I am of the firm belief that on an individual basis, it does not matter what people think about you. You can’t spend your life worrying about what other people think about you or the way you live. So, do perceptions matter? I’ve come to realize that in some ways, they do. Sure, not on an individual, case by case basis, but in the grand scheme of things, perceptions can determine whether a group of people get fair treatment. In some ways we should give a hoot about the perceptions the world has of us.
I might not be explaining myself as clearly as I should, so let me give you an example. I am not exactly getting the point of civil disobedience in this day and age. The same people who are telling me that the world should be civilized enough to keep serial killers and pedophiles in prison (more on this later), as opposed to the death penalty, feel it is okay to go out and cause civil disobedience. I’m not sure I understand what is so civilized about this.
I can see why civil disobedience was big in the 60s. Everyone was out burning bras, chaining themselves to buildings, and causing a ruckus with the police. They were also on a lot of Acid, Weed, and other drugs. There really was no civility in the time of free love, and perhaps our nation has become more conservative and conventional, but I don’t see how civil disobedience, in this day and age, is going to make anyone’s perception of a specific group positive. In fact, because we live in a more conservative nation, I feel the perception is, more often than not, negative.
Going even further, let me explain what got me thinking about this. ADAPT hosted/is hosting a week of events in Washington D.C. to protest Obama’s slowness in getting the Community Choice Act (CCA) through Congress and on his desk. Granted, Obama did promise those of us in the disabled community this bill, and he has been sluggish in getting things going for the CCA, but he has one heck of a mess to clean up in this nation and a lot of other promises to uphold. It is going to take time and ADAPT is demanding answers now.
I’m not saying I’m happy with Obama. I voted for Obama partly because I felt McCain was just more Bush and partly because he was the only one who claimed he supported the political actions I support. Like everyone else, I’m waiting with baited breath to see if he can get things together. Yes, he’s been in office just over 100 days, but that’s a small amount of time to clean up 8 years of terrible economic practices. I think we all need to use some patience and give him time to figure out what to do, how to do it, and how to implement it. If by the end of four years he hasn’t kept his promises then we’ll know what kind of president, what kind of man, he really is.
I digress. This has only a little to do with perceptions. I am just trying to give my thoughts on the ADAPT actions, so you can see where I am coming from. I’ve been told ADAPT has a long history of civil disobedience action. They used it to pass the ADA (perhaps the most archaic Act in the history of Congress) and to help get public transportation for all (I don’t think enough has been done for this — but that’s just from someone who depends on accessible, public transportation that is unreliable). Perhaps in 1990, civil disobedience worked, but that is almost 20 years ago. Perceptions change.
I have National ADAPT on my Twitter. Throughout the last few days, my twitter stream has been filled with updates on the action. People in wheelchairs (close to 500 — in total) chained themselves to the White House fence. They blocked the entrance to the White House so visitors either had to cancel appointments or go to another entrance on the opposite side of the White House. They crawled up the steps of the Capitol. They were getting arrested, proudly, left and right. For what? Media attention.
Yes, this did get more media attention than the Jerry Lewis protest in California a few months back, but the perceptions of average Americans to this civil disobedience is not positive. On the whole, its negative. Just go look at the comments in newspapers carrying the story or on various Twitter streams of those finding amusement in the action. People don’t get why the disabled populace is breaking the law and getting arrested. In the end, the true reason behind it all, passing the Community Choice Act (a bill necessary and essential to keeping those of us in wheelchairs who require care in our homes and out of nursing homes) is lost in the muddle.
Furthermore, we need the support of the majority. With majority support the CCA has a better chance of being passed. The perceptions of the majority matter because they help this essential bill come to fruition. The majority needs to help us email Congress, Obama, and demand the bill pass. If the majority sees us in a negative light, they won’t care if Obama is held accountable for his promise or not, and that, to me is a problem.
People think we’re whiners who just want our way. They believe that we expect too much of Obama. They believe the civil disobedience is pointless. We’re crazy. We’re greedy. We’re selfish for not following proper protocols (the protesters didn’t even file a petition to picket/protest in front of the White House — something they could have done). In fact, the only people who find this amusing or think its great are those who don’t like Obama. Suddenly, Obama hates people with disabilities (according to them). Most of these people are from the Conservative Right.
My thoughts on this are that there are more conventional ways to get the issue in the news. We have a three-section government for a reason. When something doesn’t work out with the Executive Branch, it’s good to appeal to the Legislative Branch. If that doesn’t work we always have the Judicial Branch to fall back upon. How many lawsuits have been filed in the past to bring an issue to the forefront? I wonder why this wasn’t considered before going to the Capitol and crawling up a bunch of steps?
I find it hard to be proud of this action. Yes, I agree something does need to be done, but I don’t agree with the methods employed in order to get action. As far as I know, nothing has been accomplished other than to get the story into the mainstream media, and raise the blood pressures of the majority who don’t agree with 1960s-esque, radical picketing tactics. To me, the entire thing is pointless. Negative attention is worse than no attention, especially when it comes to the support of a bill, such as the CCA.
So, do perceptions matter? Do you think that the disability rights movement should care about what the majority thinks in order to garner their support for the cause? I believe that with the disabled being one of the most discriminated groups in the nation, we do need the majority’s support. Without their understanding of our situation, we won’t get that and civil disobedience is no way to go about changing perceptions, for the better.
[tags]perceptions, disability, civil disobedience, Community Choice Act, CCA, picket, Congress, Obama, discrimination[/tags]