Friday, October 23, 2015

Uneasy death

   Once when I was in college, I went to a talk by a disabled guy.  He was in a wheelchair and, if I remember correctly, had a slight speech problem – not too much unlike me.  He was arguing against abortion, saying that if abortion is allowed, it’s likely that fewer people like him – like me – would be born. 
   I thought it was a bit of a stretch.  I thought that it was a cheap, cheesy, emotional argument.  I certainly heard him and got where he was coming from, but I also thought he was using his disability to grab attention and pull heart strings to make his pro-life argument. 
   I am kind of having a similar feeling when it comes to the end-of-life act recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown here it California.  I think it is compassionate and sensible for people who are terminally ill, with no more than six months to live and with unrelenting pain and no ability to enjoy life, to be allowed to get a prescription from their doctor that will hasten their death if they so choose.  At least I want to think this.  It fits in nicely with my liberal and progressive viewpoint, and all of my friends are happy, relieved, that Brown signed the bill into law.  
   I also hear the disability groups, though, who say that the law is bad, that it’s a slippery slope, that it will be used to deny care and services and perhaps kill off burdensome disabled people.  Yes, there are lots of requirements in the new law to stop this from happening, but I still hear the disability groups’ arguments, as knee-jerk and emotional as they are, and I get them.  I want to believe that, of course, the law won’t be used to deny care and services and worse, but sometimes, when I have to make a lot of noise and fight and fight for what I need (like new footrests on my wheelchair, as has currently been the case), I can’t help but wonder if they are right. 
   Another thing that makes me uncomfortable about the new law is that it says that the legal drug has to be self-administered.  Now, I can, with some difficulty, take a pill myself – if the bottle is open, that is.  But what about those who can’t use their hands or arms and can’t take a pill themselves.  Again, this is a case where the disabled are unheard, where their needs aren’t considered.  Or is it that, in this case, they’re heard too much? 

Friday, October 16, 2015

No news is gun news

   Did you know there were shootings at two colleges last Friday?  I didn’t – at least not until I read about them the next day on the inside pages of the Los Angeles Times. These shootings, in which two people were killed and a total of four were injured and which happened on the same day that President Obama visited Roseburg, Oregon, where nine people were killed and nine were injured in a shooting at Umpqua Community College a week earlier, weren’t front-page news. (They also weren’t mentioned on Friday’s PBS NewsHour.)
   So, this is where we’re at.  The shootings at Northern Arizona University, in which one person was killed and two were injured, and at Texas Southern University, which had the same outcome, were business as usual, barely worth noting in the news.  Yes, many fewer people were killed and injured than in the October 1 shooting in Oregon, but they were nevertheless instances of horrific gun violence, resulting in death and injuries, on supposedly safe-zone campuses.  In fact, another fatal college campus shooting, also on Friday, was briefly mentioned at the end of the Times article. 
   Also business as usual, apparently, was the crowd protesting Obama’s visit, with signs reading, “United we stand…Obama we fall,” “Can you hear me now? Go home!” and “Don’t mess with my guns.” They were angry that the president, as one protester said, “wants to come to our community and stand on the corpses of our loved ones to make some kind of political point.” Another protester said, “It viscerally offended me that he uses something like this to purse his own ulterior motives – destroying this country, undermining America.”
   Yep, like I said, business as usual.   

Friday, October 2, 2015

Rained in

   I hate rain.  There, I said it.  Actually, I like rain at night, when I’m in bed.  But that’s all. 
   In my last post, I wrote about how the weather seems to have shifted north, with Claremont and Southern California getting more tropical, humid weather and rain during the summer in recent years. 
I said that, in contrast to the dry, hot weather that I grew up with here, this hot, moist weather in the summer is particularly unpleasant. I should have gone further and explain how horrible it is for me when it’s hot and raining. 
   These are two things that I hate.  Hate is a strong word, I know, but, at least when it comes to rain, it is much more than a case of being uncomfortable.  Rain – and I don’t mean torrential downpours and flooding but any precipitation – makes my life harder, literally. 
   Most of the times when I go out, I do so on my own in my wheelchair. One of the things I love about living in Claremont is that I can get to so many things, from shops and movies and the gym where I work out to the dozens of lectures and performances at the colleges.  But I can’t do this when it rains. 
   I’m literally trapped when it rains, when there is anything more than the lightest of drizzle.  I literally feel locked inside my house, not allowed to leave as I please. 
   Fifteen years ago, I thought nothing of putting a big poncho on and going out in the rain.  I remember going through streams, splashing up water, as I made my way, with my glasses splattered.  But not anymore.  Part of it is age and not being so tough.  I’m also more concerned about not being so rough on or damaging my chair, all the more so with the new, more sophisticated one with the tilt function.  (In fact, a few times when I splashed through those gutter streams, water got in the motor, stopping me for a few minutes – I was lucky it was just a few minutes!) And then there is the speech device – basically a computer – that is now (usually) attached to my chair when I go out; I don’t dare get it wet. 
   So, yes, I feel trapped when it rain, and I hate it.  I hate it when I see rain in the forecast and think about what I might miss.  What I hate even more is when it might rain, and I stay home, I cancel an appointment, and it ends up not raining.  I wish it would just rain, get it over with. 
   I’m getting better at asking for rides when my attendants are or can be available.  But I don’t like having to assess whether the outing is important enough to ask for a ride, and I don’t like having to be at a certain place at a certain time and when I’m not sure when an event is over. In short, I don’t like not having my independence, my freedom.  And then I feel really frustrated and stupid when I have an attendant pick me up somewhere and it’s not raining. Yes, better safe than sorry, I know, but it doesn’t make it easier. 
   What I really need is a live-in driver like on Downton Abbey – preferably a strapping young man – ready at my beck and call.  At least I can get one of those driverless cars. 
   It is supposedly going to rain here a lot this Fall and Winter, with a “Godzilla” of an El Nino on the way. Everyone is really happy, with it coming after four years of drought (even if we are told it won’t bring complete relief and probably not the critical snowpack in Northern California.  But not me.  I’m dreading it. (If only I had that hot driver!)