Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Language of Flowers, or the Ignorance of Humans


Victorians society always struck me as particularly roundabout in expressing their thoughts. Euphemisms and omissions abound in Victorian literature. The Victorians, we are told, had a whole language of flowers, so that lovers could say with flowers what they couldn't with words. Me? I'm pretty direct. But I'll try out this language of flowers thing, and see if you understand what I'm getting at.

I like to share feel-good stories about people with disabilities on this blog, but I'm sorry to say that I've got a backlog of feel-pissed-off stories to share.

Story number one. A deaf family in Maryland's house is repeatedly burglarized, and after one incident, the police regard the family's attempts at communication as dangerously aggressive, and threw the victim to the ground, subduing him in such a way that he could neither breathe (he had recently had neck surgery) and not communicate via sign language. Apparently, pointing at a police officer, gesturing broadly with one's arms, and pressing a note on them, will get you dragged out your own home in handcuffs. What's really disturbing about this particular story is how the observations of the police officer and a paramedic who was present at the scene differ.

Story number two. A church minister in Lancashire was barred from riding trains because his motorized wheelchair was 4 cm (1.6 inches) too long. Thank goodness for the Americans With Disabilities Act, which guarantees access to all public spaces and businesses.

Story number three. A Toronto man is waiting in the airport, when a security officer comes up to him and begins to confiscate his luggage. The man is told that he is not properly "attending" his luggage, because his is a wheelchair user.

Story number four. Recently disabled veterans were driven from a swimming pool in Surrey, because a woman who was also using the pool objected to their presence. The men, who had lost limbs while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, were participating in their regularly scheduled therapy sessions when a woman insisted that they had no rights to use the pool. She insisted that they had not paid to use the pool, as she had. And furthermore she insisted that the men should not be allowed to use the public pool because their appearance might scare children. The men's therapist opted to end the therapy session, because of this conflict.

Story number five
. Two men with muscular distrophy were forced to crawl to their car, because mall cops refused to allow them to use the mall-provided wheelchairs in the mall's parking lot.

What can I say? I guess bigotry and ignorance are alive and well, and not an outmoded relic of bygone era.


Anonymous said...

At first I thought the flower was suggesting a hug but I see she has a baton in her right hand--she's conducting an orchestra!


. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

nice interpretation!

Anonymous said...

It helps to kick things sometimes... when you hear stories like this.


Kristen said...

In several of these stories I disagree that what we're seeing is bigotry. Particularly in regard to the overlong wheelchair and the men forced to crawl to their car. What these instances tell me is that these people were victims of the combined efforts of thoughtless regulation and mindless drones. It does make sense, to an extent, for a mall to forbid customers from taking borrowed carts, strollers, and wheelchairs off the premises. While normally "premises" includes the parking lot, I wouldn't have been a bit surprised if this person's supervisor told him explicitly "your job is to prevent any mall property from leaving the building." And our drone follows orders.

Same goes with the motor-wheelchair on the train-transit and government workers deal so frequently with asinine size and shape regulations of luggage that I'm sure it takes even halfway-intelligent workers a moment to remember "oh right, this object is oversized, but the passenger requires it to live. Perhaps I should ask my boss what to do."

But yes, I agree the cop who attacked the deaf man and the "you'll frighten the children" lady were bigoted dicks and should be smacked for it. (frighten? I remember as a little kid being utterly fascinated and a bit baffled by amputated limbs. Frightened? Hardly. I can recall asking a neighbor, an amputee, why if bones can fuse, and skin regenerates, why his foot hadn't grown back. It's the one area of life in which starfish totally win--but I don't know if it makes up for having to eat and poop out of the same orifice.)

Allow me to offer you this nosegay of houseleeks, thyme, and red clover.

Anonymous said...

A MUCH happier story!

Hendel D'bu said...

I share your anger at these stories. My father is a double-amputee and wears hooks on his arms (he lost his arms in a construction accident involving electricity). He is quite adept and, to be honest, we never think of him as disabled (except when he gets to park in the handicapped parking spots). As a young child, I would get soooo angry at people that would stare so rudely. My parents say that I would march right over to them and give them 'what-for'...I still would today, I'm sure. Some are so small-minded.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

I have no problem with childrens' curiosity. Kids just want to understand the world they live in.

But rudeness, or exclusion or denying a person's humanity? Well, that's another story altogether.

Fluffy Cow said...

Pardon my forwardness, but I believe the flower is giving the finger to the senseless acts of discrimination in your post. A well deserved finger.

Anonymous said...

My dad had a leg amputated because of a surgery that never healed. He never got used to his prosthesis, so he goes around on crutches (which is a task for a man 6 feet tall, over 200lbs. ) or on his motorized chair. Kids always stare, and he always makes the best of it, tells them jokes and stuff, or just smiles to let them know its ok to be curious. I remember how I used to stare as a child at people who had missing limbs, it would have been cool if someone would have just taken a minute to explain what was going on, I would have been satisfied : )

-Jen of Mommyslilmonsters


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