Progress?

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This legislation gave equal rights to those with disabilities with respect to employment, transportation, public accommodations, government services, and telecommunications. I was 13 years old when the ADA became law. At that time I was too young to understand the importance of its passage.

I’m not a political activist. In fact, I shy away from politics as much as I can. Especially, today when there is so much that divides us as a nation. Likewise, I have always been a person that has adapted to my environment quite well. Therefore, when I was younger I did not feel impacted too much by having limited access to places and things.

I guess you could say I was used to living in a world that wasn’t made for a person like me. Moreover, for many years I felt I was too “normal” to fit within the disabled world, while being just disabled enough that I could never be totally accepted as “normal.”

As I have gotten older my mobility has decreased somewhat. With this I have come to realize just how important the ADA is for people with disabilities. Looking back it seems odd that a law like this was even necessary. Furthermore, the fact that it was passed just 30 years ago today is baffling. There are still far too many places that are inaccesible to those with disabilities. Likewise, according to recent data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with disabilities are still much less likely to be employed than those who are not disabled.

Working in social services I speak with many who are too disabled to work. Access to services for these individuals is often quite limited. I believe that those with disabilities are still often marginalized. Are those who are able-bodied fearful of those who are different? I believe many are, but I think there is more to the story as well.

People with disabilities need to advocate for themselves. For too long many of us have been silent. I include myself in this group. Relying on “big government” to cure what ails society is not the answer. We live in a time when a majority of politicians are more worried about mudslinging than they are in representing those who elected them. Yes, you can make your voice heard at the ballot box. However, you can also make your voice heard through social media, getting involved with an advocacy group, or work to educate those around you about the daily struggles those with disabilities face.

Living with a disability often means you feel as if you don’t belong. The world was made for those who can walk and talk without any difficulties. Barriers exist in everyday life that don’t exist for those who are “normal.” I wonder where we will be 30 years ago from now?

100!

When I started writing this blog back in January of 2019, I wasn’t sure where it would lead. At first my goal was to focus on issues related to my disability. However, my life really isn’t defined by having spina bifida. Therefore, this blog has expanded to be a place where I can share my thoughts on current events, give insights on what living life with a disability is like, and just share humorus observations of the world around me. I hope you have enjoyed following me on this journey.

This particular post will be the 100th post that I have written. I thought in keeping with that, I’d create a list of 100 lessons that I have learned, observations that I’ve made, or opinions that I have formed. Every day there are new lessons to be learned and new experiences to be had. These are just a few of the things I have picked up along the way. Let me know if I have missed anything. Here is my list in no particular order.

  • 100. Never take a hansom cab ride in New York City.
  • 99. Never be afraid to try something new (except for that hansom cab ride in New York City).
  • 98. Holding a grudge against anyone is pointless.
  • 97. God will indeed give you more than you can handle at times.
  • 96. Don’t ever give up. Things will get better. It might just take time.
  • 95. Life is unfair.
  • 94. Anxiety can make you feel like you need to do everything all at once. You actually don’t need to do this. Just slow down and take things one step at a time.
  • 93. The smell of the air just before it rains is one of the best scents.
  • 92. The smell of a baby’s head just after they have had a bath is THE best scent there is.
  • 91. The love that a dog has for its master is one of the purest forms of love there is.
  • 90. Losing someone that you love is one of the most painful things you can ever experience.
  • 89. Working hard to achieve a goal is one of the greatest feelings that you will have.
  • 88. Sitting outside in the winter in a place where there is very little, if any, light pollution and looking up at the stars on a clear night is something everyone should try at least once.
  • 87. Going on a road trip with someone you love is a lot of fun.
  • 86. Dorothy was right, “there is no place like home.“
  • 85. Take time to pray every day.
  • 84. Dirt tastes like dirt (yes, I have tried dirt before).
  • 83. Beets taste like dirt.
  • 82. Walnuts taste like dirt.
  • 81. The taste of soap is not pleasant. (Yes, I have had my mouth washed out with soap. It was at church no less).
  • 80. Cilantro tastes like soap.
  • 79. Eating a bag of peanuts on a warm, summer day at baseball game is one if the most relaxing experiences there is.
  • 78. Take time to listen to the stories that your grandparents tell. I am fortunate that I did. I will treasure these memories for as long as I live.
  • 77. Learn about the things that have happened in the past. You can learn a lot from history.
  • 76. You can never read enough books.
  • 75. Learning to adapt to change is difficult, but it is well worth the effort.
  • 74. Being a homeowner is both a blessing and a curse.
  • 73. It pays to do things correctly the first time.
  • 72. I’d rather have more time to do the things that I want to do in life than to make more money. Time is far more valuable than money.
  • 71. There are still very kind people in the world. Many of them live in the U.K.
  • 70. Listen to your parents. They know more than you do.
  • 69. Do at least one thing you enjoy doing every day.
  • 68. Never pray for patience. God just might answer your prayers in ways you don’t expect.
  • 67. When working with others it is often best to let them speak first. You just might gain some new perspective.
  • 66. Donuts are little bites of heaven.
  • 65. Mashed potatoes are the best food ever!
  • 64. Chick-fil-A is overrated.
  • 63. Fountain Coke at McDonald’s is the best.
  • 62. Hot McDonald’s french fries are the best.
  • 61. The Blues Brothers is one of the best films ever made.
  • 60. Somedays you just have to listen to the Beatles.
  • 59. You will never get everyone to like you.
  • 58. Pancakes made at home are better than you can get in any restaurant.
  • 57. NASCAR is not a sport.
  • 56. Everyone should make a trip to the ocean at least once.
  • 55. Everyone should travel overseas. You will gain a new perspective on life.
  • 54. There is nothing like a good night’s sleep.
  • 53. Spending time in the mountains is one of the most peaceful things you can do.
  • 52. Disney World is overrated.
  • 51. Bacon tastes best when crispy.
  • 50. Cats can indeed be needy (I live with two who are very needy).
  • 49. Sunny days are the best kind of days.
  • 48. Never have your eyes dilated on a sunny day.
  • 47. You can’t properly eat Oreo cookies without a glass of milk.
  • 46. Getting an unexpected package in the mail is better than gifts on Christmas Day.
  • 45. No one has ever sang the National Anthem better than Whitney Houston.
  • 44. No one’s instrumental version of the National Anthem has been better than Jimi Hendrix’s rendition from the Woodstock Festival in 1969.
  • 43. September is the best month when it comes to weather, at least here in Illinois.
  • 42. Rollercoasters are not fun!
  • 41. There is no ceremony quite as somber as the “changing of the guard” at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
  • 40. Ken Burns knows how to make a documentary film better than anyone else. If baseball doesn’t start soon I might have to dive into his 23-hour epic on the sport.
  • 39. Don’t ever try smoking.
  • 38. Tell the people you love how you feel while you still can.
  • 37. Sometimes you just need to eat a big, greasy, cheeseburger.
  • 36. It is never too cold to eat ice cream.
  • 35. Read to your kids when they are young.
  • 34. Walter Payton is the best football player I ever saw play the game.
  • 33. Hot dogs should never be eaten with ketchup.
  • 32. Thanksgiving is the best holiday.
  • 31. Christmas becomes less fun the older you get. However, I suspect this changes once you start having your own children.
  • 30. One of the best sounds you can hear is a baby’s laugh.
  • 29. Many of the best things in life are free.
  • 28. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
  • 27. A soft answer often turns away wrath.
  • 26. Sometimes it best just to remain silent.
  • 25. Autumn is the best season.
  • 24. Always apologize when you are wrong.
  • 23. Michael Jordan was the best basketball player I have ever seen play the game.
  • 22. Don’t argue about politics on social media.
  • 21. Forgive others when they wrong you.
  • 20. Don’t pour gasoline on a fire.
  • 19. Voting for the lesser of the two evils still brings you evil.
  • 18. Finish your work first then you can enjoy your play all the more.
  • 17. You often get what you give.
  • 16. Cynicism isn’t always a bad thing.
  • 15. Always finish what you start.
  • 14. Let your yes be yes and let your no be no.
  • 13. Family is important.
  • 12. Steak is best when cooked medium. Anything else and you cook the flavor out of it.
  • 11. Help others when and where you can.
  • 10. As long as you are alive there is always hope.
  • 09. Nothing quenches your thirst better than water.
  • 08. Admit your mistakes and learn from them.
  • 07. Always tell the truth.
  • 06. Don’t expect others to respect you if you don’t show respect yourself.
  • 05. Every thing should be done in moderation.
  • 04. Always say “please” and “thank you.”
  • 03. You get what you pay for.
  • 02. Fear can be a good motivator.
  • 01. The love of a good woman is a very special thing.

America

First, I am proud to be an American. I live in a land where I am free to voice my opinion on the things that matter to me. I also have the freedom to vote for those who I want to represent me. My opinion may differ from your’s, but that is fine. I can respect you even if I don’t agree with you.

I feel as if respect for others is something we have lost. One thing that doesn’t help is that we all have been given a “bully pulpit” through social media. The term “bully pulpit” was coined by our 26th president Theodore Roosevelt. He used these words to describe the opportunity that he had as a public figure to speak out on the issues of his day. Roosevelt used the word “bully” to mean something that was magnificent or glorious. Sadly, “bully pulpit” has taken on a whole new meaning today.

One look at Facebook shows just how unkind we have become to each other. This is epecially true when arguments begin over political issues. We all have been given a “bully pulpit” from which we can spew hate, prejudice, and ignorance. We have moved so far away from the principles of our Founding Fathers. For instance, in his farewell address to the nation, George Washington warned about the division that political parties would bring.

Washington words have become quite prophetic: “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” These words were written in 1796. However, they describe what is happening to America in 2020. We are coming apart at the seams.

I will admit my political leanings are more in the conservative direction. However, I would probably best be described as a libertarian. I believe our government has become an overreaching “big brother” that should leave us all to pursue life and liberty. This should be done in a way that is respectful of our nation’s constitution. Likewise, it should be done in a way that respects the rights of our fellow Americans. Finally, we should all act responsibly.

Our constitution gives us the right to speak our minds. However, it doesn’t give us the right to be cruel to others. We have lost our civility. We have used our “bully pulpit” to bash those who believe things that our contrary to what we believe. This needs to change. We can disagree with someone without hating them.

This weekend as Americans celebrate our independence, let’s take a step back and examine what this truly means. Let us use our freedom for good. Furthermore, let’s try to regain our civility as a people. We are one nation under God. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln, who was running for the U.S. Senate at the time, gave an address in Springfield, Illinois.

In this speech Lincoln used the words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln was addressing the issue of slavery, and the wedge that had been driven between those in favor and those who were opposed to this evil practice.

Today we are still divided, especially on issues related to race. However, that is just one of the many issues that separates us. I understand the passion with which people fight for the causes in which they believe. In fact, I admire the dedication individuals have in standing up for their principles. However, just because I believe one way doesn’t give you the right to demean me. Just as I have no right to demean you for your beliefs.

We should stop letting those in Washington D.C. divide us. It is quite apparent that many of our politicians are only out for their own interests. Our Founding Fathers never meant to create a system of “career politicians.” However, that is exactly what we have. Let us start using our “bully pulpits” for good. In the words of mothers everywhere, “if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say it.” Today, let not only freedom ring, but let peace and civility ring as well.

Gimme Some Truth

Something that has bothered me for quite some time now is the term “fake news.” This is not a term coined by President Trump, as some might think. It goes all the way back to the late 19th century. The writer and philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” We are now repeating the events that occurred over 100 years ago.

In the late 1890’s those in the newspaper business were interested in only one thing, selling newspapers. In particular, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were in a cutthroat competition to see who could snag the most readers. To do this they would resort to what was called “yellow journalism.” Today we would call this “fake news.”

Pulitzer and Hearst were out to grab the attention of their readers. To do this, they would often print articles sensationalizing even the most mundane news of the day. Their only goal was to line their already deep pockets and to further build their media empires. Neither man cared who they hurt in the process, or how many lies were spread. Does this sound familiar yet?

Just this morning I was looking for news on Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, who by some accounts has died. Then again he might just be vacationing in a resort town in North Korea, as his train has supposedly been spotted there. Better yet, he might be there for medical treatment. All of these “theories” were gleaned from just one particular article. No concrete evidence was ever presented. However, that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The only thing that matters is that “we reported it first!” This is precisely the problem.

In the scramble for a news agency to be first to report something, they think it is okay to rely on “hearsay.” This is no more reliable than the old game known as “Telephone,” which many of us played as schoolchildren. In this game one person starts by whispering a message in one person’s ear, that person then tries to whisper the exact same message to the next person, and so on. By the time the message gets to the last person it rarely reflects the original one. So it is with today’s news coverage.

Often things are taken out of context, which is meant to make someone look foolish. Facts are not checked, all because it is a race to see who can get the “word” out first. Liewise, things are reported that are simply not true. These “facts” are then spread all over social media and people take it as “gospel.” Moreover, depending on what outlet you are listening to, you are getting their “spin” on the news.

One particular network may promote a more conservative agenda, while another has a more liberal slant. It is shameful that we live in a world where facts are subjective depending upon your political point of view.

The great American author and humorist Mark Twain once said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Apparently, journalists today are taking Twain’s advice and running with it. This leads us with very few, if any, reliable sources to trust. That is why it is important to be discerning and to seek out various sources, instead of just relying on one in partucular.

It is frustrating to me that during these times of uncertainty across the world, that we are often left with more questions than answers. In the words of John Lennon, “All I want is the truth, just give me some truth.”

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