[nfbwatlk] why we need to be there

Sarah Baughn sarahb006 at comcast.net
Mon Apr 6 07:01:52 UTC 2009

Hmmm, gotta think about that for a while, and I'll get back to you.  As my 
love, Ray, likes to say, it's the perverseness of human natture.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jedi" <loneblindjedi at samobile.net>
To: <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Sunday, April 05, 2009 5:24 PM
Subject: Re: [nfbwatlk] why we need to be there

> Mary Ellen,
> You're a ton stronger than I am. I don't what I would have said if someone 
> told me I was classified as a visually impaired person who presented well. 
> I was shocked when I read it, and I felt my facial expression sour. Isn't 
> it interesting how juxtiposed people's views of blindness are?
> I'm teaching a class this quarter called "straight talk about Blindness." 
> One of the assignments I've set my students is a homework set, or a set of 
> three thought-provokers. One of the questions on this assignment is: why 
> is it that blindness is so ambiguous? Why is it that we're both amazing 
> yet helpless, intelligent yet ignorant, and virtuous yet sinful all in the 
> same person and moment in time? Realistically speaking, a person can 
> logically be all of these traits at once, but surely not as a direct 
> result of being blind. What do all of you think? Why is blindness so 
> ambiguous to the point where we call to mind such opposite traits all at 
> once just because we can't see? If it's okay with all of you, i'd like to 
> collect your responses and share them with my class. Of course, no names 
> will be mentioned or tied to your responses.
> Original message:
>> It's election time in British Columbia; the barbecues and the rhetoric 
>> are
>> sizzling. There's not much of a contest in our legislative district. 
>> Kelowna
>> is a one party town. Candidates from the other parties keep the majority
>> party in check by raising issues, but the person who wins the BC Liberal
>> Party nomination is pretty well assured the seat in the legislature.
>> I'm pleased with the nominee. He has a record of conscientious service on
>> the Kelowna City Council and a commitment to issues that matter to me. So 
>> I
>> was happy to add his campaign kick off barbecue to my list of Saturday
>> errands.
>> I arrived during the preliminary speeches and joined the enthusiastic 
>> crowd.
>> After the program ended, a  friend who is a member of the campaign team
>> showed me to the volunteer table and introduced me to the woman taking 
>> names
>> there. "Can you fill out the form, or would you like me to help with it,"
>> she asked politely. I spelled my name, gave my address and phone number, 
>> and
>> told her which boxes to check in the list of potential volunteer duties.
>> When we'd finished, she proudly told me, "I've marked on your form 
>> "visually
>> impaired, but presents well."
>> I doubt the woman noticed that my return smile was somewhat rueful. It 
>> was
>> that word "but." My performance as an aspiring volunteer had just been
>> graded as "exceeds expectations." But what expectations? That little word
>> "but" implied that she didn't expect the "visually impaired" to "present
>> well."
>> Yet it was clear to me that she had intended a compliment. I chose to 
>> take
>> it in that spirit. Her mother had become blind during the last twenty 
>> years
>> of life. "I'm blind," I replied. "I don't really believe in euphemisms."
>> That put her more at ease.
>> Having been assured that the volunteer coordinator would call me to 
>> schedule
>> a time for me to begin, I walked off toward the food tables. Another
>> campaign volunteer offered to help me through the line.
>> Our local Federal member of parliament walked up to us and greeted me by
>> name. (I'd volunteered for his campaign three years ago.) "How's Paul? 
>> How
>> are the children? Oh, by the way, I'm now on the parliamentary committee
>> which deals with disability issues and poverty. Here's my new business
>> card." He grinned while I read the Braille card, obviously pleased with
>> himself.
>> "Impressive! When you have the time," I responded, " I'd like to talk to 
>> you
>> about the work your committee is doing. I'll send you a paper written by 
>> the
>> Canadian Federation of the Blind concerning employment and 
>> rehabilitation."
>> "I'd appreciate that," he said, and moved on to talk to the next 
>> supporter.
>> I think my new campaign volunteer friend was somewhat surprised. "Let me
>> introduce you to Norm, the provincial candidate. "Norm," she said, "this 
>> is
>> Mary Ellen."
>> "Oh, yes, Mary Ellen, how are you? I've met you several times at the 
>> French
>> school."
>> "This isn't the time," I told him, "but I'd like to set aside five or ten
>> minutes to talk with you about issues that are important to me."
>> "Sure," he answered. "I'll be meeting with people throughout the 
>> campaign,
>> and after the campaign is over. Just call and set up an appointment."
>> "I'll be volunteering," I replied, " so I'll do it then. Unless apathy 
>> sets
>> in, I'm sure you're heading for Victoria. Good luck."
>> My volunteer friend chatted as we approached the tables laden with 
>> burgers
>> and smokies. "I used to work at a home for the aged. We learned so much
>> about people with disabilities. I remember one day they blindfolded us 
>> and
>> we walked with someone the way I'm walking with you now. I remember how
>> vulnerable I felt."
>> "I'm glad you're so interested in learning," I told her. "The way you 
>> felt
>> is probably how someone who is newly blind or has had no training feels, 
>> but
>> it's a bit inaccurate. I don't feel the least bit vulnerable."
>> Thinking back on the hour I spent at the rally and barbecue, I'm struck 
>> by
>> contrasts. On one hand, we're "visually impaired but present well." At 
>> the
>> same time, elected officials want our opinions on matters which affect 
>> us.
>> Ignorance and opportunity are all around us. Responding to the ignorance 
>> can
>> be a teeth gritting exercise in diplomacy. Seizing the opportunity must 
>> be
>> our continual mission. When it comes to politics, as in so many other
>> circumstances, we really need to keep being there.
>> _______________________________________________
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> -- 
> REspectfully,
> Jedi
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