Facing Voldemort

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When you’re disabled, you learn to adapt… tweak… make-do. These skills are essential, because as much as the modern, progressive world likes to think it’s ‘woke as **ck‘ — it’s really not. Full inclusion of disabled people in society is a long way off, and these issues barely register on even the most liberal political agendas. In fact, during this election season’s rounds of televised Democratic debates, I haven’t heard one of the 318 presidential candidates even say the word ‘disability.’ Considering disabled Americans are the largest minority group in the country— one that spans race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background— you’d think it would come up. At least once. (Just like Bernie Sanders yells and shakes his fists at another candidate at least once a debate.)

It’s possible the candidates are just being thoughtless in ignoring disability issues in the debates— like when careless people forget to put another roll of toilet paper in the bathroom after they’ve used the last square of Charmin. But, perhaps there is another, more sinister meaning. What if they are subconsciously afraid of saying the word ‘disability‘ aloud because then it acknowledges that we actually exist? And, maybe, just maybe, they are frightened of us? It could be possible. After all, this was why everyone was reluctant to say Voldemort’s name aloud in Harry Potter.

Let’s not forget that even The Ministry of Magic discouraged folks from saying it at Hogwarts. They worried that if someone voiced the name of Voldemort, the most dreaded wizard in the land, it would give him the power and recognition needed to rise up. And that was definitely not okay… because then all the normal wizards would have to face the fact that they were only one Death-Eater attack away from a nursing home run by Hufflepuffs.

So, yeah, you can see why they’d prefer to pretend like we don’t exist. It’s scary to imagine the power potentially wielded by 1 in 5 Disabled Americans. Because not even the mighty Teamsters Union can muster these kinds of numbers— even though Joe Biden desperately wishes that they could.

I think maybe it’s time for us to be a little scary. Be a little loud. Because we are not only fighting for ourselves. We are fighting for everyone. After all, we are also the only minority group that anyone can become member— at any time. Plus, if you live long enough, you’re probably eventually going to need the homecare services we are fighting so hard for, too.

I hate to break it to you, but not even the best Patronus charm can do a damned thing about that fact. Eventually, you’re going to need someone to help you get out of bed in the morning. You’re going to need someone to help you prepare your meals. Hell, you’re probably going to need help wiping your own ass. But, here’s the thing: unless you meet the impossibly stringent & poverty-driven Medicaid guidelines, you won’t qualify for homecare services.

Despite what you may believe, Medicare and private medical insurances currently do not cover homecare. So, you could lose your house, your retirement and all the things you worked your entire life to achieve just to pay for medically-necessary care costs.

Thinking of just going to a nursing home? Good luck with that— the care received in institutionalized settings are substandard, dangerous, and far, far more expensive than the costs of providing care in your own home… in your own community.

Given that homecare is cheaper and safer than institutionalized care, isn’t it surprising that it’s not covered by Medicare and private insurances? Wouldn’t logic say that it should be covered? Well, yes. But, denial is a powerful thing. And the denial of the notion— the reality— that anyone could become disabled at any time in their life is even more powerful. It’s no wonder no one wanted to say Voldemort’s name in Harry Potter. That was some scary shit, yes?

But, if these services existed— and were more available— maybe disability (and even old age!) wouldn’t be so fucking scary to everyone. Maybe then we could change the whole narrative around it.

However, first, a narrative must begin. And, to do that, someone needs to talk about it. But, I’m afraid that with the current slate of presidential candidates, that’s not likely to happen. Why?

Well, the top contenders Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and—yes, Donald Trump— are all over the age of 70. Given society’s subconscious aversion to disability and old age, these four main contenders definitely do not want to draw attention to how old they actually are. (I mean, no one wants to yell Voldemort in a crowded cafeteria, do they?)

Even though you’d think these presidential contenders would be ideally suited to discuss these issues (given they are closer to the age of needing these services), there’s NO damn way they are going talk about that. Just look how long it took Bernie Sanders’ campaign to acknowledge his recent heart attack? Look how evasive Donald Trump is in releasing his full medical records? (And, no, it’s definitely not because he’s got the most greatest health in the history of all American presidents— including, of course, all the leaders of the most bigly and powerful nations in Earth history.)

So, who is going to do the talking, if not us? Who is going to make people uncomfortable so that they can face the reality of their own human frailty? That they will need help someday? I guess that falls to us disabled folks.

This election season, perhaps you should give this some thought. Who will best fight for you when you need it most?

Because, like it or not, Voldemort is coming.

witch

The Day After: A Digital Reckoning

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The frenzy of a newsfeed. The thrill of an iPhone screen full of notifications. Getting the news AS IT HAPPENS. Arguing with a random stranger online over an issue that both of you probably don’t know enough about as you should.

In this world of digital immediacy, we live life in a moment, within a tweet and a text message. This adrenaline rush is intoxicating, addictive and damn fun. I mean REALLY fun. Who doesn’t want to feel like the entire world is within the small coveted device that we can’t seem to pry from our hands?

But, like all addictions, we seem to need more and more. We click “share” without much thought, without verifying the truth of the statements we send out into the world in our name. And in this digital world, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. But, we don’t seem to care. If we believe it to be true, than it is. Facts and accountability have no place here.

Some say the media is to blame, and that may be partly true. But, the media can’t sell their product to an unwilling audience. And we’ve all been oh-so willing. From Huffington Post to Breitbart… from FoxNews to MSNBC, they have all been guilty of giving the biased viewpoints that we long to hear. This is not because they are necessarily trying to sway us, but because they want to please us— their customers. As the old adage goes, “The customer is always right.” And they want us coming back for more… and more.

But, we have seemed to be okay with that. Frankly, in the last months, we’ve relished in it. Reveled in it. Every opinion can be justified with a “fact” that we find on our little miracle devices. Making us feel vindicated. Making us feel heard.

But, really, who is hearing us? The select few with which we choose to associate? The like-minded folks and trolls that haunt the comments section of the specific sites where we collect our news? Who’s to blame for the memes that make us laugh in glee to cover the meanness and spite that we try to hide from view?

In this new world, we all do this— Republican and Democrat, Liberal and Conservative. And, for the sake of all of us, it needs to stop. This horrendous election season has taught us that… taught us what can happen when these habits run amok. These hellish months are the result of our own collective hubris. The idea that our reality is the only reality.

So, what are we going to do about it? It starts with each of us. We have a choice to make. Can we disconnect from the opiate, digital stew that dulls our senses and makes it harder to see what is true… what is fair… what is just?

Can we do that?

Can we?

Fall To-Do List

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pumpkineverythingSome folks like the spring, while other yearn for the summer. For me, Autumn is the best season of all. I can feel its arrival in the air— the crisp mornings, later sunrises, and the stench of rotting leaves. I like to attack the season with vigor and purpose, which, for a Type-A person like me, means that I must make a list of all the things I’d like to accomplish. It’s no secret that I love lists. So, I just pulled out my favorite notepad and scribbled out the first three things that came to mind.

The first item on my to-do list is a perennial fall favorite— the Fantozzi Farms Corn Maze. Here in Patterson, we’re lucky to have this fun, family-friendly destination right at our door step. Each year, they select a unique theme for their corn maze design. This time, they’ve etched the US Capitol Building, along with the heads of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump into their massive corn field. While it’s difficult to tell which candidate has the most inflated head, Trump’s hair, alone, should at least cover a couple of acres.

As always, there are lots of other fun and spooky activities for kids of all ages at the Fantozzi Corn Maze. You should check it out this October. After all, who knows when we’ll get another opportunity to run around in these candidates’ heads? I can imagine what kind of scary stuff we may find lurking around in there. Perhaps the thousands of Hillary’s lost emails and the remnants of Trump’s sanity? Who knows!

This leads me to the second item on my autumn to-do list— voting in the 2016 Election. Voting is our civic duty and responsibility. When I turned 18, I was so excited to vote in my first election— which turned out to be the historic 2000 Presidential Election. With all the Florida recounts, ‘hanging chads,’ and Supreme Court hearings, that election had more drama than an episode of the Real Housewives.

While voting at the polling stations on Election Day is more atmospheric, I’m personally a fan of mail-in voting. I like sitting in the privacy of my own home and wearing my favorite pajama pants while I vote. Being an informed citizen is key, so while filling out my ballot, I like to have access to Google and Facebook. These resources are our main sources of super-factual information. After all, everyone knows that everything you read on the Internet must be true. I’m pretty sure that Benjamin Franklin once said that. And, he should know since I once saw online that he also invented Wi-Fi.

Anyway, I suspect my voting experience this time around to be a much more somber affair. After I fill out my ballot, I plan to sit in a corner and cry.

To make myself feel better, I plan to start my Christmas shopping early— which is the 3rd and final item on my impromptu to-do list. I collect online coupons the way some people collect baseball cards, ceramic frogs, and if you’re Donald Trump, staggering business losses.

It’s a compulsion, and nothing makes me happier than getting 25% off my purchase with a coupon code that I found online. It’s the best feeling. So, I find that holiday shopping is best tackled when I’ve collected a varied assortment of coupons. As the old saying goes, ‘the early bird gets the coupon for free shipping!

Whatever your own personal fall to-do list entails, I hope you have fun with it. Just don’t get lost in that corn maze— there are just some things from which we can never recover…

#elizabette2016

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After much thought and reflection, I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I’ve decided that I’m running for President of the United States of America. I’ve been watching the news lately, and there’s a lot of people who seem to think they are up to the job. So, why not me, too?

I was watching the Republican debate the other day and saw a whole fleet of candidates lined up on stage. You usually only see lines that long on Black Friday or when someone is giving away something for free—like a donut. It was rather remarkable.

While some of those people on the stage seem qualified, I think I’m the more ideal candidate. First of all, my name is really long—thus, it would probably take up more than half of the ballot. Folks wouldn’t be able to stop themselves from voting for me. Poor Jeb Bush with his short, tiny name should just give up now.

Secondly, I don’t have a secret email server hiding in my house, and my emails are so boring that no one would even want to read them anyway. And I never delete anything in my inbox—in fact, I still have expired Pottery Barn coupons from 2009. Take that, Hillary.

In all seriousness, it’s very important for a presidential candidate to have achievable and realistic goals. I have lots of goals—and not all of them are related to instituting a nationwide ban on the word “manscaping.”

For example, I believe that border security is essential to the safety of this nation. Any discussion of security must begin there.

That’s why I am advocating that we build a 10-foot wall along the Canadian border. That way once we finally deport Justin Bieber, he won’t be able to get back in.

Frankly, I don’t think being president really can be that difficult. Once you get over the fact that most folks will begin to hate your guts about four days after you take office, the rest is simple.

I could definitely handle traveling in a big plane, wearing tiny American flag lapel pins, and having people salute me like I’m Capt. Kirk from Star Trek.

As an added bonus, if I were elected, I don’t have a furry, dead animal residing on top of my head—unlike Donald Trump. I’m sure the Secret Service would be relieved by this since my hair couldn’t be so easily set ablaze by a would-be assassin. This would give the Secret Service more free time to search the perimeter of the White House lawn and cavort with prostitutes in Colombia.

I’ve only got 13 months to Election Day, so I really better get to work. In the meantime, maybe I’d better get rid of some of those emails. …