Rise of the Fool

They called him a joke.

They said the people who supported him were fringe elements, just a bunch of extremists without popular support. Rabble-rousers making up the audience of beer halls; a bunch of drunk fools getting into trouble. Just a bunch of children.

His book was a bestseller.

His explicit hate and racism was said to be just for show. Not genuine, but just a way to gain the masses trust and attention. Interesting how no one considered what the fact that such hate would gain the trust of the masses actually meant.

No one thought he would make it very far in politics. He was a joke. There was no way he would actually win.

When he did, the whole world looked at the electors in shock, confusion, and a sense of horror. No one thought he would win.

Even after he won, no one thought he was really a threat. No one believed that he would actually manage to achieve his horrifying promises. It was all just rhetoric they said. He was too incompetent. He was too weak.

When armed resistances started up, protesting and threatening violence against any who spoke against him, it was excused as the childish antics of angry young men. Not a representation of what they really thought, but just a manifestation of the anger they felt at being disenfranchised by bad economic times.

The rise in vandalism and violence was excused as childish antics and not an indication of how they really felt.

The world mocked him. Comedians at the time drew attention creating caricatures of him as a bumbling angry clown with a funny appearance.

Who am I talking about? Continue reading “Rise of the Fool”

Rise of the Fool
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PSA: Don’t Touch Accessibility Devices

Accessibility Devices are, for all intents and purposes, a part of our bodies and should be treated as such.

DO NOT touch an accessibility device WITHOUT CONSENT. In case this is not clear, I mean the consent of the disabled person.

Do not touch a wheelchair without the consent of the person in it.

Do not touch a walker or a cane without the consent of the person using it.

Do not move a walker or cane out of the way, even if the person isn’t using it right now.

Do not push a wheelchair without consent, even if you are just trying to help. Even if you just want to make it easier for them to get up a hill.

Do not put a cane where the person who needs it can’t reach it. It is not funny.

Do not take a person’s prosthetic. It is not funny.

Do not push a person’s wheelchair out of your way, or to make them go faster. If you wouldn’t shove someone out of the way, then consider pushing someone in a chair as the equivalent.

Do not take a person’s hearing aid. It is not funny.

Do not try to make a person’s hearing aid produce feedback.

Do not push someone wearing a hearing aid into a pool, or spray them with water.

Do not touch a service dog. Doesn’t matter how cute it is. Doesn’t matter how small it is. If the dog is wearing his vest or currently working, DO NOT TOUCH THE DOG. (Or Any Other Service Animal)

Do not talk or stare at a service dog – dogs are social and if they are paying attention to you they are not paying attention to their job. They’re trained, but they’re still animals who CAN get distracted.

 Do not put a walker or a cane somewhere else, even if it is not currently being used.

DO NOT try to help by lifting their walker or the person themselves unless asked. If you offer, respect their no.

Continue reading “PSA: Don’t Touch Accessibility Devices”

PSA: Don’t Touch Accessibility Devices

What is Anti-Eugenics in Practice?

I’ve previously written about the difference between eugenics and pro-choice, and how the thought process that goes into the decision to abort a disabled fetus is both a symptom and a perpetuation of systemic ableism.

What does it mean in practice to oppose eugenics, however? If aborting a fetus on the basis of disability is harmful, how do we address that? Do we make it illegal? Do we restrict a person’s ability to make that decision by eliminating the ability to know in advance whether a child has a disability or not?

How can you oppose eugenics and still remain pro-choice. Isn’t it wrong to shame people who get abortions for the reasons they get abortions?

Let me make it clear. The right to bodily autonomy is such that any restriction, even for the best of intentions, is a violation of bodily autonomy. Regardless why someone is getting an abortion, the ability to do so safely and without barrier is essential. All people should have the right to access an abortion without shaming. Continue reading “What is Anti-Eugenics in Practice?”

What is Anti-Eugenics in Practice?

Where is Your Condemnation Now?

TW: For Racism

During the Ferguson protests, during the Baltimore uprisings, during countless demonstrations that took place because black children, black men, and black women, are being murdered, there were countless and endless condemnations by white people of the protestors as being too violent, too angry.

Last night, white people came to a Black Lives Matter demonstration for no other purpose then to commit violence. Their purpose wasn’t to raise awareness, to express anger and hurt over government sanctioned murders. No. They were there to kill people who had the nerve to protest being murdered. They were there because they don’t see PoC as being human beings, as being people. They shot five people.

When the police responded, their response included macing protestors after they had just been shot at.

Continue reading “Where is Your Condemnation Now?”

Where is Your Condemnation Now?

What Atheist Communities Can Do

I had the opportunity to speak at FTBCon, and one of the panels with which I was involved was one on disability and the need for the atheist movement and community to get involved in approving accessibility.

One of the statements that set off the most discussion is this idea mentioned by Daniel Samuelson, and backed up by everyone else in the panel, that if he were Christian, Danny would not have become homeless. What followed what a discussion on twitter in which others tried to assert that this couldn’t be the case while those of us who experience the poverty related concerns caused by disability and sickness echoed the statement. For those of us who become atheists, the consequences stemming from our disability are direr than if we remained participants and congregants of our former religions.

This is not because religious people are inherently more moral. In fact morality doesn’t play into it at all. What religions have that the atheist movement still lacks is infrastructure and community. More specifically an infrastructure based community that understands that the best way to keep their numbers is to provide services that make it unappealing and at times impossible to leave. The services can be provided officially as part of their organization or unofficially as those organized by parishioners themselves.
In the interest of improving the lives of disabled atheists I want to offer some examples of things that the atheist community can do to help those of us who struggle.

Ride programs

One of the biggest challenges faced by people with disabilities, regardless of their financial status, is a sense of isolation. This is especially the case in winter when mobility might become an issue. A simple thing that atheist communities can do is arrange to provide rides to people, to the grocery store, to doctor’s appointments, and to various entertainments. Arranging for transportation or rideshares to events can also go a long way to improving attendance.
Arranging for regular transportation to major bulk stores like Costco can also be a huge help. Often buying in bulk can be cheaper but can be difficult or impossible for people without transportation. Alternately, arranging for a delivery service of some kind to pick up and drop off people groceries at their homes would also help a lot.

Food Bank Fundraisers

A lot of people with disabilities will make use of the food bank during their lifetimes. The problem is that food banks are not able to cater to special needs diets. Celiac or gluten allergy? Too bad? Lactose Intolerant? Suck it up. It’s not that they don’t want to help with those types of diets, but food banks don’t receive a lot of options to begin with. If you want to as an organization help people in your community who are struggling do a money drive and food drive for your local food banks. Help stock them with gluten free options, get them toiletries, and give them money. Any of these three actions can be a huge help. Many people forget about toiletries when doing food bank drives, but there are many people for whom the only feminine hygiene products they can get are those that come in from time to time.

Meal Program

It can be difficult at times for people struggling with illness to make themselves healthy meals. Either because of the effort in standing, lack of energy, or lack of money to buy healthy foods. Regardless of the reason, this is one action that a lot of churches provide that is very useful. Members of the community make extra meals which are then delivered to the needy in the community. At times, the community buys gift cards for local grocery chains, to help people buy food. Either of these options can be a huge help to someone who is struggling.

Visit Program

I’ve mentioned before the sense of isolation often felt by people struggling with illness and disability. Having a list of people who could use a visit either once a week or once a month from people can go a long way to reducing that sense of isolation. This can be combined with the meal program, or just be organized on its own. This service should be offered to people in the hospital who spend long periods of time by themselves.

Item/Clothes Exchange

One person’s trash can be another person’s treasure. Having a monthly exchange where people can bring in their old furniture or clothing to be exchanged can be very useful for people who can’t afford new things. Having that type of community can also be very helpful when someone loses their home due to a fire, or something along those lines.

Choose Accessible Locations for Events

Having been an organizer myself, I know that this is not always possible. However, I find that often accessibility is the lowest priority for many organizers. Often the excuse is that they never see people in wheelchairs or with canes at their events, ignoring of course that if their events are inaccessible then they wouldn’t would they.
Remember, not every person for who accessibility is an issue is going to be visible. They may not require a cane but have a problem with stairs. They may be able to handle stairs part of the time but not at others.
If your event does have elevator access, make sure they are clearly marked.

Rent a Wheelchair

Last year I was helping plan a protest with regards to the unfair jailing of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh. I did so with the expectation that I would be unable to participate since part of the protest included a march of a few km, something that was outside my capabilities. The organization however, decided to rent a wheelchair for me so that I could be included. It made a huge difference and meant that the protest had one more attendee to add to their numbers. Not everyone who has trouble with mobility will have a wheelchair of their own. They may not even know that renting a wheelchair is an option. By including information about rentals or mentioning that such is available, you open up the possibility of attendance to a lot more people.

Disability Scholarships

Many people who struggle with disabilities also struggle with money. This makes it difficult to attend events, conferences, and other networking type activities. By providing scholarships or reduced cost tickets for people with disabilities, you lower some of the barriers towards attendance.

Accessible Presentation

This is a big one that is often forgotten about. When booking someone for a talk, remind them to make their presentations more accessible. If they are including graphics or pictures, remind them that they have to describe them for people who cannot see. If possible, try to arrange to have the information for sign language interpreters to make it possible for people with auditory disabilities to attend. If you provide these services, make sure to make it clear by including that information on your advertisements.
Make sure you are aware of the procedures regarding service dogs. Run through them if you see one in the audience to make sure that people with the service dogs don’t have to spend all their time reminding people that they should not pet a dog that is wearing its vest.
Include a section for people to make clear their accessibility needs if they want to attend.

More Disability Themed Presentations

Regardless what community you belong to, disability activism intersects. This is especially true for feminism, race activism, and atheism. The intersections of disability, whether physical or mental, are huge. By creating more awareness, you also increase more people struggling with these problems to get involved in the community. ((Self serving yes, but if you are looking for speakers I am available for this purpose))

Hire More People with Disabilities

Often when thinking about representation, people forget about those of us struggling with disability. By hiring more people who struggle with mobility, visual, hearing, or chronic illness issues, you are likely to get a better perspective on how to be more inclusive.
This is not a complete list but includes only a few ideas of what organizations like CFI, American Atheists, and others can do to improve accessibility and the lives of disabled people in their own communities.

What Atheist Communities Can Do

Sticks and Stones

I hate that old saying “Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt me”. It is bullshit. Bones heal, but words cut you inside. Words stay with you forever. They become that little voice inside your head that undermines every single thing you do. They become that seed of doubt that makes you scared of being a failure, that makes you see everything you do through a dirty lens.  The wrong words are like parasites, burrowing their way into your brain and leaching your life of confidence, joy, esteem, laughter, sense of self.

The idea that insults, slurs, and more are not painful or not worth noticing has to do with our society’s idea that emotions are worthless. That emotions exist on a binary scale with rationality and that one who experiences one cannot participate in the other. Emotions are not irrational. They exist for a reason. They let you know what your boundaries are. My boundaries might not be yours but that doesn’t make them any less valid. If I say that doing this thing is something I am willing to unfriend for, you DO NOT FUCKING ARGUE WITH THAT. If you care to be my friend you listen to it, and if not then leave me the fuck alone. Or better yet, do us both a favour and unfriend me.

Emotions are a “sixth sense”. Not in the colloquial sense having to do with some sort of predictive power, but rather like touch, smell, feel, they are a way that we navigate and experience the world. Without emotion we lose a way we relate to the world and it is as much a disability as losing one’s sense of hearing or sight.

Words do not have just the power that I give to them. Words have power all on their own. They do not exist in a vacuum. If someone calls me fat, yes in that one instance I can choose to decide not to be upset, but that isn’t going to change the fact that I live in the world where people can treat me differently and badly because of that word. It doesn’t stop becoming a word that can be applied to me just because I choose not to be upset. If you grew up being told that gay people are evil, sinful, going to hell. If you live in a society that feels like they can refuse you your rights because you are gay, that gives the word “F*ggot” power regardless whether or not you choose to be offended by that word.

Words have a history that is not irrelevant. Being called a “r*tard” carries with it every single punch, every single instance of being discriminated against for having a mental illness. It carries with it a memory of every single person that has been called a retard. Every child that was killed for being autistic or being sick in some way. It may be just one time thing or it may something you are called every single day. It doesn’t matter. Those words will hurt, and they will stay with you.

The power of words is not just negative however. Words can also do great good. Those familiar with the anti-communist movement Solidarnoscknow that words played an important role. One of the main things they did was read all the literature that was banned by the Soviet government. And that’s the point. If ever you doubt the power of words, all one needs to do is look at the fact that all of the most authoritative and corrupt powers are so afraid of words, that they spend countless hours and resources on censorship. Words matter.

Sticks and Stones