Friday, December 2, 2016

Not time to go away



    It might not be time to celebrate, but now is the time to get out and strut our stuff.  Now is certainly not the time to go away and hide. 
   I certainly feel like going away and hiding, now that Donald Trump will become our president next month, now that he is picking his cabinet members and it becomes evident that he intends to undo most if not all of President Obama has accomplished (health insurance, environmental protections, climate change, consumer protection, etc.). And that’s just the start. 
   Yes, this is a tough time for Democrats and all who value fairness and justice.  Not to mention the truth, with the way Trump and his supporters rely on “facts” and “news” that clearly are not news and facts.  (And will Trump be president on Twitter and YouTube videos, not doing press conferences and interviews, where he can be questioned and held accountable?) It is very understandable that many of us are licking our wounds and feeling like giving up.
   It is hard to make sense of what is going on.  I had a hard time hearing Dolly Parton talking about remembering the Christmas season’s message of peace and love, when no doubt the majority of her fans voted for Trump, based on fear and anger.
   No wonder many of us feel hopeless and like going away and hiding.  No wonder there is talk in California, which voted overwhelmingly Democratic, of seceding from the Union. 
   But, for years, the people in the rural, northern inland part of the state, who voted for Trump and have felt ignored in Sacramento, have talked of breaking away from California into the State of Jefferson.  
   Those of us who feel like giving up and going away need to keep this in mind.  The State of Jefferson folks felt ignored and grumbled for years, and now, for better or worse, they have been heard. 
   We need to grumble now.  But that doesn’t mean going off into a corner and sit and grumble and whine.  No, we need to get up and make our grumbling heard.  And seen. This doesn’t mean sitting in the corner, and it definitely doesn’t mean whining.  Grumbling doesn’t mean whining. 
   For me, it means getting out even more, like I’m not supposed to do, being disabled. Not only that, but it means that, now more than ever, I need to get out with all my peace signs and rainbows and bright, true colors.  Now is the time to get out there all the more  in my pink overalls and my tie-dye. 
   Of course, wearing peace signs and tie-dye won’t accomplish what needs to be accomplished.  That’s certainly not what I’m saying.  But we should be heard and seen, loudly and clearly, in all our different, bright, true colors.  Or, more to the point, we shouldn’t be afraid to get out and be seen and heard. 
   Just like Trump’s supporters did. 
   And, besides, our tie-dye and pink overalls and rainbow peace signs are beautiful, prettier, more hopeful.  There was a quote recently in the Los Angeles Times from a man in San Francisco who, like almost everyone in the city, was upset about Trump’s victory: “When you are so angry, and you feel like doing something negative, the best cure is to do something positive.” He was applying adhesive tape to the multicolored sticky notes on which people had written messages after the election (“Discrimination is sin,” “Pray,” “Don’t lose hope”) and left on a subway wall.  The guy wanted to make sure the messages won’t fall off or get blown away.    

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Great Comeuppance



   It’s hard when someone says, “I told you so.” I know.  I’ve been feeling like someone has been saying, “I told you so.” Big time.       
   It’s even harder to get my head around the fact that, in just over two months, Donald Trump will be our president.  It is hard to believe that “the Donald,” a television celebrity who has never held any office and appears to know very little about what doing so involves and who has said horrible things about women and minorities, mocked the disabled, encouraged violence, bragged about groping women and lied about President Obama not being born in the U.S, among other things, was elected to be president, the “leader of the free world.” But Trump was elected, squarely if not fairly, winning the electoral college but not the popular vote, and he will be our next president come January 20.
   I thought it was bad when Reagan was elected president.  That was a Sunday in the park compared to this.  All the more so when we see the people, like alt-right promoter Stephen Bannen, who Trump is relying on for the help and advice he so desperately needs in his new position. 
   What is easy is to say that nobody saw this coming.  That is what everyone has been saying, starting with all the newscasters and commentators on Election Night.  There has been many articles and much chatting about how most people thought Hilary Clinton would win and how they all got it so terribly wrong.  Even Trump’s supporters and backers and even Trump, a bit like a deer in the headlights, are surprised. 
   Too easy, in fact.  It’s too easy to say this was all just such a surprise, a shock. 
   We should have seen this coming.  Especially us Democrats.  We sh
ould have seen this coming. 
   There were signs that this was coming.  Signs that were telling us.  Signs now saying, “I told you so.”
   Yes, racism played a role in Trump’s victory, with mostly white men – and white women! – voting for him. As graphically seen in Henry Louis Gates’ new PBS documentary series on African-American history, this is the same racism that lead to white flight and the rejection of racial quotas right after black power became a big thing. And the fact that it now turns out that most people get news – more to the point, news that they want, including fake news, like Hilary and Bill going to sex parties or the pope  endorsing Trump – from Facebook and Twitter was an issue. 
   But it was more than these and other related issues.  They are easy.
   Again, we Democrats should have been listening, should have seen what was going on. 
   As one friend said, Hilary should have been down in the hood.  She should have been taking $25, $5, whatever from folks, like Bernie did, instead of whining that she should be the first woman to be president as if it was her right and taking $10,000 checks from whoever was lucky enough to see her in Hollywood and on Wall Street.  This not only made Trump’s supporters and those open to him feel all the more forgotten and angry – on top of their resentment that others get help with their tax money, as I say in my previous post - and determined to vote for him, come Hell or high water.  Worse, it alienated the non-rich minorities and young people who were supposed to vote for Clinton and cut them off, leaving them with no reason to vote for her.  (I voted for Jill Stein, which didn’t matter here in dark blue California.) 
   No wonder the Donald is no longer a joke and will now be our president, the commander in chief, the leader of the free world.  Hell and high water may well coming, and we should have seen it coming.  Because, by not listening to those who listened to Trump, by not taking them seriously, we let it happen. 
 

Friday, November 4, 2016

It's not about Trump



   Next Tuesday is Election Day.  At this point, it’s turning out to be Y2K.2.
   Remember Y2K, when everyone was worried that the world would go out of whack or maybe even end when the year 2000 came? No one knew for certain if computers, which pretty much run the world as we know it, would switch over to switch over to 2000 or revert to 1900 or even 1000. There were dire warnings from agencies and institutions, and everyone was stressing out, writing up plans and stocking up on goods and supplies. 
  It turned out that all the warning and all the stressing was all for nothing. The calendar went from 1999 to 2000 without a hitch.  All our computers and all our devices switched over to 2000 with no problems to speak of. 
  I’d like to say that the bizarre, twisty, anything-can-happen presidential campaign, which has essentially been going on for nearly 2 years, will end up the same way with the final voting on Tuesday. The election will be over – finally! finally! – and our life will go on.
   But will it?     
   It is possible that the election won’t be over on Tuesday. Donald Trump hasn’t said if he’ll concede if Hilary Clinton wins, and he says he may contest the election if he doesn’t win.  It’s hard to say, however, if this isn’t just more of Trump’s blowhard self-promotion.  (There are those who argue that Trump doesn’t really want to be president – see his lack of preparation and research – that his campaign has just been a publicity stunt.)
   Or there are those who say the election will be too close to call, a la 2000 and the hanging chads in Florida.  This could get particularly hairy, with the 8-member Supreme Court evenly split. 
   The mainstream thought, though, seems to be that Clinton will win outright, although perhaps not by a landslide.  I’d like to think and I pray that this is what happens.  But even if this is what happens, it will be an uneasy victory. 
   This all may well not end on Tuesday, because, despite what he says and thinks, this election hasn’t been and isn’t about Trump. 
   This is obvious, because he has gotten this far no matter how vulgar, lewd and stupid he has been.  As he has said, he can stand in street and shoot people and still get votes. And why would a millionaire be so attractive to the blue-collar workers who are Trump’s core, die-hard supporte? 
   It really isn’t Trump that these supporters, primarily older white men, are voting for.  And they’re not just voting against Clinton.  No, they are crying out, angrily, in a world that is leaving them behind, that they don’t understand.  It’s a world that is no longer right and fair, where women can easily get abortions, where men can marry each other, where there are more and more restrictions on guns, where some people can not only get by but get ahead with tax payers’ help, where a black man, most likely benefiting from affirmative action and other such government help, can be president. 
   “I call it the pissed-off steel workers party.  A lot of people like someone who causes trouble,” a Trump supporter in Youngstown, Ohio, was recently quoted in the Los Angeles Times.  A lot of people are pissed off and want to stick it to the man.  Trump, who is just famous for being famous, is merely taking advantage of this anger and riding it. Trump is just these people’s vehicle, and, like rioters who burn down their own neighborhood, they don’t care if they ruin the country in expressing their anger. 
   Even if Trump loses fairly and squarely, with no doubts and lingering questions, there will be a lot of angry people.  Or people who are even angrier. 
   On the other hand, if Trump does win – God help us – there will be a lot of people who are not happy, to say the least.    

Friday, October 21, 2016

More speaking about Speechless



   JJ isn’t the only one with an alarmed look. 
   In my last post, I wrote about how much I appreciate Speechless, the new sitcom on ABC about a family that includes a boy with Cerebral Palsy who uses a power wheelchair and a speech device.  I said that I like the show and am glad that it’s on, despite some flaws, including that JJ is strangely mute.  As I said, I don’t know of people with C.P who can’t vocalize at all. 
   This flaw stuck out so much in last week’s episode that it was nearly fatal.  If JJ’s not speaking continues to be used this way, it will ruin the show. 
   I actually liked the episode.  I thought it was pretty good, pretty funny.  JJ and his attendant take off for a day, and it’s hysterical that they keep getting special treatment and free stuff (yes, this happens!). It’s funny to see the attendant taking advantage of and having fun with this and how this eventually pisses JJ off.  Meanwhile, the rest of the family goes off and does things – paintballing, ice skating – that JJ can’t do and, amusingly, end up guilt-ridden about this. All this was a rather smart send-up of how the non-disabled react to and feel about the disabled. 
   But there was one scene that almost derailed the whole thing.  In the scene, JJ and the attendant are getting into the van.  For whatever reason, the attendant puts JJ’s communication board into his backpack and then puts the backpack on the ground outside the van.  The attendant then proceeds to start the van, and all we see is JJ in the back looking alarmed and angry, knowing that his communication board is being left behind. 
   Why doesn’t he yell, if he can’t actually say anything?  Why doesn’t he scream?  Why doesn’t he cry? 
   No wonder he looks alarmed and pissed.  Not only has his mode of communication been taken from him; he is rendered completely mute, with the show’s title taken all too literally. 
   I did love the subsequent scene, with JJ expressing his rage, letting his attendant have it, quite literally.  But then, to make up, the attendant lets JJ drive the van.  Really?  Come on! 
   It can be said that this also sends the show off the rails, but it’s easier to see this as just the usual, over-the-top sitcom schtick.  And it’s pretty funny to see, in the episode’s closing, how the over-protective mother reacts when JJ tells her that he drove the van.        

Friday, October 7, 2016

Not quite speechless about Speechless



  I want to hear JJ talk.  Yes, he should always speak up for himself and not have others defend or argue for him, but, more than that, I want to hear JJ speak. 
   Why does JJ, who has Cerebral Palsy like I do, not talk at all, as if he’s mute? Why can’t he talk and be hard to understand, as with me?  This is the case with many people with C.P. Perhaps I’m na├»ve, but I’ve never met anyone with C.P who can’t talk at all, who is mute.  The only time JJ vocalizes is when he laughs, groans or exclaims.  
   And why doesn’t the communication device he uses, with a laser attached to his glasses, speak?  Most such devices nowadays speak.  Why is JJ stuck with needing someone to read what he points to? 
   Yes, I have these quibbles and gripes about Speechless, the new sitcom on ABC about the Dimeo family, whose three children include the teenaged JJ, who has Cerebral Palsy and uses a power wheelchair and a communication device attached to it.  But I have to say that these complaints are nothing.  Overall, I am amazed that such a program, let alone a comedy, with a vital, young, severely disabled character, is on broadcast television. One of my attendants said that, because of this, watching the show is “surreal.” He means he has never seen anything like it on T.V. A huge bonus is that the boy who plays JJ, Micah Fowler, has C.P, albeit reportedly not as severely.  Wow!  This is a gigantic step for television, especially for those who know how hard it is for disabled actors to get work. 
   There are many things I really like about the show.  I like it the whole family is sort of disabled, not picture-perfect, with their messy and frenetic lifestyle.  I like it that the mother, played by the driven Minnie Driver, is a handful and sometimes downright unlikable, in her efforts to get the best for JJ.  I like the tension with JJ’s siblings, with his brother resenting all the attention JJ gets and his sister wondering if she runs track because JJ can’t. 
   There is also the wonderfully snarky humor, like the oh-so P.C school principal pointing out that the school mascot has been changed to the banana slug, which has both male and female genetalia. 
   Yes, some things are awfully broad and over the top, like JJ suddenly announcing in the first episode that he is running for student council to the cheers of the whole school.  Such is par for the course in a sitcom, though. However, I really hope JJ’s attendant/reader (a funny character played by Cederic Yarboro, and perhaps the reason that the communication device doesn’t speak) defending and rescuing him, as he did in this week’s third episode when students get angry at him because of the inaccessible homecoming bonfire being moved indoors, isn’t a trend. 
   Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that JJ doesn’t drool or has many spasms and that he isn’t seen eating. JJ has been sanitized, even made pretty, with the messier aspects of C.P air-brushed away.  (Maybe this is why, or part of why, he doesn’t speak.) But then there’s a stunning scene, like in the second episode, when the attendant assists JJ, lifting him up, at the toilet.  This is breath-taking – a young, healthy man being assisted to go to the bathroom in a sitcom.  Even now, thinking of this extraordinarily intimate, tender and real scene on national television nearly brings tears to my eyes. 
   Hearing JJ, when he laughs or exclaims, is also quite moving to me.  This is why I want JJ to talk.  When I watch this show, I am seeing myself in a television show for the first time.  This is quite powerful.  I also want to hear myself.