Monthly Archives: March 2010

Renewing my Soul

Emotional Spring Cleaning

Affirming core principles through Kabala.

The last few years have been very hard on me. I am amazed at the extent of my marginalization as a person with a dis-ability, and as an activist who dares to speak up for Palestinian human rights.  The nexus of the two has had an enormous impact on my life.  Almost every time I leave my home I am exposed humiliating and even dangerous situations.  I have had to limit my contact with the outside world.  Pwds (people with dis-abilities) don’t have a ghetto to fall back into (except the  gulag of healthcare facilities and skid row.) We can’t gain comfort in the exclusivity of our exclusion. We make due in the world of those who may some day join us in this marginalized identity, by illness or accident, (serving as a deadly reminder of their own vulnerability).  Andy and I are building a space where I, where we can work, where people can gather, where we can hope to develop a community based on values other than moral relativism, cronyism, opportunism and greed; though it’s hard to go against the grain of the pervading culture. Fueled by the motion picture industry, this is a tit for tat (and a tit and ass) city, and it filters down into almost every relationship.  “What can you do for me?”

This year has been especially devastating for me.  Even limiting my interactions to my own home– an amazing compound that includes supportive neighbors, a small urban farm, a work studio, a gathering place to build connections, I am still constantly hit with messages of marginalization, usually in emails attacking my body politic, defending privilege, making excuses for exclusive events that don’t consider the input or inclusion of pwds as important, essential or valuable.

For middle class activists who have only minimally suffered the ravages of capitalism (if capitalism isn’t a boot on your throat, it’s all theory) there is great impatience.  Friends think I should be “over” this.  Since it isn’t “over”, since the blacklisting and the ridicule and exclusion continues, this demand demonstrates their own intolerance, their own need to see oppression as something that happens somewhere else to someone else, not someone like them.  Their activism is more about assuaging their guilt in measured bursts that don’t challenge their privilege, than about a real battle of life and death. It shows their own inability to understand that for many people, life is a series of events for which there may be little or no escape.  Tragedy isn’t the occasional experience, it IS the experience.  Their activism is based on charity, not solidarity.  They fear and reject seeing any connection to their own lives, the lives they attempt to defend. In my case, and it isn’t just my case, tragedy has revolved around loss of my job due to dis-crimination, the poverty and isolation of single parenthood, the marginalization of my own illness while raising a child with a serious condition, the brutality of the health insurance and “care” system, the social service industry, the educational establishment, lack of services, lack of respect for single mothers, discrimination against my gay, Jewish Mexican son, political marginalization, dis-ability discrimination,death threats, vandalism, sabotage etc. etc. etc.  This isn’t a reality one simply snaps out of.  I can’t just show up at a dinner party or a social or even a political event and discuss these matters as if they were happening to someone else, far away. I can’t avoid bleeding on fine linen.  For me, the death spiral of the capitalist system isn’t theory, and it isn’t temporary.

I find myself in the  grip of  a profound depression, afraid for the end of the world, the incredible loss of life  of those who are expendable to a brutal machine that needs our labor and our minds less and less.  Somedays I wish I could stop breathing. My grief is very deep.  I have an intractable hopelessness.  AND MOST OF ALL, I AM TIRED OF PLATITUDES.  Telling people to “think positive” when they are under attack and in the midst of a terrible reality is actually a very cruel and negative act.  Though it is much easier than actually bearing witness, listening, and taking appropriate action.

Today I woke up, bathing in despair,  thinking, “something has got to give.”  Somewhere in all of  this, there  has to be some salvation.  I hope that I can at least break from my own complicity in the attacks against me and rise up from under my own self doubt, hatred and demoralization.

Counting the Omer

Starting on the second day of Passover, it is tradition and enter into a   49 day period of study of the principles of Kabala. *1 Keter-“Crown” 2 Chochmah-“Wisdom”3 Binah-“Understanding”4 Chesed-“Kindness”
5Gevurah-“Severity”
6 Tiferet-“Beauty”
(Secondary emotions:)
7 Netzach-“Victory”
8 Hod-“Splendor”
9 Yesod-“Foundation”
(Vessel to bring action:)
10 Malchut-“Kingship”

So here I am, at a point where I am personally, politically and spiritually mandated to do exactly what is simultaneously indicated by the Hebrew calendar. I appreciate such sinchronicity.  It is rare in my life.

Of course, there remains my own rebelliousness.  Study of Kabala is forbidden to those under the age of 44, and I started studying Kabala when I was 40. It is also not traditional for women to study Kabala.  But unlike many of the Mosaic laws I have broken, I don’t think this one is a capital crime, so there is that!!!  (The religious enforcers may put down their stones at least on this account.)

A few years ago I underwent a deep study of Kabala.  Using my own drawings and writings as meditations,  I published those writings and drawings on this blog.  Feel free to join me and meditate with me on these principles.   I am very lost.  very very lost.  Help me find my way back to something resembling wholeness.

Day one:  loving kindness in loving kindness:

https://inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com/2006/04/14/counting-the-omer-day-1-5766/

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sephirot

Call out on dis-ability access in the left

 

Yesterday I posted this as a facebook note, inviting activists to participate in a dialogue on establishing awareness on dis-ability inclusion in the human rights social justice movements.  I invite readers to likewise, join the discussion.  Here is the facebook link.  It’s easy to join facebook, and it is an excellent vehicle for this type of dialogue building. 

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=361031147521&id=1081303180&ref=mf

In Los Angeles, and I would imagine other cities as well, the left, progressive, the anti-war movement has been in the rearguard on the issue of dis-ability access, affirmation and full inclusion. Beyond a few friends saying i’ve raised their consciousness, I’ve seen very little change. On the other hand, I’ve been rather brutally attacked because of my dis-ability or accused of being divisive for suggesting we include more people in the movement. Many of the progressive community’s organizations don’t have accessible locations, meaning they don’t hire people with dis-abilities (pwds) they don’t have interns who are pwds (so that pwd students have less experience entering the workforce), they often don’t have events that are accessible, and even if the venues are accessible, have little monitoring to assure that the space, once filled with people, equipment and materials, remains safe, accessible and humanizing for pwds. 

Pwds have little opportunity to inform the movement. Many of the groups who claim to be vanguard revolutionary groups are by the nature of their infrastructure, exclusive of pwds, implying that there is no place for pwds in the vanguard of the movement.

I would like to start a dialogue (is that too much to ask) on this issue. Please indulge this gimp gurl, who has for the most part, like many gimps before me, given up on going to progressive events because more often than not, the experience is humiliating, dangerous, isolating and insulting. 

Can we create a language and an ethic of inclusion and stop the practice of treating pwds as the invisible or absent other?
Can we include it in our canon of isms that are part of the course of study any movement cadre would be familiar with?
Can we determine a protocol for event planning, notification, accommodation, safety and inclusion?
Can we look, collectively for creative ways to solve the financial issues that impede (and yet can NEVER be an excuse) full inclusion?
Can we train our own cadre in accessibility facilitation, sign language interpretation, etc. to deter costs?
Can we find ways to make inaccessible venues fully accessible? (We’ll carry you up the stairs isn’t it– and what will you do to assist in an inaccessible bathroom?)
Can we familiarize ourselves with the language, protocol and etiquette of inclusion? 
Can we take responsibility for inclusion, including pwd informed advocacy?
Can we all start to demand that events and locals be fully accessible and inclusive? (When was the last time you complained that a restaurant or event required stair climbing?) 

IDEAS? QUESTIONS? PROBLEMS? CONCERNS?

(BUT NO EXCUSES!) 

disability etiquette and full inclusion!

to assure a dis-ability affirmative space for all events, avail yourself of this important leaflet, (download link below)  and then do the outreach. people with dis-abilities don’t show up to events in l.a. because events are dis-ability hostile and indifferent.

make sure all venues (including the bathroom and the stage) are accessible (a temporary ramp is very inexpensive!)

choose an identified monitor to assure continued accessibility and to resolve problems as they arrise through out the program.

and most importantly, add the following statement to all publicity for your events:

this event is wheelchair accessible and dis-ability affirmative. if you need additional accommodations please contact us 72 hours prior to the event.

(and then be ready to provide sign language interpretation and other accommodations as needed.)

this isn’t just the responsibility of government and business entities.

lack of inclusion is a violation of the human rights the left and community organizations claim to support.

we need to take the responsibility to find the resources so that we are true allies building full and complete movements for social justice.

http://www.unitedspinal.org/pdf/DisabilityEtiquette.pdf

For more information on accessible event planning:

https://inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/guide-to-accessible%20event-planning/

The Attack on Tenure and Teachers’ Job Security

A recent L.A. Weekly article “addressed” the “problem” of getting rid of “bad” teachers.  (see link below) 

As someone who retired from LAUSD with disability retirement after trying to get the most minimal of accommodations for my dis-ability and facing incredible harassment for such a request;

As someone who requested basic accommodations, found ways to make the whole proposal cost free for the District while offering to fill high need hard to staff areas of education, (bilingual special ed) and fully aware that if I had merely kept my mouth shut, showed Disney movies, gave out busy work, and gave all my students C’s, then I would have had no problem with the same administration, but only had a problem when requesting the resources to do my job well.

As someone who NEVER had a bad evaluation, had several outstanding evaluations, and wrote and received several grants and coordinated several school wide programs;

As someone who filed and won approx 30 grievances against the district for collective and individual violations of the contract, never observing any consequences, reassignments, discipline etc against these principals for such wanton rights violations;

As someone who observed and confronted gross misuse of school funds and a crony system that favored mediocrity and obedience over dedication and commitment to teaching;

As someone who used tenure to defend and advocate for students and the community and teachers, against the will of the administration;

As someone who ONLY KNEW ONE ADMINISTRATOR  who went after bad teachers– with the full support of the highly unionized faculty.  (I consider her the best administrator I worked with);

As someone who observed administrators go after activists, whistle blowers, community, educator, worker and student advocates while perpetuating or ignoring sexual harassment, sexual abuse, hate speech, racism, sexism, dis-ability discrimination etc. both by staff and students; 

As someone who graduated magna cum laude, is bilingual in English and Spanish, continues to study and to teach, is a life long activist and writer;

I find it hard to believe that:

1. Michael Kim, a man with cerebral palsy, who neurologically can’t control his hands, is the best example of the district trying to defend the rights of staff and students against sexual harassment and gropping! 

More to point, the District doesn’t WANT dis-abled teachers.  This whole case was totally offensive and outrageous, and should be transparent; a perfect example of how dis-ability discrimination is used to take us all down, to set a pretext for greater rights violations.

2. the present administration is able to select the appropriate teachers for dismissal– which of course would explain why it is so hard to fire the teachers the district is trying to fire.  It is quite possible that very few of these people should be fired and the ones that need to go are comfortably doing the principal’s bidding!!!

3 given that the City of Los Angeles decided NOT  to fire a single cop for beating up press and community members for the May Day demonstration a few years back, wonders what city employees ARE doing that warrants (“the easy” removal from their positions.

4. there are only bad teachers and not bad administrators, who also need to be removed from their positions which the district can do, and doesn’t.  It seems that a lot of bad teaching might be resolved by creating acceptable working conditions, starting with a supportive administration. 

5. that the grievance process is the problem, The grievance process is a three step process: 1.A meeting with the principal, 2. A meeting with the area supt. And 3. Binding arbitration with an arbitrator chosen by both the union and the district. A principal looses a grievance against a teacher when either the District or the arbitrator chosen by the district says a violation of that teacher’s rights has occurred.  In such a situation is it right to assume that it is the teacher that is failing to perform basic assigned duties?

6.that settlements of 40-100 thousand dollars  for the removal of teachers the District wants to fire,  are excessive and against whom no evidence exists, other than district say so, that these teachers deserve to lose their careers, which includes 5 years of university study, and often thousands of dollars each year for materials the District fails to provide and in a District that has bought out the contracts of several of its superintendants for over half a million dollars.

 The entire premise of the Weekly article is that the District can’t fire the teachers it wants to fire  because of the Union and tenure, and not that these constructs  actually protect the academic freedom of teachers who should not have been brought under scrutiny in the first place.

There is no evidence IN THE ARTICLE, except the District’s say so, that the District is actually trying to fire the BAD teachers. That is an essential missing element of the article.  Sure there are bad teachers.  But if the district isn’t going after bad teachers, but is going after teachers who demand their rights or the rights of others, then the waste of resources is even more outrageous.  

http://www.laweekly.com/2010-02-11/news/lausd-s-dance-of-the-lemons/

The Spoon Theory of Chronic Illness– a must read!

From the web site: But You Don’t Look Sick: a window into the lives of people with chronic illness- budgeting our every choice.

http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/wpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/BYDLS-TheSpoonTheory.pdf