So it was a rainy day in Iowa City and I was late for a meeting and I ran through the wet streets with my guide dog and we got to the fancy coffee and take out food emporium just a little late. The people we were to meet had gone. Speaking for ourselves the guide dog and the man were drenched. I made my way to the coffee counter hoping to discern whether there might be another seating area where my friends might be waiting.Now here’s the strange thing (or one of them) about being blind. You can sometimes see just enough to know you are being dissed.
The girl behind the coffee counter stared at me. She just flat out locked her eyes right at me and she
did so as if I was a mannequin. The counter was high enough that I suppose she might not have seen my guide dog. But a customer, sighted or not should be addressed I would imagine. Was her silence a reflection of the fact that I was standing there and not making eye contact save that I was holding my head up and first in line and surely that ought to be enough for a minor acknowledgement? Yes? I decided to seek out the manager and to politely suggest that blind people are customers too.
Ah but the manager upon being ever so politely summoned was also rude. “Yes,” he said, standing suddenly in front of me.
“Hello,” I said, I’m Steve–what’s your name? He told me he was Jim but not without some radiance of malediction.
So I told him I’m not certain that the folks at the coffee bar know how to be polite to a blind person–and before I had a chance to continue he turned on his heels and muttered something about having a talk with them and he walked away as fast as he could.
So needless to say I’m not shopping anymore at the Bread Garden in downtown Iowa City.
IN my world view, two strikes and you’re out.
The news that Barack Obama is willing to support amnesty concerning illegal wiretapping of American citizens by the communications companies,(see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/25/obama-on-fisa-security-tr_n_109257.html) (presumably as a piece of real- politic to gain the White House) reminded me of this bit of prose by Allen Ginsburg, written almost fifty years ago in July, 1959.
“The stakes are too great-an America gone mad with materialism, a police-state America, a sexless and soulless America prepared to battle the world in defense of a false image of its authority. Not the wild and beautiful America of the comrades of Walt Whitman, not the historic America of William Blake and Henry David Thoreau where the spiritual independence of each individual was an America, a universe, more huge and awesome than all the abstract bureaucracies and authoritative officialdoms of the world combined.
Only those who have entered the world of spirit know what a vast laugh there is in the illusory appearance of worldly authority. And all men at one time or other enter that Spirit, whether in life or death.
How many hypocrites are there in America? How many trembling lambs, fearful of discovery? What authority have we set up over ourselves, that we are not as we are? Who shall prohibit an art from being published to the world? What conspirators have power to determine our mode of consciousness, our sexual enjoyments, our different labors and our loves? What fiends determine our wars?
When will we discover an America that will not deny its own God? Who takes up arms, money, police, and a million hands to murder the consciousness of God? Who spits in the beautiful face of poetry which sings of the glory of God and weeps in the dust of the world?”
You can imagine my surprise and corresponding disgust when I saw the story about Brian Sterner this morning on the Today Show. Brian, who is a quadriplegic, was arrested by the Hillsboro County Sheriff’s Department for outstanding traffic violations. A sheriff’s deputy ordered him to stand for a frisking and when he declared that he was unable to do so, the deputy dumped him out of his wheelchair. Apparently she didn’t "believe" him. I’m certain that by the end of the day this video tape will be everywhere in the mainstream media. As so it should be. This is absolutely appalling.
The video clip below shows Mr. Sterner being dumped on the floor, then "frisked" while lying there. Eventually he is picked up off the floor and "dumped" back into his chair.
Brian is a disability rights advocate and a doctoral student at the University of South Florida. He teaches courses in disability studies among other things. I was particularly struck by his insistence on the Today Show that his mistreatment at the hands of the sheriff’s office represents a police abuse crisis that affects everybody.
In short: Brian Sterner wasn’t abused because of his disability! He was abused because he was essentially in the hands of the constabulary.
Of course having a "reasonable accommodation" that they can take away surely adds to the enticements of cruel and unusual punishment.
I wonder what Judge Alito, our nation’s newest expert on the acceptability of water boarding would say about this?
Alito would likely say that since Brian Sterner was not yet technically "in the jail" he wasn’t yet being punished–he was having a "pre-correctional opportunity".
At any rate, as I said to my wife after the Today Show interview: "I think they picked on the wrong guy!"
View Scott Rains’ numerous follow-up links on the Rolling Rains Report
“God bless us, one and all.”
The future of accessible media is now in our hands. Under the direction of Howard Renensland, Founder and CEO of [with]tv, a collaborative effort is currently in process to develop a mainstream media company, the mission of which will be to broadcast accessible content of, by, and for people with disabilities…and everyone else.
Howard has assembled a management team consisting of experienced professionals from the entertainment, business and disability advocacy worlds. Brought together by a common purpose and a shared vision – to unite people with disabilities and their families, friends, and communities – this team is working hard to build a strong foundation for a dynamic and very diverse community poised to move from an arena of charity to one of full economic participation via a mass media presence.
This is a project just exploding with potential and we, as in all of us, have an opportunity to play a role in its development and success. Howard and his management team are looking for our input. Let’s roll up our sleeves and see what we can do tackle this “To Do” list, shall we? Join us:
- Visit www.with-tv.com to learn more
- Read the support letter and sign the Guest Book
- Submit an article(s) to Blog [with]tv (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Comment on the the Blog and help spread the word (www.withtv.typepad.com)
- Invest. Angel Investors and Venture Capital opportunities available
- Volunteer. Help is needed in all areas, especially web support, Public Relations and Advertising
- Send in your resumes and demo reels. [with]tv is not hiring quite yet. But they’re looking.
- Forward this message to those you know with a passion for people!
Please feel free to forward your comments, questions and suggestions to either Howard email@example.com or to Connie Kuusisto, Blog Master, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you in advance for your support.
Blog Master, [with]tv
Cross-posted on [with]tv
Photo: Steve’s first guide dog, Corky, a yellow Labrador, riding in a gondola in Venice, Italy. April, 1998.
readers of this blog to visit the American Association of People with
Disabilities site and read the following first hand account of the signing of
the international treaty on disability rights at the United Nations. As you may
know from reading our blog, we remain disturbed by the failure of the Bush
administration to sign this remarkable treaty. Worse perhaps is that the U.S.
didn’t even send a representative to the international ceremony. Read more