Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Death of Tolerance

"It's just my opinion, you need to respect my right to my own opinion," he said. We were having a conversation about Billy Graham and his death. I had put something up on my Facebook page and have since been embroiled in the real world with discussions that began with upset at what I was saying. I had said, and this is really lazy, it's early, I'm still not fully awake, and I don't feel like flipping over to get the exact quote, something about wanting people to understand my reaction to Graham's death in the context of my life. Then, I quoted Graham: All homosexuals should be castrated.

Later someone pointed me to an article that stated that it is 'unproven' that he made that statement. Bad on me, I should have done a double check. However, I then read about his statement "AIDS is God's punishment on gay people." Well, swapping castration for death, as it was conceived at the time, isn't a step up. He did later apologize for that, not because of offending gay people but for representing God as acting in that kind of manner. There are others, many other comments made by Graham that shows his homophobic way of thinking, so, even though I posted an unproven quote, the sentiment behind it is true.

Back to the discussion of opinions and my need to respect your opinion and your need to respect mine. This is a fine idea but, in many cases, it's not possible. Because, of course, not all opinions are equal.

Equal

Coke Zero is the best diet cola, in my opinion.
No, I like Diet Pepsi.

These two opinions are equal no one is hurt by either one, it's a disagreement, even a FUN argument to have. I love those kinds of debates because it involves developing a clever argument and verbal sparing with another.

Unequal

Gay marriages are just 'parody marriages' and not comparable to the beauty of a marriage between a man and a woman.

I am married to another man and I believe my relationship is equal to yours.

By the way I used 'parody marriages' because the GOP in the United States of America in some state or another, they have so many of them, is calling all LGBT marriage 'parodies'.

But this is an unequal opinion. Why, because holding one can cause hurt to the other. For example, my opinion does not hurt you, does not threaten you, does not declare you a lesser being. The other statement does. It's an opinion, yes, but it's also an attack.

You expect me to respect your opinion that I am less.

You expect me to honour your right to an opinion that is marching towards my undoing.

And you resent my anger and passion and tell me that it's "Just my opinion." Well, as I said to one of the many who I disputed with over the last day or so, "It was also my opinion that you were my friend and that you respected me. I guess I held an opinion proved wrong." Then it got really nasty. Endings often are.

I do respect the opinion of others.

But I demand that others allow me the right to change my opinion about them and our relationship and about what happens next.

I was asked "Where is that tolerance you always speak about?" I didn't react by saying that I never talk about tolerance, I don't want tolerance I want equality.

"In this case," I said, ending the conversation, "it died."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Freedom

We planned it well, even though by accident. The Campbell Museum in Newmarket is currently hosting a traveling exhibit on the Underground Railway and we really wanted us all to go. It's an important and powerful story of bravery and the incredible call of liberty and freedom for the enslaved. We knew that there were many powerful women involved and hoped that their stories would inspire the girls, to know that they can have an effect on the world in which they live.

We picked them up and the schools and headed over to the museum. Marissa got there first and we pulled our car into the disabled spot. Once in, the tour began. There were several people there to help out and answer questions and to take us through parts of the exhibit. They were warm and friendly to the kids and they respected them. They didn't try to soften the story of slavery because of the kids age or gender. It was inhumane in capital letters, unthinkable in red letters and a bruise on history that will never fade. It was serious stuff.

The journey round the exhibit had interesting activities, like deciphering the code words in spiritual songs or learning how to read the picture book of symbols on a quilt (that was remarkable).  Ruby who loves codes and decoding took singular interest in that quilt and within moments understood all the symbols and meanings in the squares and was able to read each one of them.

Afterwards, a bit emotionally exhausted, we all went out for dinner.

We don't think of it often enough do we? What it is to be free?

We don't think of it near enough do we? Given and circumstance and a time, who would we be and what we would do.

Knowing what we as humans are capable of both the brutality and the bravery should challenge us to constantly evaluate the world we live in and the impact we want to make on it.

Then came into the restaurant a man with a disability, probably 10 years older than me. He was being pushed, bizarrely by a big guy wearing an orange coat adorned with yellow reflective material. As he came by the table he gave me a brief wave and a huge smile.

This was a man reveling in his freedom, soaking in it.

What is it to be free?

And what do we do with that freedom?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

lawsuit

It happened again.

We were at the ROM, which was full of kids activities for the Family Day long weekend, in a large hall with various tables set up to do various activities. It was full but not packed so we could easily move around. There were a group of kids, two boys and a girl, who were running around together having fun. They were careful how they ran so they weren't bumping into people. They were kind of fun to watch.

Until.

I pushed myself round a small crowd gathered at the fortune telling table, the oldest kind of fortune telling was on show, it is a museum. Then I noticed that the kids had stopped running. A little boy, maybe six, was standing with his parents. They were waiting in line and chatting. his back was pressed up against his mother's leg. He looked terrified. The run-around kids had stopped in their tracks and were staring at him.

They talked as they stared. They wondered what was wrong with him They thought and said clearly stated that it must be awful to be him.

He had a facial difference.

He knew stares.

He knew ignorant comments.

But he didn't know what to do right then.

He may have been taught, but it's hard to practice skills when you are pinned in time and space by piercing stares. I know this.

I pushed myself slowly until I was in front of them, the kids. Let them stare at me, I thought. Let them. The boy, once partially hidden behind me, immediately turned and buried his face in his mother's skirt.

I asked him if he was having fun.

A stupid question in that moment, I know, but I didn't know what else to ask. I just wanted his face back out, he has nothing to hide, difference is just difference.

Brave kid peeked out at me and smiled. "Most of the time," he said.

The kids were gone. I waved goodbye and so did he. His parents never noticed a thing. This is not to suggest that they were bad parents, not at all. It happened in seconds. They were in conversation like other parents there. But they were here. With their kid with facial differences, together as a family.

Families know.

People with disabilities know.

That this is rebellion.

My take is that since I know what it is to be stared at. Since I know what it can feel like to be alone with your difference in a crowd. I have a responsibility to act. Not make a scene. It's not my scene to make. But to do what I can to take action, to provide support, no not do nothing.

Then I went to have my fortune told, joining Joe and the kids in the line up and was told that I should avoid lawyers. I kid you not. Everyone else got prosperity and I got a lawsuit.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Taking Gifts

The drop off for disabled people at the Royal Ontario Museum is a fair piece from the front door. We were there right at ten when it opened so the side door, which opens an hour later, was locked. That's the door that's closest. I have made this push several times, it's hard. To get from the drop off to the front door you have to roll uphill on a fairly steep slope. This means I have to use my right arm to push up and over and my left hand to hold the other wheels steady so I don't swing downwards. I can do it, but it's work.

Ruby and Sadie were walking with me as Joe drove off to park the car. Normally they ride with him because I like to be able to focus just on making it to the door. Mind and body are all involved in this. But I've done it a few times, so when they wanted to get out of the car and come with me, I thought, "Why not?"

Once and passerby took a step towards me to help, I caught his eye and shook my head. He was cool because he quickly stepped back and gave me a thumbs up. This happened so quickly that the girls didn't even notice. Wonderful.

Then suddenly my pushing got a lot easier. Sadie had come behind me and decided to help me. In an instant I had to think through this. I wouldn't let Joe do this. Sadie isn't Joe. I wouldn't let anyone do this. Sadie isn't just anyone. Then, I heard the girls laughing behind me and I asked why. Ruby said, "Sadie is pushing you and I am pushing Sadie."

So there I was an old fat man in a wheelchair with two children behind me pushing as hard as they could to get me to the door. And wouldn't there be a line up? Yeah, there was. A gathering of gawkers. I needed, I knew, to make a decision and to do something. I felt the pressure of their eyes, I felt the pressure to prove myself able, I felt the pressure of my pride pressing hard against the shame that lives at the back of my mind. I had to do something.

That's what I did. I decided that the something I needed to do was nothing. The girls were helping because they wanted to help me. I help them all the time. This is reciprocity. An act of giving back. And they were laughing while they did it. Gawkers gawk so gawk they did but they often never see what's in front of them. I am not responsible for what they see or how they see or how they will describe this later.

They pushed, I pushed with them. we were one in rhythm.

When we got to the door, I asked the girls to give the control of the chair back to me so I could turn and get over the bump into the lobby. I explained, in the lineup to drop off our coats, that they couldn't push me in the building because I needed sole control of the speed and direction of the chair so I didn't run into people.

I saw a new idea form in two sets of mischievous eyes but they agreed.

I don't know what those who saw the girls get behind and push me.

And I say this with complete and utter honesty, I don't care.

When children want to give, when their impulse is to help, when their heart is in the right place - you take their gift. You honour that gift. You cherish that gift. Because the privilege of being able to watch hearts grow is one not to be taken lightly.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Internal Alchemy

I was in a mood. Grumpy. Unhappy. Depressed. I think if Joe were describing it he may have used the word 'Unhinged.' He'd be right. Things that would have annoyed me simply enraged me. I felt put upon. I felt the world was against me. Me, a vegetarian, bit Joe's head off - that's how bad it was.

We got home. Instead of going in I asked Joe to pick up the gifts we picked up that needed to get wrapped and put in the mail to be sent off to birthday parties. He got them, along with scissors and tape and we headed over to the mall. I pushed myself up the slope into the place and then got to where we usually start our mall walks.

When Joe got in after parking the car, I asked if we could do a mall walk. We've been doing this a little less because I've changed in shape a little and now bruise my right forearm when pushing hard for long distances. But we both decided to go. My argument for going: I need to get my head right. Joe thereafter readily agreed. 

We had done our first kilometer, a full turn around the whole mall, and I wanted to do it again, I felt better, but no internal alchemy had turned feeling like shit into feeling like gold. So off we went again. It was about 2/3 the way through that the bruise that had formed on my arm in the first go round changed, the skin had now been broken. That's not happened before. But, I needed to do this, so I did. We finished the second kilometer and then headed down the elevator to do a lap of that level and stop at the store to mail the gifts.

First we had to pick the cards. then the wrapping paper. A group of young teen boys came round behind me and one of them, with shoulders wide enough to brace the door for a politician's ego, bumped into a display sending chocolate bunnies to the floor, and I swear they immediately started multiplying. I said to them, "Great you know they are going to blame the cripple right?" Then to their shocked laughter, I said, "Wait let me get my phone out and take pictures to prove my innocence." Now they knew I was really joking and they started a low rumble of the laughter of boys whose voices have only recently changed.

Then cards and paper in hand, we went to Timothy's for a tea and a table. There we wrapped the gifts, wrote in the cards, finished our tea and headed to put them in the mail. After that we continued the downstairs mall walk, it's much shorter than upstairs but by the time we were done, the break in my skin was really sore and I decided not to do a second round. But it was okay. I'd burnt out the flame. I was feeling better, both because of the push and because of the time focused on sending a gift far away with the wish of happiness and good will.

Turns out that for me at least, I can turn shit to gold through exercising the body and exercising the heart at the same time. Aerobics may make the heart beat faster, but loving makes the heart beat matter.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

VDAY

After work yesterday we parked at the grocery store and went in. It was time to do Valentines Day. This is a day that Joe and I used to call "Heterosexual Pride Day" as we watched commercial after commercial about men and women and love and adoration. "Nothing says love like a diamond," we were told in dulcet tones and I would quip, "well, nothing except a day treated with respect." Our love, then hidden, chafed at the manacles that chained us to the closet.

Over time, we just came to ignore it.

Completely.

If I am found dead one February 14th with a Valentines Card in my hand, lock Joe up for murder because surely he knew the shock would kill me. We don't do Valentines.

At least, until Ruby and Sadie came into our lives. We were transformed into pinks and purples and princesses, oh my god the princesses, and, of course, Valentines Day. They love it! The cards the chocolate the whole messy thing, they anticipate it and explode with Valentines excitement. There are some forces where resistance is futile and a child's expectant face is one of them.

So, we went shopping for a card and a gift. We decided to forgo the chocolate this year and instead bought them each a mango, it's healthy, it's sweet and they like them. We got one for their mother too, what the heck once you start Valentineing it's hard to stop. We picked up cards, ones that weren't creepy when given by old men who are relatives - which were hard to find. But we managed.

Then we were off to drop the whole mess off at their home and to wish them all a happy Valentines Day. We got there just after the bus arrived and when they saw us in the driveway they literally jumped with excitement to see us. They hadn't known we were coming. That was their gift to us. And the cards were handed over, okay one red wrapped chocolate in each card, along with the wrapped up bag of mangoes.

We drove away tired.

I was just about to say "Happy Valentines" to Joe when he said, "Don't, I'm driving, you trying to kill us?!"

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Waiting

Photo description: a bright red welt on the inner forearm

I am waiting to be assessed.

I desperately need a new wheelchair.

I no longer feel safe in this one.

But who will the assessor be?

I've seen the wheelchair I really want.

I've tried it out and felt like I was floating.

It fit me instantly I felt secure.

But will they listen to me?

I know the chair I want is expensive.

It cost twice as much as the care I bought at 16.

It is light and easy for Joe to lifet.

But will they value my opinion, will it matter?

I get bruised from using this chair.

I rub my arm against the arm.

It takes only a kilometer before the pain starts.

But will that matter?

Who will my assessor be?

And I now I know how people feel

  when the assessor is me.