so much fun.
While not blind myself, I live on the Planet of the Blind. And not only do I live there, I work there too. I have conversations with parents of young children diagnosed with inherited blinding eye diseases. They are desperate to find treatments and cures for their children. I sometimes feel compelled to tell them that with proper support and education, their children will be just fine. But they are afraid….
Why wouldn't they be? After all, popular culture is still pointing. And laughing.