Excuse Me If My Wheelchair Is In Your Way

I’m helping my quadriplegic friend in her wheelchair through busy city streets. We just want to get a slice of pizza down the street and, as we attempt to navigate the ramp from the street to the sidewalk, people look at us with angry expressions and can’t understand why we expect them to let us through. What the *#@?  Is this actually happening?

With all of the talk about budget austerity these days (these years, these decades?), I can’t help wondering what has happened to compassion in the human race. Seeing people act with contempt for a disabled person in the street seems to be a sign of the times.

Scary, huh?  We don’t seem to care anymore about anyone but ourselves…

We bail out banks every twenty years or so. We bail out billion dollar insurance companies that participate in an un-Constitutional cartel and auto manufacturers that fight the passing of safety and environmental regulations like pitbulls on crack.  Sure, we bitch and moan, but we continue to vote for the corporate tools posing as members of Congress who work for these predators.

Instead of embracing a movement (supported by millions all over the world) to become civilized and address rampant injustice, we have corporate-funded groups of people (supported by thousands) on television waving a flag that represents oppression and slavery that are screaming for freedom while encouraging the destruction of human rights! What??

And, I know “Christian” Fundamentalists don’t believe in evolution, but funding de-evolution is going a bit too far.

People complain about paying taxes, but don’t seem to pay attention to where the money actually goes or how much goes to perpetuating an “us against them” mentality. (This feeds the rapacious system of Capitalism in which a small group of vultures feed ravenously on the carcass of what was formerly known as democracy.) We seem to overlook a group that is the least fortunate of all in society and is truly in need of the social programs funded with tax payer money. These people need help with the simplest of things – eating, brushing their teeth, getting dressed, blowing their noses – things most of us take for granted.

I’m talking about disabled people. These are people who NEED help with virtually everything they do. There are varying degrees of disability, of course. Some disabled people can take care of a number of basic needs, but many are dependent on the compassion of others for their very survival. And, by the way, these people didn’t choose to become disabled. My friend didn’t try to break her neck in an accident. Some act as if they think it was a conscious choice to become disabled. Unfortunate things happen to people – through no fault of their own. Why do some people believe they should be punished after having gone through something so challenging?

Are Bank of America’s profits more important than these human beings? Should the owner of Facebook receive a gift of OVER 400 MILLION DOLLARS in tax payer money while disabled people die due to negligence? Should a hedge fund manager make $3.9 billion dollars in one year  (Ray Dialo – look it up) while people who take care of the disabled make $9 an hour?

When discussing disability rights, I’ve been interrogated by self-described conservatives with a vengeance bordering on rabid insanity. They often go into a rage with a savagery reminiscent of Attila the Hun – on steroids – when told that I believe a civilization should be judged by how well the least fortunate live.

How can we ignore an entire group of people and allow them to die for the crime of not being able to take care of themselves? How can we treat fellow human beings like garbage put to the street?

When I visit my quadriplegic friend in a shelter for the disabled, I see men and women. Black, Latino and white. Different religions. Different styles of clothing and music. I hear different languages and accents.

But, they all have one thing in common. They’ve all been thrown out of “normal” society as if they don’t count. Most of them would like to EARN a small income – just enough to supplement their disability check (which is abysmally small). It would allow them to feel more a part of society – just a modicum of dignity that all human beings deserve. A program to encourage entrepreneurship would be nice. That’s not a handout. That’s encouraging people to do something constructive – instead of waiting to die.

If people would spend one night visiting shelters, nursing homes and physical rehabilitation centers instead of parking their lazy asses in front of the behavior modification box, they’d get a glimpse of what some of these people go through in order to survive. My friend just got out of the hospital with an ankle broken in two places thanks to an attendant handling her roughly due to being angry and frustrated over an inadequate salary – and this attendant is still working taking care of disabled people!  How bad do things have to get until people wake up and start making compassionate decisions in life? Is who George Clooney is dating really that important? Do most people truly care what Beyonce wears?

I’m not going to continue on a rampage of frustration. Eventually, we will evolve beyond the hateful, fearful mindset necessary to feed the system currently in place in society. I would merely like to see a hint of change in this lifetime. And, maybe a little bit of empathy for someone who would give so much just to be able to walk across the street to buy a slice of pizza.

4 comments on “Excuse Me If My Wheelchair Is In Your Way

  1. Can we include people with mental disabilities in this discussion? I wonder the same thing, how can we not provide a decent life for people. I have to say, those people on the street who are bothered to move out of the way for your friend are surprising.

    I guess people are so blind to our everyday gifts and pleasures, that they think they themselves are never on the receiving end of compassion, and so they are hesitant to give compassion to others. It’s sad. I also think stress has a lot to do with our ability to be compassionate to others.

    This reminds me of something I’m reading in a book right now. In chapter 6 of the book Drive by Daniel Pink, he talks about Purpose. Sometimes people define their purpose in something that does not result in happiness, like earning more money (I’m glad someone has been able to prove this theory). Anyway, the quote that is moving to me “One of the reasons for anxiety and depression in the high attainers is that they’re not having good relationships. They’re busy making money and attending to themselves and that means that there’s less room in their lives for love and attention and caring and empathy and the things that truly count.”

  2. Yes, many people take their good fortune for granted and focus on the negative in life. It’s very sad. It doesn’t help that we live in a society run by sociopaths who reward greed, selfishness and seriously dysfunctional behavior while often punishing selfless, compassionate acts. If more people acted with compassion instead of looking to make money from everything they do, we’d be civilized. As it is, we are cruel and suicidal as a society – always in a hurry and thinking of how to get more “stuff” – and not understanding that the hole we are trying to fill with this “stuff” is simply a lack of joy that would best be filled with love and compassion.
    However, there will be a change. It’s inevitable. More people are unlearning the twisted indoctrination of Capitalism and finding joy in their hearts. As this happens, there will be a tipping point toward the understanding that we are all one. Thanks for the comment.

  3. I was a social worker in my past life and worked with people with developmental disabilities and mental illness. Looking back it’s one of the reasons I began to question our society’s priorities as reflected by our corporate media and “elected’ officials. You’re friend is lucky to have you in her corner.

  4. To think about how social workers, teachers and others who take care of people are treated by society compared to the treatment received by those in big business can be sickening. The importance of teachers is so much greater than the importance of ANYONE in the so-called “industry” of finance (they make nothing more than misery and anxiety for most of the population) that even comparable salaries would seem inappropriate. The sense of priorities we see today is absolutely obscene.
    My friend has been in the hospital four times due to negligence of the attendants at her facility. Yet, no one gets fired because the wages are too low for most people to survive on.
    The privatization of this type of work has become a death sentence for many disabled people. It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not. There are violations of city ordinances every day, but no one complains because they fear that the facility would be closed and they’d wind up in the streets. More people need to become aware of just how badly some people are living in “the greatest country in the world”. Thanks for the comment.

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