Unremarkable Acts of Humanity

Stef and I were window shopping at Lowes a couple of days ago and I started chatting with an employee hanging out near kitchens about tattoos. He wondered aloud whether Pinky had done my stuff. He was in a wheelchair and we shifted toward talking about disabilities. I pulled my pant leg up to show him my Gimp Membership Card and we launched off into discussion as my wife smiled and waved us off to go look at shelving. She knows me and my random 10 minute long chats with strangers.
We were talking about perspective and how many people who end up in chairs or get amputated struggle emotionally with it, with being different. He said “you know what man? I’ve got cerebral palsy. I’ve been in a chair my whole life. Sometimes a customer will ask me how someone like me ends up working at a home improvement store. I tell em (waving his arms in an expansive gesture) you see all this? I know where all of it is. Every last piece. I know what works with what and what won’t. They’d be lost here without me and this brain.
“And that’s the thing” he said as he started to turn and ride off like a Hawkings-esque John Wayne into an aisle 7 sunset, “people waste their time suffering over the lives they used to have and the things they used to do, when they could be looking forward towards what they have now and how they can use it!”

<Gimp mic drop>

I couldn’t agree with him more. For all of us, whatever we’re claiming as our handicap.

I think the most important element in these sorts of stories I tell is not that they’re inspiring but that they are actually completely unremarkable.
I don’t see myself as handicapped. In fact unless I’m taking it on or off or walking through a metal detector I never even consider that I have a fake leg. And I think that’s infectious.
I posted that high school teacher dance video this morning and it wasn’t until my third time watching it that I noticed the kid in the front row of one of the dancing student sequences rise up out of his wheelchair to more or less move in sync with everyone else doing it. He blended in. He wasn’t showcased nor catered to nor pittyed. He was one among and unremarkable. It made me very happy because *that’s* the point.

The ultimate goal to me for any segment of society that needs special attention to achieve successful averageness is that attaining it should not be newsworthy at all, it is so commonplace. Be it gay rights, brown people inhabiting the middle class or excellence in something other than sports or entertainment, women receiving equal access and pay, mental illness treated with the same acceptance as any other physical malady.
My goal is “so?” in the best of ways.

The Whitewash of Blackface

269614_2125700498792_1134296117_2405887_3679363_n I have a style of posting on Facebook that encourages audience participation. I throw something out there, often it’s inflammatory. But posed in a way that makes people think. Above all else I want people to think, whether they agree with me or not. I want them to be awake to where they stand on a thing. To own what they believe, not merely recite it like pulling a string in their back. I encourage discourse and opposing views. My only rule is you can’t attack anyone else’s beliefs. You can’t bully. Yesterday after reading the teaser for an article someone posted which had three photos of President Obama, Eric Holder and Al Sharpton with the word THUGS in the title. Behold, my topic for the morning: You *do* realize that when you use the word “thug” we all know you actually mean “nigger”, right? The discussion that followed was interesting and at one point it was suggested that by posing this rhetorical question I was exasperating the racial divide in this country. Now I’ve been chewing on just that idea for the last month. And this is what fell out. I’m not furthering any divide. That divide is plainly there. I’m just calling out the fart in church. The etymology of the word “thug” is of little relevance to the discussion. Very pertinent is it’s popular usage. I’m reading things encouraging conciliation in the wake of the cops getting shot over the weekend. I say the opposite needs to happen. Not an out and out race war but for the topic to not be hastily stitched closed by people saying all the right things to smooth egos, hurt feelings, and retain status quo. We NEED to talk this out. We need to be made to see our willful blindness that keeps things comfortable for us and not for everyone else. (see: U.S. population NOT white, straight, male) The isms in our country are institutional, pervasive and part of every bit of it’s fabric so much so that it is stunningly easy to be blind to it, akin to a fish being asked to describe water. There is much talk about women, brown people and all the other crybabies of society sucking America dry one welfare check, crack pipe and illegitimate rape at a time. That they need to get over it, get a job, stop with the victim mentality. Every meaningful social statistic says that societal opportunity is stacked against them, from birth forward. Blacks, asians, women, hispanics are rarely shown in any media as anything but stereotypes. Caricatures. If they’re strong, capable, smart, well they die to save our white hero (who avenges their death). Or the white savior makes a stand to save them. Educational resources are funneled away from poor neighborhoods. Police arrest nonwhites at 4 times the rate of whites even though drug usage rates are equal. No one except double digit I.Q.ed neanderthals actually say “nigger” anymore, they say “thug” and everyone in the club knows which side of the fence they’re on. All levels of any meaningful career is still firmly a good ol boys club. Even Silicon Valley only has maybe a 25% female employment rate. It’s bullshit. The protesting going on didn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s been brewing for a long time. Most of it isn’t being done by people breaking windows and setting fires. Hell, protesters outed a cop in Oakland undercover as a protester breaking windows – instigating chaos. When confronted he drew on them. It’s insidious. And the media is all too happy to produce the narrative. One crackpot shoots two cops sitting in their car and it wipes away decades of police abuse. I don’t accept the “a few bad apples” argument regarding rogue cops the very same way I don’t accept the “not all men” tactic. It conveniently hands the worst characters over as appeasement to keep everything the same. it looks absolutely nothing in the eye. And that desperately needs to happen. I am not a race traitor, a gender traitor or a closet homo. Those aren’t filters I see through usually and whether you think I am speaks a great deal about you, not me.  What I am is awake. And being so makes me sick. The consciousnesses that need to be raised are *ours*, not the people we keep held down by the fiscal, social throat, insisting that if only they had more character they’d be just like us. Everything about our society is rigged to favor me. Ann Richards, governor of Texas once said of George Bush, “Poor George, born on third base and thinks he hit a home run.” That’s you and I. Maybe you’re relatively poor and you aren’t feeling that statement at all. But the word “relative” is significant. You probably work your ass off just to get by. The people I’ve listed at the outset of my post – they work just as hard, for less, with even less hope of leaving their station in life. The consciousness that needs to get raised is mine. Ours. Step out of your comfort zone. Pay attention to how you get access, privilege, a basic assumption of benevolence simply by nature of your gender, race or orientation. It’s easy to do. Think of the superlatives you use reflexively to describe a black person, even complimentarily, that you find unnecessary to use to describe someone from your tribe. Try it with a woman. A gay person. Those words are unconscious prejudice. And deeds follow words. America is at a turning point. “All lives matter” is a worthless rebuttal to “black lives matter” because we already know white lives matter. Acknowledging that black lives matter brings them into the equation. It has to happen first before “all lives matter” is a truth and not literally a whitewash. I don’t lose a damn thing by offering women, blacks, asians, hispanics, and gays the same humanity, dignity, opportunity, access and rights that I receive simply by virtue of half my bloodline (I don’t have the energy to get into what’s been done to the Native American part of me). We all gain by bringing as many great minds to the table as possible because America isn’t doing well. We need one another.