Innocence and Evil

I have consistently suggested that the insensitive remarks we get in public places as we lean on canes or travel in wheelchairs are benign, that the person issuing the ignorance is wrongheaded but not malicious.  I did believe that.  The responses to my last post are giving me pause.  Maybe there is more to this story than meets the eye.

Kim shared horror stories about a recent outing to  Disney World- you know, the Magic Kingdom.   “My family and I were boarding a boat back to our hotel. My husband pushed me to the entry point, I got out and walked to my seat so that the wheelchair didn’t take up too much room, as there were many patrons waiting to board. Another passenger, proceeded to curse me out, even saying she should have just tripped that b****”

Ignorance is mostly innocent.  That remark was malevolent, dark and evil.  And that was just one of Kim’s stories.  I think there is a lot of anger loose in the land.  In so many ways, we are not in control of our own lives.  What institutions are more hated than banks and credit companies, airlines and, of course, the phone company?  And we compete with each other, strangers in the strange land of searching for jobs.

Even though the Supreme Court is hard at work, dismantling every program they can find to lift the disadvantaged, people think that certain populations, including the disabled, have a leg up on them.  Okay.  Not well phrased.  Public seething is everywhere.  Road rage rides every highway.  Women never have been more vulnerable.  Anti-Semitism does not seem to fade into the distant past.  Racism is still alive and well.  And you, you in the wheelchair.  Think you are special?

This is like kicking a dog.  Pick on the most vulnerable.

42 Responses to Innocence and Evil

  1. Amy Corcoran-Hunt May 4, 2014 at 7:52 pm #

    The spouse and I are out to see our first movie in months. (We have a toddler.) Crazy parking lot. The disabled spots are gone. In a spot up front adjacent to disabled spots, we see a guy standing in the middle of it, clearly saving it with his body. The spouse pulls up and shows him my handicap tag, offering him an opportunity to be gallant. He declines. The spouse lets me off right there. He sees me manuevering into the wheelchair. Nothing. I say “thanks!” and start wheeling up to the theatre. The spouse goes off to find a spot somewhere.

    In minutes he and his wife are behind me in the ticket line. He obviously explained what happened to her, because she said “I have sciatica.” I turned and said “are you talking to me?” She was. “I have sciatica pain. I need surgery I think.” The lack of parking gallantry was the guy’s right. AOK. But the requirement that I offer her sympathy was too much. I said “I really, really don’t want to speak with either of you.” The husband then said “you’re lucky to have a wheelchair. When she walks, it hurts.” I was gobsmacked. I told them again I would do anything, pay anything, not to speak with them ever. The husband then said “well you have anger issues.”

    And that’s people for you. Me in my red wheelchair, with anger issues.

    I have also seen people at their very best. “Best of times, worst of times.”

    We have, as a big giant group grown self-absorbed and callous. I like to think of my life now as offering people a choice, and I get to see really fast what they’re made of. Good to know.

    • Richard M. Cohen May 5, 2014 at 7:44 am #

      I think I like to get angry at people like that. Maybe it lets off steam. Most people are good, and you always are going to encounter the south end of a northbound horse. I hope you learn to ignore people like that better than I can.

      Peace,
      R.

      • Amy Corcoran-Hunt May 5, 2014 at 9:51 am #

        “South end of a northbound horse.” I like that.

        I do have an Irish temper, which is the kind that shows up later, a grudge that never dies. These people inspired me to start work on a book: Don’t Make Me Get Up. No one will want it, but it cracks me up.

    • Laurie May 5, 2014 at 9:34 am #

      Anger issues? You did not key his car-now that is anger. No cure for ignorance either buddy. I hope the movie was good.

      • Amy Corcoran-Hunt May 5, 2014 at 9:46 am #

        “Saving Mr Banks.” Excellent. I did have one question for this horrible couple: what are you seeing tonight? I got my answer and was grateful it wasn’t our movie. I told them so. Best that they have their own theatre. 🙂

    • cesca May 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

      hoping his wife becomes as “lucky” as you someday.

  2. MB May 4, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”.

    America is the greatest country in the world unless you are

    a child (“We can reassign him to another parish…”)

    a single woman (“Insurance shouldn’t fund birth control for sluts.”),

    disabled (“I wish I could have close parking,” “It must be nice to go on disability and not work.”)

    poor (“Drug test the lazy bastards.”)

    elderly (“I hate visiting grandma because it stinks in the nursing home.”)

    mentally ill (“is this really an illness?”)

    You’re right, Richard. Public seething is everywhere.

    • Richard M. Cohen May 5, 2014 at 7:49 am #

      Yeah, and probably human nature. Embrace the best in us and just turn your back on the rest.

      Best,
      R.

  3. Kate Aquilino May 5, 2014 at 7:18 am #

    I have never been challenged re parking placard, BUT, if I were, I would go after the person, “here. here. take the placard BUT you also have to take the 42 years of MS. Still want the placard???? You have no idea what you are jealous about.”

    The world is not an easy place for those of us with less than perfect bodies. I hope all here have a good day and run into (maybe literally) only the best people!

    • Richard M. Cohen May 5, 2014 at 7:50 am #

      Amen.

      R.

      • Anne May 5, 2014 at 9:57 am #

        Unfortunately we are always going to run into people like this.

        When my son was in high school he would quite often have a few of his friends sleep over on the weekend. They were always welcome and I would cook them breakfast in the morning. They were always very polite and would thank me when going home. Except for one boy. I never said anything but my son said to me – “Mom he does appreciate you having him stay over and cooking him breakfast, but he just hasn’t been brought up properly, he hasn’t been taught manners”

        So when I run into “rude” people, I tell myself, what a pity they havnt been brought up properly.

  4. Christopher May 5, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    It looks as if people are taking big steps to combat this discrimination and exclusion.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-disability-discrimination-pass-layla-s-law

    • Carol May 5, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

      Thank you for what you wrote Anne. I truly believe that the best thing we can do for ourselves is to find a way to make peace with difficulties, and then move on. The only thing I can control is myself; I refuse to give others the power to detract from my peace of mind and well-being. It doesn’t mean that I never get hurt, but the other people win the jackpot if I keep replaying the hurt in my mind and turn it into resentment. The Latin (if I remember correctly) word for resentment is resentir, which means ‘to feel over and over.’ I will not clear a great big place of real estate in my mind for unkind people and what they do or say. It would ruin me.

      • Richard M. Cohen May 5, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

        Carol-

        Well said. Quiet defiance seems to be a great coping mechanism.

        Best,
        R.

  5. Chris W May 5, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    Before I was dx’d I’m sure I looked past the visibly disabled. Too busy rockin my self absorbed world. I pray that I didn’t ever say something to offend.
    Post dx’d I made it a mission to create handicap sensitive children of my own. All 3 have ‘buddied’ with a handicap child at a weeklong camp, one childs HS soccer team (and rival opposing team) participated in a day of service with MS Society several years in a row, and the ‘exceptional Ed’ wing of their school was often immersed with the regular classrooms in school activities.
    I have hope that future generations will be better. Accepting of diversity to include those of us who over-accessorize to get around.

    • Richard M. Cohen May 6, 2014 at 9:14 am #

      Chris-

      Who knows? You did good. Maybe your kids will teach theirs, A start.

      Best,
      R.

  6. Mark May 5, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    This is really a sharp group of people. Has anyone fact checked us to make sure we have MS? That was a great post, Richard. And the replies were fantastic. Not sure I can keep up with all of you. I agree with everyone…there seems to be a preponderance of insensitive, self-centric people around. Whether one is overweight, short, tall, has different colored skin, walks with a limp or uses a wheel chair, if we don’t meet their definition of normal then it is our fault. Nonsense! Don’t let them get into your head. Life’s not fair. Everybody has something to carry in their bucket. If they don’t now, they will eventually. It shouldn’t be about us and them. And if it is, I am glad I’m on our team.

    • Richard M. Cohen May 6, 2014 at 9:16 am #

      Mark-

      Amen.

      Best,
      R.

  7. Joan Listen May 6, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Just to add a little levity – when I first had to use a transport wheelchair for outings, I found it amazing how my friends “dealt” with me/it. We would be shopping, they would roll me into a rack of clothing and walk off to look around. I have right side partial paralysis and could not even reach the hangers to look at anything. I eventually kindly “schooled” them. When we would run into a mutual friend, they would stand eye to eye and talk, and I would be squirming my stiff neck around trying to include myself! Again, not being shy, I asked to be turned around and included. I had a friend who passed a few years back, she had a stroke and was in the almost identical situation as me. Her response to these situations (she was far from shy) was – hey, you try living at crotch level people! Now that I am in a power chair, I can just roll over people to get in their face. That really gets their attention! 😉

    • Carol May 6, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

      Very nice! I was thinking last night about how the ball really is in our court on much of this because it’s up to us (just like everybody else in the general population) to teach people how to treat us. I think people would do better if they knew better. Now would I rather learn from a good-natured, patient person or one who’s angry and dismissive? You get it.

    • Richard May 6, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

      Good for you. Keep doing it. Someday they will learn ..

      R.

  8. Betty Moody May 6, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    I live in a tiny village. Our business district is a few miles north to the next friendly town, population under 10K. I love where I live, and as I “come out” with my canes, and trekking poles, and move about my days I feel safe, and supported by a small town familiarity. Lately, and elsewhere I admit that I lack confidence in a regular hustle and bustle, so other than my office, local appointments or the stable I don’t venture too far without a posse. Safety in numbers. I have a good attitude, and I keep on going.

    Recently I drove alone to a PT appointment, and parked in my usual space that is clearly marked handicapped on the pavement, although a sign on the curb indicates “reserved for residents”. There are other such signs in a row for an over 55 community/apartments nearby. Rarely are any cars in any of the spaces at this time of day.

    In the handicap spot I place my placard in the window, take my Drive wheelchair out of the back of my car, heap on my poles, jacket and backpack, and push my load the 87 steps to the PT office. Are you with me so far? I know, it’s exhausting. We’ll get there.

    After the appointment I schlep my cargo back to my car to find a blue pickup truck parked horizontally behind me. Odd. Maybe it’s a friend who saw my car, and is stopping to say hello? I crutch around the truck to find that it’s locked up tight. Then, a creepy feeling comes over me. I sense eyes watching me, and I realize that I have been purposely trapped in the handicap parking place. Someone wants to send me a message, or worse. Is this really happening?

    My brain says fight, then flight, then it’s back to fight -for your rights! Who is this person? Come out of the shadows and face me you coward. My body feels like cement. I feel so vulnerable. I should call the police, but that’s just another thing to do, and time is of the essence. Defiance and pride takes over. I am furious, and determined to get my car out of this lot if I have to drive up on the curb, back up, and take a chunk of the assailant’s truck with me.

    Still feeling eyes are on me, I stagger with my stick to the front curb, and bend as low as I can to size up the angle I’d have to take. Clawing and dragging myself to the back of the car I scope the 12”or so needed to make a three or four point turn for my escape. I use my hands to signal that I am measuring. If you are watching me, you bastard, I mean business, and the way my gas pedal foot is feeling right now you better have insurance.

    Suddenly, toward me comes a man carrying a cooler. He appears normal and healthy. He’s tall, and fit, with greying hair. Is he the perp? I wait. I watch. He strides past me toward the truck. “I was coming right back,” he says. I clung to my poles and stared, not knowing what to expect next. He unlocks his driver’s door, slips effortlessly in to his vehicle, and says to my face as he’s driving away, “That’s where I park.”

    I did report this incident to the police, and to many friends who tell me this truck is now parked across the lot in other “residential” parking. I have also learned that the residents here have no claim to the handicap space, and that the property manager has committed to fixing the signage.

    To the man in the blue truck I will not let you, nor people like you, intimidate me, or prevent me from living my life. I imagine that you are an ass to anyone, and everyone – whether they are handicapped or not. I feel sorry for your family.

    I am still processing the lessons of this day; my small town ideals, and naiveté, municipal and private systems, sinister people, my response to this assault on my psyche, and sadly but importantly my utter defenselessness under attack. My PT appointments continue, and it is likely I will see my aggressor one of these days soon. Me being me I am making a plan. Where does the high road lead, and will I take it?

    • Carol May 6, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

      What a creepy, lousy incident. Sounds like that guy has a sense of entitlement that precludes everyone else’s needs. Some will never get it; I still think there’s hope for most. It still makes me nuts when people take advantage of those spaces. Oh so very wrong.

    • Richard May 6, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

      The high road will get you there, but sometimes you have to make a horse’s ass clean up after himself.

      Best,
      R.

  9. Christopher May 6, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    That’s pretty crummy, Ms. Moody. It’s something that most all people with disabilities run into regularly, and not just in parking spaces. It’s difficult to understand what someone is thinking, and how he or she is rationalizing behavior like this. Then the weirdest part is that these people want to share their reasons for being inconsiderate. Like the people without placards who park in a disabled spot because, “I’m just waiting for a friend” or “I was just dropping something off, and I was only gone a few minutes.” I’m not sure I personally understand how using minimization makes it OK–it’s basically pathological. Even more stressful are areas where extricating myself quickly is impossible. Like trying to get into a bathroom with my walker and the person behind me just points and pantomimes and I have to ask what he (for obvious reasons) wants, just to find out that he, “just need(s) to squeeze past.” If this person has incontinence issues then I completely understand, and we’re both under the gun at that moment. More times than not I am just a talking obstacle that most people seem to have the impression that I can interpret gestures, read lips, use telepathy and/or hear and understand mumbled whispers. In a way it’s kinda cool… I’ve turned into Mohatma Teresa Schweitzer, and kindly overlook all brambleberries knocking into one another rushing nowhere. But on the other hand, realistically, it is most times really awkward and deflating. Hard to find that happy medium when everyone keeps hopping on and off the boat so quickly.

    • Richard May 7, 2014 at 7:50 am #

      C-

      I think we all seem to agree that thoughtlessness and a mean spirit are different, though sometimes they seem difficult to sort out.

      R.

  10. Brian May 6, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    Reading these posts has caused me to do some soul-searching. I too have been the unwilling recipient of the bellyaching of the morally inept. My first plane ride after becoming wheelchair dependent turned out to be a humbling experience. For the uninitiated, all able bodied passengers disembark first, and then baggage handlers (in more ways than one) arrive to schlep the disabled to the door of the plane where my power chair was waiting. As the handlers are placing me in the chair, a women storms down the gangway to announce to everyone that this was taking too long and she has to be somewhere! I should be irate at this, right? But I decided that maybe she is trying to get to the bedside of a dying loved one or something and just isn’t in her right mind. I usually find myself being pretty forgiving of those that find my disability so inconvenient for them. But I guess I have to draw the line somewhere and for me, that line is at the handicapped parking spaces. When I see what appears to be an able bodied person parking in the last handicapped spot, I want to call a tow truck. Why am I so picky about the ignorance that I’m willing to accept?

    • Richard May 7, 2014 at 8:00 am #

      Probably none of this is black and white. If you think the lady leaving the plane was loudly impatient because she was hurrying to see a dying relative, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. Not a capital crime but obnoxious. Maybe the person wrongfully parking in a handicapped space was picking up a sick pizza. My tolerance is fading, as is my willingness to take the time to explain.

      R.

  11. Lisa May 7, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    This type of lack of respect for the disabled or anyone bothers me. Today’s society is so engrossed with their life that they forget other people live in the world. I have MS but right now it is an invisible disability and that comes with challenges as people don’t see anything wrong with me but there is. I thank Richard and everyone else who is trying to educate the world about the disabled and their needs. Hopefully, with time the negative experiences will become less and less.

    Keep up the good work!!!

    • Richard May 7, 2014 at 8:02 am #

      Lisa-

      I think some good people will learn and change. Others can’t be bothered.

      Best,
      R.

  12. Geof May 7, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    I cringe at these types of stories all the time. Recently, my daughter was made fun of at school and began to feel awkward having a water bottle with her in class. “It’s bad enough I fart, but I feel them all looking at me when I drink.” The perils of second grade can be hell on emotional well being.

    I told her to remember she is a miracle. She has lived through more than most of them ever will. She needs to remember she has lived through 4 or 5 (depending on how some exploration is counted) heart surgeries and a stroke. She has been sick enough to die multiple times. She has bowels which aren’t moving food like they should. She has a choice, either take the chance given to her by multiple miracles and drink the water or let the stupid things thought by 2nd graders rob her of the life she is lucky enough to live.

    The irony is I ask her to be tougher than I am all the time. I tell her she and her siblings are my miracle, keeping me alive. We called the school to make sure the teacher is aware what is going on and how dangerous it would be for somebody with her heart condition to become dehydrated. We are debating as she enters a new school after our move next fall whether to schedule a class with her new school to explain disabilities and hers in particular.

    • Richard May 8, 2014 at 5:16 am #

      Geof-

      This can be a nmew beginning, I hope you make an ally of the new teacher who can transform your daughter’struggle into a teaching experience. Make classmates into part of the team, not tormentors.

      Best,
      R.

  13. Roger May 8, 2014 at 2:52 am #

    My friends, “we” live a wold where every word, gesture and so on is over-analyzed to protect the 90% that are “protected” by this twisted (& much overrated) word called DIVERSITY”. In the United States, and much of the free world, Antisemitism, bias, :discrimination, and so on is NOT tolerated!

    Please realize that those of us with a disability are NOT protected by such a beautiful word as “DIVERSITY”!?! Rather, we in fact our being discriminated in so many ways, The 30 or more comments simply is a example of the ugly truth,

    We have come of age to demand better in our society, schools, and workplace and recognize, applaud, and protect our civil rights.

    .I dare say that the “courage” we all display in remarkable. We are victims, as are all those that have an illness and are oo afraid to step forward for “fear” of social and professional repercussions. This must STOP now!

    Many of us writing on this blog do not have the true independence to shout from the rooftops crying FOUL! YUet for those that do, I urge us to collaborate on how best to gain access to the almighty word called :DIVERSITY”.

    Yes, its 3 am, and I have work in the morning, Despite my pain, I’ll be the 1st one in, and accomplish much more that those at my firm, a Fortune 500 Corporation.

    In time, I will be free to voice my opinions with excellent minds, and excellent disability attorneys yet until then, I ask that some brave people lead the way!

    • Richard May 8, 2014 at 5:21 am #

      Agreed,
      R.

  14. Wendy May 9, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    I brought a magazine with me to lunch, I never opened it!!! This blog and responses are far more interesting to me!

    Here’s my story… I sent to Costco in Los Angeles. I saw a couple packing their car. so I waited. The man waves me off,”We are not leaving”, he said. I took a closer look. He and his wife both tanned tall and the picture of health. They were parked in the handicapped spot the one that is designated for ramp vans. They were loading huge pots and bags of dirt into their SUV. I am super non confrontational, but I couldn’t resist!! I rolled down my window and said,”Do you know that you are in a handicapped spot?” The wife puts down her bag of dirt and says,”I’m handicapped”. So I pushed a little further and said,”I need a spot for my ramp” and her husband said,”I’m sorry you will have to park somewhere else”. So I did. There is an area at costco where you can load large items into your car. But why should you? When you can use a handicapped spot?

    • Richard May 10, 2014 at 9:06 am #

      Wendy-

      As I have written, south end of a northbound horse. People like that don’t change. Drive on and hope your blood pressure stays safe.

      Best,
      R.

  15. MB May 9, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    Here’s a twist on “It’s a Wonderful Life”:

    We see Suzy C. Healthy doing what some chronically healthy folks do rather routinely by the looks of this post.

    1. Park in handicapped parking
    2. Patronize someone in a wheelchair
    3. Talk to the spouse of a disabled person to find out what the disabled person wants
    4. Begrudge someone their disability because that person can cut in line

    As she’s lamenting how it would be great to have a disability placard because mall parking would be better at Christmas, Annette Funicello, her guardian angel, goes one step further by giving her a placard along with an actual disability —-ZAP—Ms. Healthy now has a handicapped placard AND primary progressive MS.

    You get the picture. But instead of Annette bringing Suzy back to her former self at the end of the story, Suzy remains disabled with the haunting memory that this was her wish.

    Suzy learned an important lesson but is unable to share it. Why? Because no one will listen to her since she has now become invisible because she is disabled.

    (FYI: I would NOT wish a disability on anyone, but I’d definitely go to see this movie.)

    • Betty Moody May 9, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

      Then let’s make a movie…

    • Richard May 10, 2014 at 9:12 am #

      I will go to that movie.

      Best,
      R.

  16. Christopher May 9, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    It’s the fighting stance that really sucks. Why is (almost) everyone out in the world so combative… so, contentious? It becomes really tiresome, and so difficult to ignore after a while. It’s like there is a war going on and we’ve all been drafted in absentia. Reluctantly.

    • Richard May 10, 2014 at 9:19 am #

      C-

      Is it possible you exagerate? I don’t believe it is almost everybody.

      R.

  17. Christopher May 10, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    It is a point I’m trying to make. I really try not to aggrandize. It seems to me that the majority of my own encounters are a competition, and not in a healthy way. I will concede that dealing with difficulty on a daily basis ‘colors’ my perspective, but I really try hard to acknowledge it and think about how I can filter it in a positive or neutral way. Yes, you’re right… it isn’t “almost everyone.” It just feels like it a lot of the time, and I’m tired of the tug-of-war. It’s corrupting me in ways that become harder and harder to debate in the mirror. I guess I wasn’t really cut out for this disability thing. In the beginning I thought I’ll beat this and become a better person for it. But I found that I can’t intellectualize my way through, or out of, multiple sclerosis after life gave me a good shellacking for my hubris. More than once, to ingrain its point.