The other day, making our way up the tiered hills at the center of campus towards class, Steve Kuusisto, Bill Peace, Farran Smith Nehme, and I, along with Steve’s devoted seeing eye Lab Nira, were joking that together we made up the title of a potential Peter Greenaway film.
The Blind Guy, the Wheelchair Guy, the Cane Guy, the Guide Dog, and the Red-headed Film Blogger.
It was slow and painful going for me, the cane guy, somewhat treacherous going for Steve the blind guy, not all the easy for Nira, who’s still recovering from recent cancer surgery, and only possible going for Bill the wheelchair guy because of the network of ramps ascending the hills.
I don’t know the history of the ramps. I’d guess some sections or at least the pathways they’re laid on have been there since this part of the campus was built. Other sections and other ramps up to other buildings around the university are probably artifacts of the Americans With Disabilities Act. You’d like to think that institutes of higher learning like Syracuse, as the bastions of enlightenment and humanism they pride themselves on being, wouldn’t have needed an act of Congress to compel them to make simple accommodations for their disabled students, faculty, employees, and guests, but, in the days before the ADA, Bill was the first paraplegic Columbia admitted into its graduate program in anthropology and he and his friends had to build plywood ramps themselves so he could attend his classes, and Steve wound up suing the University of Iowa when he was working towards a doctorate in English Lit there because two of his professors refused to grant him extra time to complete the reading for required courses only they taught---their feeling was that it wasn’t their concern that a blind guy had had the nerve to try to do what only sighted people were capable of doing and it wasn’t up to them to do Steve any special favors if he couldn’t hack it.
As Steve routinely points out, before the ADA, it was taken for granted that all disabilities---handicaps---were permanent qualities of the individuals who had them instead of negotiable constructs relating to accidents of architecture, yet to be invented technologies---think about what life was like before glasses and hearing aids---yet to be discovered and developed medicines and medical procedures, and the prejudices and stubbornness of certain abled people like Steve’s professors.
(Steve has lately taken to using the term temporarily abled to remind the hale, whole, and hearty that all our bodies are fragile contraptions that will sooner or later break down or wear out, as I can attest. I like to think of myself as temporarily disabled, and I really do feel on the mend, but the fact is right now I am a guy with a cane who is grateful not to have to climb a lot of stairs to get to work and a year ago I was more nimble and spry and able than many people fifteen years younger than me.)
Which brings me to Rand Paul.
Last March, when Paul and his curly toupee took to the Senate floor to filibuster against John Brennan’s appointment to the directorship of the CIA because of the President’s use of drone warfare to kill terrorists (and Paul’s fantasy that life is a Tom Clancy novel in which good, God-fearing, loyal Americans who have made themselves nuisances to the Administration might see as their last sight on earth the reflection of a drone launched by the President’s evil minions in their silverware as they sit in sidewalk cafes in San Francisco), passels of anti-drone liberals took to the internet and the airwaves to encourage us to Stand With Rand, he was fighting the good fight on our behalf, and all I could think was, Are you out of your minds? What kind of liberal stands with the likes of Rand Paul? The only fight he’s fighting is the selfish, self-aggrandizing fight to get himself elected President in 2016 by playing to and inflaming the Right’s hatred and fear of this President and if he succeeds in that he will then fight the fight to enact his “libertarian” agenda, which is mostly a set of instructions for handing the country completely over to corporations and banks to run any way they think will make them even more money.
Rand Paul despises the Civil Rights Act and wishes it had never been passed because it presumes to tell businessmen like him they can’t choose their own customers according to skin color, ethnic background, or gender.
He would make the ADA go away too if he could for a similar reason, the government isn’t the boss of him and has no business telling him he has to make his business wheelchair accessible.
Rand Paul is an unabashed idealogogue who believes that straight white guys with money like him should be allowed to be selfish pricks if that’s what it takes to make more money and as far as he can see that is in fact what it takes.
The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. There’s no separating Rand Paul’s opposition to drones launched on the orders of a Democratic President from his opposition to that Democratic President on all things. There’s no standing with Rand without helping to advance his Presidential ambitions. Standing with Rand means kicking the legs, metaphorically and literally, out from under millions of Americans who are not straight, white, temporarily abled guys with money like Rand Paul.