Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Prevent Crime and Play With Statistics

The following was published in the Springfield, Illinois State-Journal Register. It was written in response to a right wing gun nut.

May 18, 2007


A recent letter writer stated that somewhere between "764,000 to 2.5 million crimes are prevented by armed law-abiding people". I was curious if these crimes were prevented on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis so I decided to do my own test.

I am not going to admit if I own guns or not. That would be just what the Feds and the "Ultra-Liberals" would want. But the non-law abiding person don't know either. Let's just say my house looks like a house that could be defended by an armed law-abiding citizen.

Looking out my window I notice a man walking a dog. I thought he was probably a drug addict using the dog as a cover to sell his herojuana. He stopped in front of my house then proceeded. The thought that the occupant was carrying probably stopped him from trying to force me to use drugs. A car carrying young "hip hop" fans cruised slowly up the street. Again, they appeared to slow down as they passed my house. They looked but they did not attempt to enter. Another crime prevented. I heard the pick up truck a block away. They were revving their engine and burning rubber. I instinctively knew I was in trouble. But as they grew closer I saw the Confederate Flag flown from the cab and saw the NRA stickers on the bumper. I knew I had nothing to fear from those gentlemen. The next crew however, was different. Clad in those funny pants I couldn't tell where their legs started and where their waist ended. The one thing I knew was there was plenty of room to conceal some street heat. These hoods were casing out the neighborhood. I saw them analyzing which houses contained armed law abiding people and which ones did not. Add another crime not committed.

Three crimes did not take place in the time I have spent writing this letter. And I live on a dead end street with very little traffic! How many crimes were not committed if I lived on a busier street! If everyone just did their own research they too would know how many crimes have not taken place! It sure is reassuring to know how much safer I am the more people being armed. If we could only keep those non-law-abiding people off the streets! Oh, and let me make the decision about who is law-abiding and who is not!

Disability and the Left, Part Deux

Note: This article is a reaction to a paper by Bill Fletcher, Jr. You can read it here.

I want to thank Bill Fletcher, Jr. for his recent note concerning mental health concerns. Coming from an individual as well respected as Brother Fletcher I hope his message will not be lost.

Yet even a person as respected as Bill has to start his paper on mental health by asking people to take what he says seriously…to hear him out before laughing.

Mental illness, cognitive and physical disabilities have not and are not taken seriously by the left. In fact, most all on the left do not see any place for people with disabilities (PWDs) except as wards of the state.

Last year at the annual meeting of Jobs with Justice in St. Louis the National Action planned a demonstration in favor of keeping a state institution for people with disabilities open. One of Jobs with Justice’s major supporters, AFCSME, wants to keep these state run institutions open as the employees are AFSCME members. When challenged whether this was in the best interest of the residents, comrades and friends deferred to a parent’s organization that supported the institutionalization of their children. Parents often do not represent the wants and needs of their children, disabled or not. But, one can hardly fault the parents for their thinking. The financial and emotional stigma attached to raising children with severe disabilities is multiplied by the lack of supports available for the care takers. Unfortunately, AFSCME’s interest and the interests of some parents took precedent over the desires and needs of the prisoners in these state institutions. No one contacted the residents, nor were any disability advocacy organizations, it was enough to get some parents approval.

Locking people with disabilities up in institutions has a history. The initial establishment of these institutions was progressive. Now they have become regressive. In the 1960s, faced with shrinking budgets, many state institutions were closed and the residents kicked out with no supports whatsoever. These closings and evictions had nothing to do with the welfare of the people with disabilities. They were simply measure taken in accord with capitalism. Economically they were unable to justify their existence.

We know now, however, that the overwhelming numbers of people with disabilities thrive outside traditional state institutions when they receive appropriate supports. In fact, a major goal of the disability rights movement is implementing “Olmstead” legislation (after a Supreme Court Cast of a couple of years ago). The Olmstead decision orders that money spent on an individual incarceration in a state institution should follow each person into the community and appropriate supports follow them.

The upsurge in the struggle for the civil rights of Black people in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s inspired many liberation movements. PWDs were also inspired. Berkeley, California gave rise to the Independent Living Movement. First fighting to gain admittance to the University and then facing many hurdles in being able to attend classes, people with disabilities took on the Administration and the attitudes of the campus community. Inspired by their success, Independent Living movements sprang up all across the USA. People in wheelchairs and their supporters took on public transportation. Chaining themselves to busses in cities from San Francisco, to Chicago, to Boston, access to so-called public transportation began to increase. In state after state, city after city struggles such as to make voting stations accessible, to allow people with disabilities to attend court without the humiliation of being carried up flights of stairs, for an end to segregated schools. People with disabilities fought for basic democratic rights. We support the struggle for Democratic Rights. We are active participants in many such struggles. For the most part though, we are absent from the struggles of PWDs. Why are PWDs fighting these struggles without the broad support of a concerned people? Because of the stigma attached to people with disabilities. It’s similar to white skin privilege. “At least I have it better than that poor soul” is what we say when we send money in to “Jerry’s kids” every Labor Day. We look at people with deformities, developmental disabilities, injuries and illnesses and turn away.

Today, especially after the tragedy at Virginia Tech there is more fear being spread about how dangerous people with disabilities are along with cries that more people need to be housed in state run institutions as a matter of public safety. Increasing louder voices call for preventive detention for people with mental disorders. Where is the left in opposing democratic rights?

I know there are revolutionaries and progressives who work with PWDs. I know there are progressives working with SEIU and AFSCME or are trying to organize the workers who serve PWDs. We should be uniting with the aspirations of the people who we work for and be very careful about the unity we have with those who profit off the institutionalization of PWDs.

I am not going to attempt a full-blown declaration concerning the disability rights movement here. It is long and complex. In fact, my own disability does not allow me the concentration needed to write much more.

Do some research. I suggest these books Nothing About Us Without Us: Disability Oppression and Empowerment by James I. Charlton, or Beyond Ramps: Disability at the End of the Social Contract by Marta Russell. Google Disability rights and see what comes up. Check out my wife’s blog, mybignoise.blogspot.com/