My friend, the writer and poet Ralph Savarese (whose book "Reasonable People" I have reviewed on this very blog) has a superb op-ed piece in today’s L.A. Times. Anyone who is interested in the intersection of disability and community in our nation will want to read this important essay. You can view Ralph’s editorial here
Bill likes to stay in touch; he sends us an e-mail every now and then. Today he had this to say. I thought it worth sharing…
By now you’ve seen it: George W. Bush remarked yesterday at the White House that Queen Elizabeth II "helped us celebrate our nation’s bi-centennial in 17….1976." WINK. The Queen was not amused. She shot "W" a withering look. The Prez in turn made a joke about how the Queen looked like a disapproving mother.
And that’s W’s whole problem. I realized this morning that he’s been pushed around by his mother all his life. And everybody knows that Barbara Bush is a mean girl all grown up.
A grown up mean girl differs from a teen M.G.in two important ways: 1. She’s outlived her daddy and probably she’s outlasted her tough old mommy too. So she’s not arguing anymore about how to raise the kids. And 2: An "old mean girl" believes that Ozzie Osborne’s practice of biting the heads off of live birds is merely amateur behavior. Back home and in secret the Queen regularly bites the heads off of her kitchen staff and you can look it up.
When she was First Lady Barbara Bush tried to cover up how mean she was by making her dog write a book. That’s of course a famous "mean girl" trick: "I’ll be your friend if you do my homework and I’ll even let you stand next to my next best friend at the prom."
Poor President Bush. People have speculated that his impoverished speaking style and his apparent inability to grasp details may have something to do with a secret learning disability. But it’s now clear that he’s an "adult child of an old mean girl"–a largely unexamined condition but one which most likely affects millions of conservative men. I’ll bet Trent Lott has a mean old Mama. Can you even begin to imagine Dick Cheney’s mother?
It’s no wonder that George W. Bush stumbled during his introduction what with that archetypal mean old girl looking him up and down. He thought for a moment that he was back home in Kennebunkport watching Barbara Bush bite the head off a songbird.
Good-bye Mr. Vonnegut. I know you didn’t believe in heaven, or if you did, it was a place oddly without value, replete with angelic children and old Nazis playing shuffleboard together. But I believe that heaven is where we point our sails and hence I see you with Mark Twain, the two of you on a veranda overlooking the Hudson river, and you are enjoying the telling of an intricate story, the kind that goes forward like a disreputable wagon train that has been forced out of town by an untoward event that took place at yesterday’s circus and the likes of which the locals had never seen before and which in turn the circus folk will tell again and again, and the story will become variously clouded and ill suited to the demands of memory and that will make it better and better. I see you both smoking good cigars. I hope you tell Mr. Twain the joke which ends with the punch line: "Hold onto your hats, we could end up miles from here."
Oh, and Mr. Vonegut. Get Twain to tell you once again, and out loud his respective diaries of Adam and Eve. Ask him to introduce you to them by and by. They will, I think, look strangely like people from Indiana. Oh, and say hi to Kin Hubbard and the other free thinkers out there. Remind them please that us terrestrials will never forget them.
You’ll appreciate these posts as well…
Why There Are Any Bluebirds Left I Don’t Know
So It Goes
Ode to Kurt
RIP Kurt Vonnegut
Many years ago, back when I was a young, believing man, when Jimmy Carter was trying to restore the tradition of F.D.R.’s "fireside chats" by seating himself before a log fire in the White House and talking earnestly to the American people about the nation’s energy crisis, way back then, I knew that the people of the United States were essentially disinterested in having earnestness and honesty in their daily politics.
Our collective inability to address this pathology over the past twenty five years has lead in turn to neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism. Each of "the neos" is constructed out of cynicism and both have their roots in the economic and social dissolutions that followed the Viet Nam war. Neo-cons believe that "New Deal" modernism and its associated reliance on federalism is the source of the erosion of traditional values. In other words: social safety programs will unfairly tax the middle classes and will prevent the poor from developing a work ethic. Neo-liberals bought into this idea because they correctly understood that, after Reagan, the new "lingua franca" of American politics was going to be religious rhetoric and not the language of the old fashioned American social contract.
Both positions are wrong. The United States needs strong social programs that can put young people to work in the manner of the Works Progress Administration. We need such programs desperately. The language of faith and values, with all its glorification of volunteerism can’t obscure the fact that young people need jobs and education at the very moment our nation’s infrastructure needs modernization. So to be direct about the matter: I want Jimmy Carter back! I want a President who believes in tackling the nation’s energy problems while championing human rights. I want a president who has religious values but who believes in the best of F.D.R.’s New Deal. I believe that the nation will vote for the candidate who is best able to understand that both the neo-cons and the neo-libs are collectively lacking both vision and courage. I felt like typing these words this morning. I hope my readers don’t mind. I just can’t help it. And one last "dig": both the neo-cons and the neo-libs are respectively concerned with lifestyle choices rather than ethical government. Lord help me! I’m starting to feel like Christopher Lasch.
What’s funny these days? I have it on good authority that the French are drinking more beer. Explanations from the French Ministry of Gastronomic Identity hold that the disgraceful movement towards the hop is merely a reflection of France’s new international culture. Translation: there are more people inside France who hail from lowly beer drinking countries than ever before. But of course these people are not French. Not really. They just live there and drink beer. I picture these people sneaking around with their scandalous brown or green bottles hidden under baby blankets in strollers or with cans secreted under their hats. I pity the French. What’s next? Tex Mex food all over the Dordogne. I guess that would be "Le Tex Mex"?
Remember when the big controversy in France had to do with finding French ways to say "Jumbo Jet"? They came up with "Le Jumbo Jet"–I’m not making this up.
Other funny things:
Norm Coleman, the senator from Minnesota, who was elected after the death of liberal democrat Paul Weldstone, and who was a car dealer and ran on a pro-Bush bandwangon is trying to figure out how to run against Al Franken. Polls show him trailing the comedian. Coleman doesn’t want to distance himself from W’s handling of the war. That’s a difficult position to be in. The plot behind this particular senate race resembles something you might find in a Kurt Vonnegut novel.
The other night I watched a PBS series devoted to the "baby boomer" generation. I suffered through the lugubrious narrative about the boomer generation’s singularity and never once did I hear the word "disability" mentioned. It was the boomers, and especially the Viet Nam veterans, who launched the national movement that lead to the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And the boomers are about to become the most physically disabled generation in world history. How interesting that the subject stayed completely off the self-congratulatory script of this program.
I still think of the boomers as the generation that left all the trash at Woodstock. They’re now rolling up the largest debt in history. Leaving dirty stuff behind is their great forte. That’s a cheap shot of course. Maybe I should call it "le cheap shot"?
I do wish to conclude today’s post on a positive and serious note.
I want to recommend the book "A Long Way Gone: Memoir of a Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah. I will write about it more thoroughly but suffice it to say that it’s a literary memoir of great distinction by a young man who survived being abducted and who was forced to fight in the civil war in Sierra Leone. This is a rare book and I heartily urge everyone to read it.
The difference between a politician and an opportunist is that the former has better clothes. At present you wouldn’t know the difference: both tribes in Washington appear to be equally naked. This morning I saw a Democratic spin doctor and his GOP counterpart square off about the announcement by Rudy Giuliani that if elected he would invite his wife to participate in cabinet meetings.
Predictably enough, the Republican representative said the kind of things that Clinton supporters used to say about the value of having Hillary at the side of President Bill Clinton: remember the "two for one" arguments circa 1992?
And sure enough: the Democrat blathered on and on about how Rudy shouldn’t have said this, implying that the position regarding his wife suggests to the public that Giuliani is weak.
Both politicians and regular rank and file opportunists will speak in the passive public assumptive whenever they are being invidious, but this particular demonstration this morning was in my view a new "low" in Democratic "spinning".
I wonder if just for once we might have a presidential campaign in this country that wouldn’t see the nation pandering to sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, and their associated sub-categories of sub-Cartesian posturing.
"You may say that I’m a dreamer/ But I’m not the only one…"
Thank you Mr. Lennon…
The more I think about it, if we really valued marriage in this country, we would insist that presidents should in fact always have their spouse at cabinet meetings. Think of it! Nixon, had he been forced to invite Pat to his cabinet couldn’t have ranted and raved about his political foes and he couldn’t have used all those expletives.
And if Hillary is elected, she can be sure that Bill is behaving himself at all times if he’s required to attend meetings.
I thought that things were going badly but now I’m not so sure. I just heard that Donald Trump may shave his head as part of a wager with someone and heck, that’s worth getting excited about. Why? Because then he’d be another big pink man on TV along with the cast of characters I’ve mentioned below. In fact, I suspect that "The Donald" would in fact look a good deal like "Daddy Warbucks" if his pate was pristine and maybe even waxed. Of course I’m a blind guy. My visual literacy is perhaps a bit suspect. But I have it on good authority that Trump has a big head and that accordingly there’s the potential for a genuine Warbucks look should the man lose his wager and get scalped.
I don’t know what all the fuss is about concerning Rudy Giuliani’s new wife having been married "twice" before her marriage to America’s Mayor. She apparently "forgot" one of her husbands when she said that Rudy was her second hubby. I don’t see why this memory lapse bothers people. Jeez. It’s not like she’s tried to take credit for inventing the internet or something like that.
So I’m feeling better about America because it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump will join the Big Pink Men Hall of Fame.
It doesn’t take much to lift me out of my gloom. I mean, you know, the war, the erosion of civil liberties, the loss of global respect for our nation: all these things are easily forgotten when one can still contemplate the prospect of a very rich man making an ass of himself. I used to watch "Columbo" for that very reason. If you remember, that was the premiss behind every episode. I used to love Peter Falk’s criminal adversaries, all of whom were beautifully arrogant and filthy rich. I remember one episode where Robert Culp played a particularly narcissistic doctor who had murdered his wife. But like all running dogs of the capitalist system, he talked too much.
I’m giving "thumbs down" to a new murder/suspense thriller called "The Maiden’s Grave" by Jeffrey Deaver (who is famous for "The Bone Collector"). In his newest venture a psychopathic murderer escapes from a Kansas prison and takes a bus load of deaf girls hostage. Although Deaver has done his homework about the deaf community and though he goes to great lengths to make deafness and deaf culture realizable to his readers, in the end his deaf characters are simply a contrivance of plot: they are unfortunately cast as being brave or timid according to their respective feelings about their deafness, a contrivance that I personally feel is quasi-ableist at best. I was disappointed by the book because I’ve liked Deaver’s Lincoln Rhimes novels and I think that despite all his research into deafness he has fallen short of the sophisticated portrait of disability that he has offered in these other books.
But back to the big pink men issue: I wonder if all the Presidential candidates had to shave their heads who would win the election? Rudy has an edge since he’s nearly bald. Hilary and John Edwards have the best hair and so they’ve got the most to lose in this scenario. John McCain already looks bald, or so I’m told. Fred Thompson could easily be another big pink guy.
Hey, does anybody besides me think that if someone from "Law and Order" is going to run for the presidency it should really be Sam Watterson? Just a thought.
I am not astonished to see that the United States hasn’t signed the United Nations International Charter on Disability Rights, but I am of course disappointed. I will be traveling to Kenya in June and it will be interesting to be in a nation that signed the protocol and have the opportunity to explain why the United States chose not to. I look back fondly to the days when America stood for human rights around the globe. As our current President would say: "Ah, those were the good old days…"
Continue reading “The Good Old Days”
My wife Connie called me last night from New Hampshire where she’s visiting family to report that she had just read an obituary of Judge Richard Casey in the Manchester Union Leader. Connie and I knew Judge Casey from our time working together at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, in Yorktown Heights, New York. Judge Casey was both a graduate of Guiding Eyes, and a top notch Manhattan attorney when Connie and I first got to know him. He was also in those years an energetic member of the board of directors of Guiding Eyes. Dick Casey was in fact such an extraordinary attorney and public servant that President Clinton nominated him to serve as a Federal Judge in New York.
I will always know Dick Casey as the man who worked tirelessly to promote Guiding Eyes for the Blind. After going blind in mid life, Dick went forward with a dog from Guiding Eyes and found the benefits of mobility and the corresponding confidence that comes with having a professionally trained guide dog. In turn he put his considerable energy into serving the guide dog movement by serving on GEB’s board of directors and he worked tirelessly to help the guide dog school raise funds that will assure that any blind person who wants a guide dog can acquire one "free of charge".
The newspapers will talk about Dick’s extraordinary legal career which saw him presiding over several important cases and that’s appropriate of course. But I want to say in the "blogosphere" that Judge Casey’s philanthropic work on behalf of the blind will always be significant because it will go forward and benefit thousands of lives to come.
We have lost a tough guy who had a secret, soft heart, though he wouldn’t want the word to get out. Our hats are off and our prayers are for Richard Conway Casey and his family and friends.