Sunday, September 18, 2005

Meeting Cindy

Yesterday I drove over to the Cambridge Common hoping to meet Cindy Sheehan. I parked in a designated HP space at the far end of the Common, and hiked to the entrance where the event, "Bring Them Home Now," was being "staged." I arrived quite late, and had a few minutes to visit tables set up with various pleas for justice. I asked each and every one who would listen, where are Civil Rights for persons with disabilities addressed in your concerns for justice? and pointed out that the event was not "accessible." The response to me was curious. More on this later.

Shortly, Cathy Hoffmann, director of the Cambridge Peace Commission began speaking. I wished to hear some modicum of truth from the director of the Peace Commission, here in Cambridge, but all I heard was passion! Now, don't get me wrong, but the truth about the war, is important, and seems to be ignored time after time. For example, back in the day, when I was a painting major at Mass College Of Art, I took a year off, got a job, and volunteered at Chelsea Naval Hospital to visit with the "medivacs" from the killing fields of Viet Nam. These were our generation's casualties that didn't die of their wounds on the battlefield, but lived to be lifted out of country and back to the Good Ol' USA. The wounded, a polite word, indeed, suffered some of the most disabling injuries one could imagine. Loss of legs or arms were some of the "minor" problems. The idea was we "co-eds" could restore their "sense of manhood" by letting them know we found them "attractive." You see, many were abandoned by their wives or girlfriends, as they were viewed as an ugly burden.

While I was playing chess with the armless, and walking with the legless, my classmates were cutting class and marching in the streets. This was their choice, and may have contributed to the realization that the war in Viet Nam was not in the best interest of the American People. Still, those who marched confused the justice issue with the political issue. The same thing seems to be happening today. The literature available at the event at the Common no where mentioned those casualties who will affect us the most, the ones who return to swell the ranks of Americans With Disabilities, now 56 million strong. Once again, persons with disabilities are ignored; we are the new "invisible man."

There were flyers...some were connecting the war in Iraq with "Katrina." One flyer, "After Katrina, Fund Full recovery Of Gulf Coast, Not War In Iraq," did carry a photo of one of those who was "left behind" and not evacuated. a man in a wheel chair, and his attendant. But the flyer did not see this as a Civil Rights issue for persons with disabilities, the right to be included in all programs, and not "left out", but as a racial discrimination issue, as the man was Black! No where in this flyer was the truth, that persons with disabilities had been abandoned, and left behind to drown like rats, even mentioned!!! The flyer stated at the end...
"Our voices must be heard. Call the White House to demand immediate and effective relief efforts in New Orleans, along the Gulf Coast, and wherever the refugees are being taken. The White House phone number is 202-456-1111. And make our own contribution through either of these two special hurricane relief funds: AFL-CIO and NAACP

BTW, did you know you can dedicate your donations to Katrina relief for aid to the disabled who were disproportionately affected? They have been scattered around the country, where they have not even been "signed up" for FEMA nor Red Cross aid. Some may even be permanently lost in the shuffle, and emergency relief workers do not even know they exist! The disabilities community is working on their own to find the lost and abandoned!

My message to Cambridge United for Justice with Peace...isn't it time you bagan addressing the affect of the Iraq war and the aftermath of Katrina on our very own communities? Shouldn't you begin "hearing our voice" and at least give us a line on your brochure, so at least we know you acknowledge "our right to exist?" Does the emergency evacuation plan here in Cambridge exist? Are we persons with disabilities, all disabilities included in the plan and in the planning? Does anyone care if it is a disability issue, and not political fodder?

After the speaking was over, protest music began, all the usual suspects (reporters from the established media) were there, and I saw Chris Helms smiling, hat askew, and jotting in his note book. The entrenched media also ignore us. Here is an event, purported to protest the harm suffered by our sons and lovers, which is held in an inaccessible area of the Common, and no one takes note? Why is that? How does the way the media portray us, or ignore us, contribute to the abandonment and loss of wonderful voices, Voices of Experience? Should the fact that some of us are black be used to divide us? Should racism be used as a red herring?

Then someone directed me to Cindy. She was holding a bunch of yellow roses. We spoke for a few minutes, and she heard me out. I gave her my name and email, and her aid promptly took it from her. She is a lovely woman. Not at all as portrayed in the bleating media!

We met, eye to eye, two women with experience.


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