Showing posts with label politics and my socialist heart. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics and my socialist heart. Show all posts

February 23, 2017

The Persistence of Little Fish

Today at Support for Special Needs:
When I wrote about the little fish that quietly eat our kids up while we’re busy watching for sharks, I had no idea how many little fish were going to spawn in the coming years, or how sharp their teeth would become.

January 25, 2017

This is why.

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Schuyler was surrounded and engulfed and protected by a sea of women, and she understood, I think maybe for the first time, just how large her tribe could be. As she grows older, Schuyler's people becomes a more inclusive group, more intersectional. She took a big step at the march. Her disability advocacy took on more feminism that she'd felt or shown before. Her world grew bigger, and with it her protest and her advocacy.

January 19, 2017

Exploring Worlds Both Dark and Lovely

Today at Support for Special Needs:
In taking my own focus inward to her more immediate world and trying to help as best I can, I feel like maybe I can recapture my own sense of autonomous self. I can't solve the Big Thing, but I can tell her what it was like when I was seventeen and trying to figure out if love was a thing for me. I can tell her what I got wrong, which weirdly seems to give her comfort. I have value as a cautionary tale, I suppose, which is true of my adult, parenting self as well. So many times, I feel like my fatherly approach to the walls that stand in her way is to keep smashing my face into them over and over until I find a brick that's loose.

January 12, 2017


Today at Support for Special Needs:
There are two kinds of deniers. There are the kind that are just goofy, like moon landing deniers. They're not hurting anyone, they're just being kooks, God bless 'em. And then there's the other kind. September 11th was an inside job, they say. Sandy Hook was a hoax. The Holocaust never happened. Donald Trump wasn't mocking people with disabilities. These deniers aren't just trying to change the narrative to fit whatever their ideology might be. They are erasing people, they are taking the struggles and the particulars of the lives of vulnerable people or people who have been destroyed by the world and they're simply sweeping it away, as if it had never happened. If there's pain there, from the agony of a family wiped out by a hateful ideology or an act of violence to the heartbreak of a parent watching the future president turn their children into a joke and an insult, well, that pain is wiped away with simply denial. Didn't happen. The media lied. You're being too sensitive. You're being politically correct.

December 28, 2016

"At least I think that's so..."

Today at Support for Special Needs:
I'm not going to try to pretend I'm hopeful, or that I believe the inherent goodness of my fellow citizens of the world is going to be our salvation. Maybe I should. Perhaps the first step to making it rain is seeding the clouds, I don't know. All I know for sure is that if 2017 is going to be survivable, if we're all going to get out of this intact and not epically broken, it's going to be because we did two things. Two things, just two, that's what I believe is necessary. They're easy, and they're hard. We need to take care of ourselves. And we need to take care of each other, in a very meaningful and personal way.

December 16, 2016

The Value of Protest

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Protest forms special needs parents into people we would not otherwise be, and sometimes honestly never wanted to be. We become accustomed to advocacy, to stepping up when doing so makes things weird for everyone else. We learn not to care about the awkwardness, because our protest is God's work, it's in the service of the thing that we do that matters the most, the building of an equitable place for our children to operate. Others may care, others may love our kids and want the best for them, but no one else bears the responsibility to get things right like we do. When our kids grow up, many of them will move in various degrees towards independent life, and more important perhaps, lives that have meaning, and personal fulfillment. Our kids will require accommodations in a world that is loathe to provide them, either in services or equal opportunities or even just a social narrative in which they are allowed to be fully human. The world pushes against our disabled kids, and so for as long as we are able to do so, we protest, and we push back.

November 17, 2016

The next day, and the next

Today at Support for Special Needs:
But the days roll past, and the Big Scary Thing becomes more and more background as the Many Small Monsters continue their work. We don't make peace with it, because when we close our eyes, it's always there. ("Ah, I can't remember!" cue laughter...) But we push it back as best we can, because the life he's mocking is a hard life, and it's hard and time consuming no matter who's the president. Our monsters aren't all that concerned with politics. Our devils don't vote.

November 9, 2016

The New Danger of Difference

Today at Support for Special Needs:
When Schuyler gets up tomorrow and faces her weary and deeply disheartened father, she will be told that what's wrong with America isn't those like her who are different, or who insist on their humanity without limitations. What's wrong with America doesn't belong to her.

November 2, 2016

A Simpler World

Today at Support for Special Needs:
I hate this election season, like I hate anything that I find difficulty in explaining to Schuyler not because it’s complex, but because it’s just kind of bad. I feel like every time she hears me explain why a person running for president would lie or mock someone who’s different or say gross things, it dents her a little. Every realization that the world can be awful leaves a little scuff. I hate trying to make sense out of a nationally known comedian going on television and using hate speech to tell the world that she and her friends aren’t fully human. I hate having to tell her that someone wants to be president of her country but they probably aren’t good enough at heart to deserve that job. I hate trying to distill a hard world into something she can digest. I hate having to sell injustice as one of those things that she’s just going to have to accept sometimes.

August 30, 2016

The invisible monsters who walk among us

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Everyone cry out, because such a statement demands outcry. Ann Coulter stands proudly and feeds off of us, a vampire hungry for hate and sorrow and lights and cameras. But we stand up and we push back, because "standard retard" doesn't get to flutter out into the air without being swatted at. It doesn't do any good to protest, but it feels evil not to, so we speak up and then we turn back to our lives, our difficult but rewarding lives. Ann Coulter may be rich and she may be famous, but not one of us in the disability community would trade places with her, not for a moment.

August 4, 2016

Shouting Over the Walls

Today at Support for Special Needs:
So many of the discussions and emails I've received lately have reminded me of how tall the castle walls can loom, and how deep the moat runs. I've been told that my opinions on politics and other topics are distorted by the experience of being a disability parent. There was the email telling me that yeah, sure, kids in special education classes need more resources, but so do kids in gifted and talented programs, and I should be advocating for both equally. I've been told that being a special education teacher or knowing people with kids with autism means understanding exactly what the lives of people with disabilities and their parents are like. I've seen, time and time again, parents of kids with disabilities told that their challenges aren't any more daunting than those of any other parents. It's the "we've all got troubles, bub" argument, first cousin once removed of "quit your bitching already". I'm reminded again and again that for those of us attempting to build lives with disabled kids while trying to live normal ones ourselves (pretty much an impossibility, but you've got to try), it's a sucker's bet to try and explain that no, it's not the same as any other family, and usually it's not even close. Put it in a hashtag if you will, but remember that #NotJustDisabledKids sounds a lot like #AllLivesMatter to us.  

March 8, 2016

Uncivil Discource

Today at Support for Special Needs:
There are a lot of reasons I'm already disgusted and exhausted by this election season. If you want to understand, spend about twenty minutes on Facebook, or a minute and a half watching one of the debates. But perhaps the most disheartening for me right now is the intersection of politics and that old familiar ugliness, our society's propensity for using our most vulnerable population so cheaply and with so little regard for their basic humanity. I made a promise to never give my silent consent to dehumanizing our loved ones by saying nothing in the moment, and I intend to keep it. But it's sucking the life out of me, and I'm beginning to feel like if this is as good as we are, we deserve one of these embarrassments as our President. We deserve to be represented by our own kind.

December 28, 2015

A new year, a new opportunity

This week at Support for Special Needs:
In 2016, we're not just going to be choosing a president. We're going to be establishing a new social narrative, or at the very least engaging in a more vigorous discussion than we've had in a very long time. If we can focus on our commonalities, if we can present a voice that isn't necessarily unified (because I know better than to think that is likely to happen), but at least harmonized, this year could present a real opportunity to create a national conversation about disability rights and our broken social model, a dialogue that effectively addresses the needs of disabled persons. This could be the year that society responds to the needs of this community reasonably and empathetically, rather than with "oh, god, not these people again".

November 30, 2015

The Politics of the Low Road

Today at Support for Special Needs:
You don't have to be Donald Trump to take a spin on that low road, either. You can be the President of the United States or the Mayor of Chicago, and all your good works on behalf of the disability community can be tarnished by a careless moment or an entrenched vocabulary that is unable to surmount your pride or your bad habits. You can be an educator enjoying the sanctum sanctorum of the teachers' lounge as a safe place to express your frustration. You can be a teenager who might even know better but is afraid to step out of the immature culture of your peers. For that matter, you can be an author and parent advocate who only finds his better humanity very late in the game, destined to spend the rest of his life striving to do penance for years of insensitivity.

June 30, 2014

"Thanks, but..."

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Special education is a funny thing. (Not so much “ha ha” funny, more like “Huh, that doesn’t make a lick of sense” funny. Not actually all that funny at all, sorry.) We believe deeply in early intervention and a robust special education system in place from the very beginning, but there’s little agreement on what success actually looks like. And to those of us who live in the world of special education, there are few things that make us at best roll our eyes and at worst lay awake at night than hearing even the most well-intentioned policy-makers and elected officials talk about how they’re going to fix special education.

April 14, 2014

The Things We Know

Today at Support for Special Needs:
The challenging aspects of being the parent of a special needs kid aren’t always the things you don’t know, although believe me when I say those are bad ones, like "stay up late and start drinking early" bad ones. Sometimes a greater source of parental frustration comes from truly knowing your child, in a way that is simply impossible for a doctor or a teacher or even a family member, and having to work tirelessly to be taken seriously.

December 5, 2013

Injustice League

This week (sorry, I forgot to publish this on Monday) at Support for Special Needs:
What I truly want is for my friends to run out of hurts, to have no stories of our community being treated poorly. I want someone to say "I looked up #retard on Twitter, and nothing came up." I want to hear about the organ transplants being granted to patients with intellectual disabilities. I want to hear about how the kids on the bus were kind and the popular middle school girls gave the shy little nonverbal girl at the back of the room a makeover after school and taught her to dance to One Direction. I want to read about kids who are different writing poetry, not suicide notes. I want to read about the community that decided to invest in special education programs, and about the politicians who reach across that aisle to extend basic human rights to the disabled, rather than taking away their "entitlements".

July 22, 2013

Leave the Ladders in Place

This week at Support for Special Needs:
For those of us charged with caring for and helping to build independent lives with loved ones with disabilities, trust can become hard to extend. We’ve all been burned. When we see someone like Greg Abbott build a career with the benefit of a lot of good people’s hard work, only to pull the ladder up behind him, we’re not shocked.

June 3, 2013

On the Question of Humanity

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Not every dehumanizing party sounds hateful. The most dangerous among them sound downright reasonable. They are the ones who stand most defiantly in the way. They are the ones who go to city council or school board meetings and with voices both calm and reasoned make the policies that weigh down our loved ones like chains, or make them invisible altogether. They are the ones who make services and education for the disabled sound like entitlements, or luxuries that we might be able to afford next year, perhaps. They are the ones who reject individual social responsibility in favor of community Darwinism, and make basic human rights sound like a choice that we can easily reject and still sleep soundly when we get home.

December 17, 2012

"No sad thought his soul affright…"

Today's post at Support for Special Needs is a simple one, mostly paying honor to those who died in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday. I thought about writing about something else, but ultimately I felt like it wasn't time to move forward just yet. Soon, it will be. Not too soon, I hope.

I also wanted to share some of President Obama's remarks from the memorial service last night. Mostly, I wanted them here, noted, remembered, so that down the road, as the horror dims and we become tempted to accept the unacceptable again, we'll be reminded that for a moment, maybe just a fleeting moment, we knew better.

Excerpt from President Obama’s speech at prayer vigil for Newtown shooting victims

December 16, 2012
Newtown, Connecticut

But we as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. You know, someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.

With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves, our child, is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice, and every parent knows there’s nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet we also know that with that child’s very first step and each step after that, they are separating from us, that we won’t -- that we can’t always be there for them.

They will suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments, and we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear. And we know we can’t do this by ourselves.

It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.

And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.

This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?

Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?

Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change. Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.

And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose -- much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.

We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.

If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.

Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?

Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

You know, all the world’s religions, so many of them represented here today, start with a simple question.

Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose?

We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.

We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace, that is true.

The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves and binds us to something larger, we know that’s what matters.

We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.

That’s what we can be sure of, and that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That’s how you’ve inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.