Tag Archives: Obama

The Powerful Disempowered

Debbie says:

I can’t be the only person who feels a huge symbolic weight around Dick Cheney attending his last official function in a wheelchair.

It’s such a complicated story: first of all, I have a personal hard time believing the “pulled muscle” story, probably just because I’ve never heard of anyone having to use a wheelchair because of a pulled muscle. (I didn’t watch the inauguration; I listened to it. Were people standing for a long time, or were there chairs?)

Second, I can’t imagine not experiencing some schadenfreude. After all, this is the Vice President who accidentally shot one of his friends in a fake duck hunt.

But there’s more to the story. Liz Henry wrote a fine piece about it yesterday:

Even though I think that Cheney should (and WILL) go to jail for being a war criminal, I would have liked him to have a halfway decent wheelchair. Hell, I would personally have decorated it with the stars and stripes.

Before I had friends who use wheelchairs, I never thought about them as stylistic and personally expressive (except that I knew some people put bumper stickers on them). Now I look at every one I see, looking for what it tells me about the person who chose it. Often, it’s easy to see that they weren’t given a choice, which is also information.

I wondered, would anyone in power notice, a little bit more than they did before, what inaccessibility means, how excluding and alienating and humiliating it can be? Would anyone process, or whatever they were doing, with Cheney in his wheelchair, rather than leaving him to be tunnelled and elevatored and ramped while they triumphally process up and down majestic red carpeted staircases?

To me, this is the key point. Even in the we-hope-new-world of the Obama presidency, no one in a wheelchair was scheduled to be on the stage, no one thought about the possibility that a person in a wheelchair might be on the stage, and no one worried about how to get a wheelchair onto the stage until the last minute. Sometimes, “second class” accessibility workarounds truly are the only way, but oh-so-often better solutions can be implemented with a little forethought and planning. And this wasn’t exactly a permanent structure that has been around for decades.

But Liz also has another point to make.

I kind of giggled at the Dr. Evil jokes, but I also thought about them. Did you? Did you think on why they are a stereotype – how our stories have to give its villains a scar or “deformity” or a wheelchair (and a cat), using disability as a metaphor for being evil? I’m not saying don’t make the joke. I’m right in there posting the LOLcats of Blofeld-Cheney. But think next time you use the stereotype of the Evil Cripple.

I’m starting to imagine a whole literature in which the majority of villains are white men in suits and ties … At least it would be different.

Thanksgiving 2008

Laurie and Debbie say:

Welcome to our annual “take advantage of the American Thanksgiving holiday to list some things in the world to be thankful for” post. This year it’s a lot easier than last year!

For those of you who’ve tuned in in the last year, because of our commitment to social change we spend a lot of time blogging about what makes us angry, unhappy, or dispirited. That’s why it’s important to spend a moment looking at what’s worth being thankful for. Here’s another random, off-the-top-of-our-heads list, this year with links. Please help us add to it.

We have a sane man coming in to the American presidency. We have a smart man coming into the American presidency. We have the first African-American to come into the American presidency. (And they’re all the same person!)

Gay marriage is now legal in Connecticut, the second U.S. state that currently recognizes full marriage between two people of the same sex. Also, the Florida law banning gay people from adopting children was overturned this week.

The Federal Communications Commission decided on Election Day to open up the “white space” freed when television goes digital to unlicensed, free internet usage, such as wireless usage. This will be especially important in rural areas, The National Association of Broadcasters is mounting a congressional challenge, but they’ll probably have a hard time with the new Congress.

Silverton, Oregon has elected a man who is believed to be the first transgender mayor in America.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, a smart and thoughtful man with an ecological bent, won the Nobel prize in Economics.

Serena Williams won the U.S. Women’s Open championship. (We’d have been just as happy if her sister had won.)

Debbie’s representative in Congress, Barbara Lee, is the new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rep. Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against George Bush’s militaristic response immediately after the September 11 attacks.

Right-wing senator Lindsey Graham made an unfortunate promise before the election. “I’ll beat Michael Phelps in swimming before Barack Obama wins North Carolina.” We’re looking forward to the swim meet.

Everyone’s favorite adolescent wanker, John Updike, has won the lifetime achievement award for bad sex writing. Here’s one sample:

“Faye leaned back on the blanket, arranging her legs in an M of receptivity, and he knelt between them like the most abject and craven supplicant who ever exposed his bare ass to the eagle eyes of a bunch of crows.”

And just last week, a medical team in Barcelona and Great Britain completed the first successful organ transplant of a partial windpipe grown from the patient’s own stem cells!

Have a great holiday; we’ll be back early next week.