social justice

Special Needs

Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to have disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled. ~ Wikipedia

I made the mistake of reading comments on an Instagram post in favor of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They were mostly positive. But, there was one naysayer who stood out for his initial lack of vitriol. He was just mildly snarky. But, it was like he had committed some heinous sin, instead of posting a disagreement rooted in ignorance.

He was immediately under attack. Mostly the responses remained as snarky comebacks. However, one of them made me cringe.

It sounds like your boss is good at hiring people with special needs.

I couldn’t scroll past without addressing it.

Back in the day, the insult used was, “retard,” frequently accompanied by a physically mocking action. Much like 45’s mocking actions regarding a reporter who experiences a physical disability.

Another one is, “riding the short bus.”

However you frame it, it’s showing a prejudice toward people with disabilities, especially intellectual ones.

How about how mental health challenges are referred to?

What are you, crazy?

Man, that was INSANE!

She’s so bipolar.

That one’s not right in the head.

Or the fact that so many movies and TV shows portray mental health patients as dangerous killers and all the shootings being reported as someone with mental illness, before an evaluation can be done?

The stigma and prejudices against people with physical, developmental, and mental disabilities is real and insidious. Just as we need to recognize, call out, and address racism, in all its forms, sexism, genderism, and sizism, we need to call out ableism.

It isn’t about political correctness, it’s about human rights.

For more on my perspective on ableism, go here.

A Song for Peace: Fly Like An Eagle

Kozo at Everydaygurus set this month’s Peace Challenge to music:

For this month’s Peace Challenge I want to invoke the power of music.

• Post a song or video of a song that has brought peace to your world. Feel free to explain how this music has created peace.

• Tell a story about how music “tamed the savage beast.”

• Write a song for peace. You don’t have to write the music, just the lyrics.

• Sing a song for peace and write a post about what you felt.

• Make a top 10 list of songs/artists that bring peace to our world.

• Interview a songwriter about what inspired them to create music that you find peaceful.

• Post anything about the intersection of music and peace.

I have always enjoyed Steve Miller’s, Fly Like An Eagle. If you aren’t familiar with or need to to refresh your memory of the lyrics, you can read them here. Initially, since I was about eight years old when the song was first on the radio, it was the feel of the music ~ a kind of quiet urgency to escape, which was reflected in the lyrics:

I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I’m free

Later, as a young, single-mom, struggling to make ends meet while working with teen moms, I heard this song playing while out dancing and socializing with friends, and it struck me that while this song is about freedom, it is more about what that freedom should be in the context of social justice:

Feed the babies
Who don’t have enough to eat
Shoe the children
With no shoes on their feet
House the people
Livin’ in the street
Oh, oh, there’s a solution

I declared it as the anthem and theme song of social workers everywhere.

More recently, I came across a YouTube video of a live performance on The Midnight Special, “an American late-night musical variety series that aired on NBC during the 1970s and early 1980s.” (Wikipedia)

This 7:07 length version of the song was profoundly powerful for me, especially in the context of my Christian belief system. It opens with a beautifully haunting guitar solo, which I quickly realized was the Christmastime song, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

God rest Ye, merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. Remember, Christ, our Savior, was born upon this day; to save us all from Satan’s power, which long had gone astray. O tidings of comfort and joy. Comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy.

Hearing that oft sung, traditional tune juxtaposed with the ethereal psychedelic tone and rhythm in this version, combined with an arrangement I had never heard before, emphasizing the idea that the revolution for freedom is not about fighting, but about reaching out and offering care, comfort, and provision for those not able to attain it on their own.

Matthew Matthew 25:34-40 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you made me your guest, I needed clothes and you provided them, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the people who have done what God wants will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you our guest, or needing clothes and provide them? When did we see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ The King will say to them, ‘Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!’

(Bible Gateway)

While it has become the accepted expectation that governments provide funding and programs to provide the minimal necessities for the survival of their constituents, it never has been, and never will be the role of any governmental system to nurture, care, and love the individual people, simply because it can’t. The role of government is to perpetuate itself and to maintain its power and presence, hopefully for the betterment of its population as a whole. However, every governmental system has proven itself incapable of doing so because the people in it stop serving people and begin serving and maintaining the system.

Individual people are the ones who are ultimately responsible and accountable for how we show compassion, concern, and care toward the other people we encounter each day, whether they be familiar or stranger. This is a basic tenet of the Christian belief system and, as far as I know, most belief systems throughout our world – however distorted and obfuscated that message has become.

Intentional acts of kindness, from one individual toward another, have deeper and more significant impact in the lives of those around us, than any government, agency, or organization ever will, because of the attitudes and actions of the agents themselves being bound and limited by rules, processes, policies, and the agenda requirements attached by funding sources. The programs and services are necessary and helpful, but only provide a subsistence level of care to ensure survival and do very little toward aiding people to thrive and grow. That takes a personal connection.

Individuals like Kozo are revolutionary leaders sharing vision and calls to individual action. Another such person is John, founder of the Suspended Coffees community on Facebook.

I know there are many who shun Facebook because so much self-promotion, inane memes, petty drama, and horrific behavior is often displayed by so many users. I understand. However, there are MANY who are using it as a tool for constructive change. It is a tool which reflects those who use it.

John uses it to inspire others to step beyond the boundaries of their lives as individuals to reach positively into the lives of other individuals. He, Kozo, and many of my fellow bloggers and FB friends fly like eagles every day into and through the revolution of freedom for not just the bodies of their fellow humans, but also for freedom in mind and spirit.

Let’s become like eagles and join them, shall we?

The 4th of U Lie…say what?

Ten days ago was the celebration of America’s fight for independence from British rule.  A lot of people did their darndest to make it about a whole bunch of other things, and were successful . . . a bit like the celebration of Christmas has become, politically speaking.

Luna and I were by ourselves, without plans, a place to go or people to go with. Honestly, I was pretty ok with that. I don’t like crowds and neither Luna or I do well with loud noise. The day before, I’d had an encounter with a fellow human, which seemed to be a God ordained appointment and a reason to expand my thinking and concerns to be about more than just me getting though and getting by.  So, I’d set a meeting with his daughter for about 1 pm at a local park where I could let Luna run and play.  I figured if something happened and the meeting fell through, at least Luna and I would be out of doors and away from the television.

Upon arriving, I was confronted with facts I had failed to consider: 4th of July + public park = people gathering and eating food and hanging out with family and friends.  I’d been under some misguided assumption that everyone would be celebrating at their homes or various destinations where they could settle in and prepare for fireworks to be seen.  Without really ever thinking about it, an expectation of relative solitude and isolation had been formed. So, I was caught a bit off-guard to see a large (to me at least) gathering of people in the main picnic area and salivating a bit at the smell of the meat grilling off to the side.  There were smatterings of other groups throughout the park and a significant number of children and their parents utilizing the playground.  It wasn’t crowded by any means and it was nice that Luna had other children to engage with. It was a good thing.

It turned out that I had made a good choice in planning the meeting to happen there, since the person I had arranged to meet was a no show.  I had considered that would happen, so it was no big deal.  I did what I tend to do and struck up conversation with various other parents.  I may have difficulty forming lasting and significant relationships and struggle against myself to be around folks who have known me a while, but I’ve seldom ever met a person I couldn’t strike up conversation with and establish rapport and common ground with. I enjoy meeting and learning about new people and their lives.  I just have difficulty dealing with people after they get to know me well and I them, go figure.

One couple was from the other side of the city and had come to this park because a family member would be performing at an event happening in another part of the park.  They invited Luna and me, along with  another family to come over to hear the vocal and creative talents of their loved one and their reason for us having met them in this place, at this time.  Sure, why not?

It turned out that it was a kind of rally.  An alternative event for those who have experienced social injustice throughout the generations due to things like racism, sexism, and the oppression of and by the powers that be . . . typically white men of money and means.  American Independence and Liberation cannot be celebrated by those who are still experiencing the generational effects of injustices visited on their forebears by America’s forefathers, especially when it is clear and apparent that while progress has been made in significant and constructive ways, there are trends and patterns which indicate the oppression has become more subtle and subjective and much less obvious to the naked eye.

Initially, I was smirking inside of myself; internally shaking my head and thinking to myself, “Seriously? Whatever.” The speaker was powerful: Assured, Assertive, and Absolute in his certainty and mission.  The rhetoric was questionable, but plausible and more than possible.  I began to listen and hear. The message that came through to me, loud and clear was:

  1. If even one person in our community is experiencing social injustice, then we are all experiencing it.
  2. If we allow our personal distaste for style of presentation or disagreement on one or two points to be our excuse for not seeking solutions and engaging within our communities for growth and change, we are perpetuating the problems.
  3. We can agree to disagree on some of the details and still find ways to effectively work together for the good of all.
  4. Everyone has something, regardless of how big or small, to contribute and offer: time, talent, influence, encouragement it’s just a matter of willingness to believe what we have to offer can make a difference.
  5. We need to be open to the reality that regardless of politics, agendas, beliefs, and traditions, we may have come a long way as a country, but there is still farther to go in making the ideals of Life, Liberty, and Justice for ALL a possibility for future generations.

Hearing all of this, affirmed the initial reason why I wound up at this rally and I realized that even if the reason I thought I was there didn’t happen, there was still a reason for me being in that place, at that time.  I have mixed feelings about what I heard that day, but I’m certain of one thing, even when my plans and purpose seem to go awry, there is a plan and a purpose beyond what I believe it to be.