[nfb-talk] Fw: [leadership] Blindness and Perspective, The Protests Harm Our Image

tribble lauraeaves at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 18 16:10:09 UTC 2008

interesting perspective. I tend to agree to a lot of it.
Thanks for the post.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Sherri" <flmom2006 at gmail.com>
To: "Nfbf Leaders" <nfbf-leaders at yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2008 7:11 AM
Subject: [nfb-talk] Fw: [leadership] Blindness and Perspective,The Protests 
Harm Our Image

I'm just passing this along, because I for the most part agree with her
perspective., though I'll probably incur someone's wrath for doing so.


> From: Penny Reeder <penny.reeder at gmail.com
> Subject: [leadership] Blindness and Perspective, The Protests Harm Our
> Image
> Dear ACB Leaders,
> Here's a copy of my latest blog at "Penny for Your Thoughts," on
> GettingHired.com.  If you decide to circulate what I wrote, please include
> the link, as follows:
> http://community.gettinghired.com/blogs/pennyforyourthoughts/archive/2008/12/16/blindness-and-perspective-the-protests-harm-our-image.aspx
> Blindness and Perspective, The Protests Harm Our Image!
> Members of groups which call themselves "the organized blind" are hopping
> mad.  It's
> been a tough year for them.  First it was the movie, "Blindness," that
> infuriated
> them.  Now, it's two skits on the December 13, broadcast of "Saturday
> Night Live."
> During October, many members of these groups protested against the movie,
> "Blindness."
> "It portrays a terrible image of The Blind," organizers of the
> demonstrations against
> the film ranted.
> I guess it did.  Certainly those poor wretches who were struck, by virtue
> of an epidemic
> that paralyzed a fictional Latin American city by making every citizen but
> one instantly
> blind, didn't cope very gracefully, or graciously, with their instant
> disability.
> The newly blind protagonists couldn't manage even the simplest tasks.
> Fear and repression
> were the government's response, and quarantine.  And those
> blind-from-birth  people
> who already knew how to live independently were transformed into society's
> criminal
> element.  They had an extortion racket going on in the quarantine
> facility, and that
> was just the least offensive aspect of the ways they violated the
> newly-blind  detainees.
> It was a grim portrait of an epidemic, but as a blind person, I did not
> find the
> specific portrayal of disability in the book, "Blindness," which I read,
> or the movie,
> for which, I have to admit for the sake of full disclosure, I saw only the
> previews,
> offensive. I don't think that the blind men and women of the book or the
> film say
> anything about me or the other people I know who are blind.  I think the
> novel by
> Jose Saramago,is a brilliant portrayal of a society paralyzed by terror,
> and the
> epidemic of blindness could just as easily have been an epidemic of
> instant paralysis,
> or speechlessness, or swine flu, or extreme paranoia.  How would any of us
> react
> to a deadly or disabling or terrifying epidemic?  How would our government
> respond?
> What would we let the authorities get away with?  These are the questions
> that the
> Nobel-prize winning author engendered for readers of his compelling
> novel.  These
> are the questions I asked myself, as I read the book, and later as I
> thought about
> the movie, and the organized demonstrations against the film and theaters
> showing
> it.
> I found their demands for censorship to be an assault against many of the
> values
> and freedoms in which I believe, and I thought the organizations and
> people who demanded
> that the movie theaters refrain from showing the film were embarrassingly
> narrow-minded,
> and that they did nothing to improve society's image of people who are
> blind or the
> disability of blindness.  They are not speaking for me, I told anyone who
> knew about
> the demonstrators, or anyone who asked what I thought.
> Now, it's "Saturday Night Live" that has inspired the wrath of many in the
> so-called
> movement of the organized blind.  SNL, apparently searching around for
> someone new,
> to replace Sarah Palin as an object for humorous exaggeration, chose David
> Patterson,
> the Governor of New York, who happens to be legally blind.  In addition to
> addressing
> telling questions of the day like who will be replacing Hillary Clinton as
> senator
> for New York State, and what can repair a self destructive economy, they
> focused
> on his blindness as a suitable topic for typical SNL ridicule.  The
> skits - there
> were two on last Saturday's SNL - damage our image, the protestors
> complain.  The
> writers and the cast portrayed Patterson as incompetent, and as a buffoon,
> that's
> what they say.  Well, maybe they did, but here again, I part company with
> my enraged
> colleagues who claim to speak for everyone who is blind.  I thought both
> skits were
> funny.
> When Patterson held up a printed chart, upside down, I laughed-because I
> have done
> the same thing countless times.  Better to laugh than to cry, or pretend
> it never
> happens, or regret that it does, or berate myself for something over which
> I have
> no control!  Sure, if I've had time to prepare for a presentation, I'll
> mark the
> top of a printed chart with a paper clip or a staple or figure out some
> way to keep
> from displaying it upside down, or backwards.  But, if I haven't had time
> to prepare
> in advance, I'm just as likely to hand you a printed sheet of paper upside
> down as
> right side up, or with the print side down.  So what!  It doesn't say
> anything about
> my character or my competence, and the best way to respond graciously is
> to see the
> humor in the incident and move on!
> I'll bet that David Patterson, the real Governor Patterson,  does just
> that when
> something similar happens to him in the course of his real life.
> In the second skit, Patterson wanders in front of the camera, spoiling the
> shot.
> Of course, he doesn't realize what he's done, and the pretend host of the
> pretend
> "Week End Update" doesn't know what to do either.  "Just keep walking I
> guess," she
> says with a mixture of confusion and annoyance and regret.
> Not funny, those people who are blind with the huge sense of personal
> effrontery
> and outrage say!  You can't portray one of us that way!
> Why not?  Again, I hate to admit it, but this kind of thing can happen to
> a person
> who can't see with alarming frequency.  Or is it just me?
> I live near Washington, DC.  That means that every once in a while, I
> visit one of
> the Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo, or one of the monuments on the
> Mall, and
> it happens every so often that my guide dog and I, walking down the
> sidewalk in front
> of a famous monument, or waiting to meet a family member or a friend
> outside a famous
> building find that we're in the wrong place at the wrong time.  You need
> to move,
> a sighted companion might murmur, and then, by way of explanation, say,
> "You're in
> the way.  They're trying to take a picture."
> So, I smile and tell the family group trying to create a Washington memory
> that I'm
> sorry, and I move.  That's it.  No big deal and no problem!  An occurrence
> like that
> says nothing about my ability to walk around independently or my awareness
> of my
> environment, or my ability to get a job, or to do a job.  (Certainly I'm
> not applying
> to be a truck driver!)
> The news releases from the blindness organizations, and the angry op ed
> pieces say
> much less about SNL's understanding of what it means to be blind than they
> say about
> their own inability to see humor in the ordinary, sometimes a little
> annoying happenstances
> that occur because people who are blind really cannot see.  Again, I say,
> they are
> not speaking for me!
> Am I disloyal to the other members of the community of people who are
> blind because,
> when I was a kid,  I used to laugh at Mr. Magoo?  He always reminded me of
> myself,
> and it always tickled me when he crashed into a wall or misconstrued the
> letters
> on a label!  (I might have laughed even more frequently if the cartoons
> had included
> a video description track.)
> Maybe I'm a jerk because I used to love "Head Wound Harry," in an earlier
> incarnation
> of SNL?  Certainly I wouldn't laugh at a real person with a real head
> wound, but
> the SNL exaggeration always made me laugh.
> That doesn't mean that I wouldn't help a real person with a real head
> wound, any
> more than I think it would be okay to judge a blind person who wanders in
> front of
> a TV camera as incapable of functioning effectively or independently in
> society.
> I know that when I hand a colleague a printed piece of paper upside down
> that that
> person will judge me on the basis of the words I wrote on that sheet of
> paper, not
> on the basis of my not being able to physically see the print on the page!
> It seems to me that when they present themselves as humorless and
> judgmental and
> carrying huge chips on their collective shoulders, people who are blind,
> and demonstrate
> against an acclaimed novel, or a cartoon character who can't see very
> well, or a
> film where blindness serves as a metaphor for a societal flaw, or a skit
> on SNL,
> do those of us who are blind much more harm than they change opinions or
> modify attitudes
> in the people who are the objects of their outrage.  Discrimination on the
> basis
> of disability is inexcusable, the unemployment rate for people who are
> blind is six
> times the unemployment rate for people who are not blind (or at least,
> that's what
> David Patterson said when talking to reporters the night after the
> Saturday Night
> Live skits), and the attitudes and statistical reality that fact describes
> reflect
> a situation that is truly terrible for many people who are blind.  But, it
> is a sense
> of humor as well as a shared appreciation for everything that makes all of
> us, disabled
> and non-disabled, human that provides a way for us to cope with life as we
> know it,
> and a starting point for working toward shared goals, including full
> employment.
> When an organization that claims to represent "the blind" defines a novel,
> or a cartoon
> character, or a skit on "Saturday Night Live" as a personal attack against
> every
> person who is blind and fails to find humor in the minor scenarios that
> result, not
> from any incompetence, but rather from the very circumstance of not being
> able to
> see, then, as a class of people, they risk being labeled quick to anger,
> humorless,
> and unlikable.  If people run the other way when they see us coming, if
> they feel
> like they have to apologize for using ordinary words like "see" or "look,"
> and if
> they would just as soon hang out in places where we aren't so they won't
> have to
> worry about saying the wrong thing or laughing at the wrong joke, then
> it's unlikely
> that they will place people who are blind very high on anyone's list of
> people who
> are employable.
> The blindness organizations are fond of describing the disability of
> blindness as
> just one characteristic.  It's no different than hair color, or height, or
> ethnicity,
> I have heard their spokespeople explain, and to a certain extent, I agree.
> It's
> not my blindness that defines who I am, it's my capabilities, my
> intellect, my ability
> to relate to other people.
> It's not my blindness that defines me, but that blindness is an aspect of
> who I am
> that is a little more important than the color of my hair, because it is
> my blindness
> that requires my employer to accommodate my need for a screen reader on
> the computer,
> it is my blindness that excuses behavior that would be described as rude -
> like walking
> through the middle of a photo shoot - unless the people I've
> inconvenienced realize
> that I did that because I didn't see what they were doing.  It's my
> blindness that
> causes me to hand you a sheet of paper upside down or backwards.  You need
> to know
> that I can't see so you will understand, and I need to acknowledge that
> error by
> laughing about the inadvertent slip-up, and letting you know that I
> understand why
> you have momentarily been taken aback.  It's our mutual acknowledgement of
> my blindness
> that allows both of us to get beyond an uncomfortable situation, and it's
> the humor
> that lets both of us move beyond the moment of discomfort and get back to
> the interaction
> that's important.
> So much analysis about two little skits, you're probably saying.  And, I
> agree.
> The so-called organized blind need to understand that it is our blindness
> that engenders
> those momentarily uncomfortable situations for all of us and for sighted
> people who
> interact with us, and it is an acknowledgement of what it means to be
> blind, i.e.,
> that we can't actually see, and a sense of humor that can save the day and
> allow
> everyone to move forward together to solve the real problems that the
> characteristic
> of blindness ought not to engender, problems like discrimination, lack of
> opportunity
> for education, or social inclusion, and an unemployment rate that really
> is six times
> higher than the jobless rate for people who can see.
> Posted
> Dec 16 2008, 01:44 PM
> For other Blog postings at Penny for Your Thoughts, visit:
> http://community.gettinghired.com.

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