Before the sky falls…

via Before the sky falls…


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July 2, 2018 · 10:56 am

Before the sky falls…

After Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave Stephanie Wilkinson’s Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, I caught myself mixing two childhood favorite stories.I found myself feeling as if I am very much alone and asking, ‘Who’s willing to work with me?’ only to frustratingly feel like giving up and declaring, ‘Fine! I’ll do it myself. ‘ Then my tumultuous feelings and opinions made me wonder am being like Henny Penny instead of the Little Red Hen? Am I clamoring about the sky falling while misinterpreting the facts of the situation?

I shared on Facebook .clip of an ABC News conference of Ms. Huckabee-Sanders’ reaction to the incident along with my own editorial comments. I expected comments because, like me, plenty people in my Facebook circles have definite opinions about the current presidential administration. I didn’t however anticipate the uh… enthusiasm my post would generate particularly from a few folks with whom I usually agree. I clearly planted myself in the middle of the current .(ongoing) public debate on civility and civil protest in our country today. Not the first time, not the last. Again.

Succinctly, I proposed that perhaps asking Ms. Huckabee Sanders to leave the Red Hen instead of serving her was not the the most prudent thing. I think denying someone the opportunity to dine in restaurant counters the civil rights gains that featured prominently in my early childhood in the early 60s. My thought is, how does one decide whom to include and whom to exclude? The current president, whom I try to not name in my own act of disapproval and disappointment, was buoyed into office, in my opinion by attitudes supported by underlying prejudice and bigotry. Ms. Huckabee Sanders definitely plays a role in maintaining the platform and playing to the president’s base. The Red Hen incident allows Ms Huckabee Sanders to play the victim of being unfairly treated. Was she? Not exactly. Maybe.

When do we call ‘Enough! ‘ nowadays? And how? Can a restaurant owner deny to admit me to their establishment if I am wearing my orange Enough t-shirt in support of reasonable gun control because she thinks I’m too left wing to patronize her business ? Am I too much a part of a leftist conspiracy to promulgate ‘fake news’ if I wear my ‘Journalism Matters’ t-shirt in public? My list could include the the Equal Rights symbol stuck to my walker. But can I be denied just because I have walker anyway let alone what I wear or what I stick on it?

I admit a taste of Schadenfruede upon hearing Ms.Huckabee Sanders was denied her repast. Yet is her notoriety grounds for such refusal? Yes, I get why and support why Ms Wilkinson and her staff felt an obligation to say ‘You represent a president and policies we cannot abide.’

Yet, I wasn’t surprised by what was served up next. The Press Secretary taking her case to the polls of social media followed by a Twitter blast from her boss disparaging Ms. Wilkinson and her establishment. Neither of those retorts really were merited especially the Tweet from the Twitterer in the Oval Office. From the surface Ms.Wilkinson handled the situation with courtesy and grace. Her point was made . I applaud and say Amen.

But, I wonder, and here’s the point even my cohorts on FB missed or misconstrued.

What if… Ms. Wilkinson had said, “ Please feel welcome to enjoy your meal. However my staff and I don’t agree with you or what you represent. We want to be clear and to be heard and welcome you to hear us out as you dine.” Who knows? Maybe that is how it played out.

Either way, I suspect the outcome would have Ms.Huckabee leaving (politely, yes) then claiming it was wrong. Was it?

For the record, even if my two good friends who ardently disagreed with me still insist I need to put civility aside, I think I am right. Yes, we must hold the president, his press secretary and others party to the current fiasco accountable. But, I am not obligated to be uncivil by any means in my dissent. No, I didn’t need reminders of djt mocking Serge Kovaleski. No, by desiring to have dialogue even at this point in the game (shall I say meal) with anyone who works for, voted for or otherwise supports this administration, I am not a collaborator.

Otherwise you’re saying ‘baking a cake for a gay wedding is participating in the wedding’; it ISN’ T.

All I am saying is, maybe this time an opportunity was missed. No, I wouldn’t want a person in full Nazi regalia sitting next to me in public or private anymore than he would want me there.

I ‘get the urgency’ behind my friends’ positions and Representative Maxine Waters’ call for calling out the perpetrators of the assault on our country.

Yet, ratcheting up the clamor so far brings out the shit slingers ( The Red Hen did have feces flung at it and no, there was no evidence the restaurant was dirty as the president tweeted (he was WRONG and as usual out of place). In essence I do see the ‘sky falling.’ And it’s not a squirrel in a tree at fault ( a private reference made to something comical which did happen to a friend recently which can readily be imagined).

It started with believing an unqualified narcissist, who blatantly mocked a reporter with a disability, who incites violence against journalists but feigns shock and grief when a white man with a gun kills 4 people employed by The Capital Gazette et al (the list grows longer), being elected president. He has served up a hot mess. I only wish no one would have bought it. But, when and how can we ever provide the ‘longer table ‘ progressives frequently promote as an alternative to a wall if we refuse to eat or serve with those who (need to) come to the table?

We can’t fix America if we only talk at each other no matter how loudly or persistently or certainly not if we refuse to hear one another or worse don’t speak at all.

I’m ready to plant . Who’s ready to help? Let’s get going before the sky falls.

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Stepping out of the margins and taking my place (again)

A distillation of various conversations about recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11-12, 2017:

What happened in Charlottesville isn’t about free speech, history or any number of apologetics. People may see my opinions simply as me spouting liberalism. It isn’t. Unfortunately, there are people who want me to just be quiet. Some folks think saying anything just makes things worse. As one friend commented, (People) “just get riled up.” Obviously.    

On an academic level only, I understand using statutes and flags as educational tools to teach about the past. I even grant some leeway with the argument that The Southern Cross is a symbol of the CSA and the American south and it may stand for a raucous rebellious spirit. This confederate battle flag may stand for southern hospitality and a sense of gentility and ‘propriety. ’ There is a sense of that in the urgency behind those who have promoted the idea of ‘don’t talk about uncomfortable topics and stop making a fuss’; that politeness means refraining from raising the level of discomfort topics like racism engenders. Trouble is, avoiding difficultly , sweeping things under the rug, eventually creates quite a lump underneath the surface. As Elie Wiesel said, “ We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Under the confederacy, my value, my opinion, even my physical self would likely have been kept out of ‘polite society’ quietly stashed away. Sh… no one need to know about our unfortunate cripple. 

I know, in my head, that most people, friends and relatives alike, who prefer that I not comment are not aiming their remarks because I have Cerebral Palsy – at least I hope not. Some do so because they’d rather not engage on the topic. Others urge me to be quiet because we disagree. What people may be misconstruing- I am trying to give those who deserve it the benefit of doubt- is I am not whining. I am speaking up. I’m campaigning. I want my voice – my story – to be heard. I’m not naive. I know that the people who need to hear my message most will ignore it or brand me a victim of fake news propaganda . Some will brand me as liberal hypocrite and intolerant. So be it.

Make no mistake, the men (women) who carried tiki torches and chanted racist Nazi ideas did not have me or my rights in mind. No, they convey the message that their version of history is correct and given time and might their ideology will prevail. Nazism and confederate ideas were intentionally blended. The march was NOT about preserving history.

When people parade and demand restoring the south and restoring Nazism, it isn’t about an idol on a pedestal. I have no moral obligation to tolerate ideas that support bigotry and physical harm. The march was about reviving a past, bringing back a mindset that not just marginalized people with disabilities
but worse. It’s not a distortion of history that Nazis killed those they deemed unfit for their utopia. Those marchers carried both Nazi and Confederate flags. The message of ‘Jew will not replace us’ and other references to Nazi ideology were loud and clear. In their world I world, I don’t belong.
The march in Charlottesville was about denying me not just my rights but denying my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I’m not morally bound to tolerate such ideas. I have every obligation to take a stand, pick a side: to be realistic in my efforts to work for and establish peace among people. I also have to acknowledge that in some cases, agreement isn’t possible – and I am not ‘agreeing to just disagree. My thoughts on this situation have been called ‘bullshit. One friend suggested in a meme that preserving Confederate statues was similar to preserving what remains of Auschwitz. When I shared with her why such justification was appalling, she thanked me for helping her see another point of view. Mostly, my friends have responded with grace:” Dear Phil, I appreciate your honesty in openly sharing your personal fears and frustrations. I am among those who consider rioting around statues counterproductive at best. Both sides in the Charlottesville mess seem to be very interested in controlling what others do, say, display, or think. It takes courage to reflect on one’s own experience and express one’s own emotions in a calm and rational manner. I believe this kind of sharing leads to understanding, appreciation for others, and ultimately a better future. I’d like to see a whole lot more of this and a lot less pointless bickering and name calling.” 

I am another voice in a loud ruckus. I know. I’m just weary. It does get tiresome. The disrespect for people with disabilities is rarely cited in the litany of faults. As a result, people with disability get marginalized again and again. The Civil Rights Movement lead to changes in how people with disability are seen – sometimes literally allowing us to be seen in mainstream society. I am not whining or complaining- just campaigning so people like me don’t get trampled in the crowd. I am stepping out of the margins and I hope someone hears my message loud and clear.

Photo by Casey Kilmartin, Meme by Brennan M Gilmore.


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