Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness

Dr. Seuss's dilemma fish. I don't think it's from a book, but it expresses the roiling seas I'm feeling.

I’ve been quite grumpy today. And I am using grumpy quite euphemistically here.

I think it’s because of this election season. To be truthful, and I work deliberately to be intellectually honest, I think this part of the presidential election cycle always throw off my balance. Although within these current throes, it seems qualitatively different.

I don’t remember an election that I so fully did not (1) understand why anyone would vote for one of the candidates, and also did not (2) understand why people who I love would vote for one of the candidates (the one I am not supporting).

The second part there is the root of what troubles me. Not about the people I love, because I love them. Yet I’m struck by how good people support the unsupportable.

I wonder if they think that my choice is deplorable. This wraps me in pretzels and crimps my fine gold chain and makes me feel like the inside out alien pig that was a transporter fail in Galaxy Quest. Ir was gross. It squealed. It exploded.

It makes me ask: If my candidate was as bad as theirs, would I leave my political party behind? Would I accept my candidate’s crimes and misdemeanors because they serve my greater political purpose? Especially if my political goals were tightly aligned with my moral and ethical beliefs?

And, if my answer is “Yes,” and my candidate is an awful human who endangers not only our democracy but also the foundation of our country–these self-evident truths that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness–am I just twisting my core beliefs for greasy political expediency? I use the word greasy on purpose. Yuck.

Last, is my political negative, the ones who I love, asking the same questions about me?

Dear lord, I sure hope so.

Inaccessible = Unacceptable

Sign at the metro station telling people who need an elevator to call some body to get them a shuttle bus. But not from this station. MAD!

Dear Metro,

I hope it’s okay that I call you “Metro,” since you have so many names. We call you the train, subway and, when we want to get most official, WMATA.

What is the name that we can call you that will get your attention?

Because if I had your attention, you would know that I am not shocked. I am not appalled. I am not sickened. No, I am angry, with the shutdown of the elevator at my stop.

Do you have any idea that this is the stop for the National Rehabilitation Hospital? For the Washington VA Hospital? For the Washington Hospital Center? Did you know that these major hospitals serve many people who use wheelchairs. That they need to use their wheelchairs to get to their appointments, their therapy sessions, their chemotherapy?

So when you shut down the elevator at the station that serves these hospitals, you are seriously impacting the people trying to access services they need.

I get that the elevator needs to be “improved.” I can even accept that to switch out an elevator takes four months.

Okay, I can barely accept that. If you were building it new, it wouldn’t take four months, would it? And if it takes four months, why is the first month building the walls around it to close it? I only ask because I haven’t seen anybody working on it. But there’s green painted plywood blocking it.

But I’m thinking if I’m in a wheelchair and I have an appointment to see my doctor and I get to the station, I’m stuck. I can’t get out of the station. I have to call a random number on the flyer to transport me from another stop. And I have to get back on the train and go to that other stop.

Do you think that’s okay? Do you think that pasting a paper sign over a “wet floor” stanchion is decent notice? Do you think it’s cool to require somebody to call a number for a ride? Don’t you think that the shuttle should be waiting at the stop? Which stop, you ask? How about all immediately surrounding stops?

This makes me mad because the person in the wheelchair is already put upon by the fact that the elevator is on one side of the tracks. So if you’re coming from the campus side, you need to roll another half mile to get to the elevator. You know, the elevator that’s out of service for four months

Seriously, WMATA, is there any way you could make it harder for folks who need an elevator to get to or from your platform? It’s like you want to fail. Like you want to turn people away. Your accommodation accommodates only in the abstract. In practice you suck. You are not coming within a western state of complying with the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act. From 1990. I was there when it was signed. By the President.

The subway could–theoretically–be a way for people with disabilities be more independent. Not this subway. Not at this time.

Please fix this most soonest.</rant>
Sincerely,
DocThink

#unsuckdcmetro

The Truth To Set You Free

A statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of piles of bricks. Each with the name of a person he owned. ugh.

I was buoyant to be part of the preview crowd at the soon to open Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum, as it slowly grew into it’s stacked corona on the Mall, grew on me. My companions in line said the same thing.

You can read more on the Museum here, here and here. This is not a review, though.

This is some raw thinkings delivered by a museum that riled me raw. After the party.

The party was awesome. There was a DJ and a hype man. Their day jobs are providing security at other Smithsonian properties on the mall. Tonight, they were party starters. They spun tunes-opening with Celebrate by Kool and the Gang which made me all nostalgic for my Sibling’s wedding as her new brother-in-law loosened his tie from his tux and pranced around the dance floor with a bottle of champagne in each hand–and asked the crowd (which was huge given there are just 200 employees and this was a family event, but the more the merrier when you’re celebrating) to hand dance and Wobble.

The dips and finger foods were generous, but the exhibits beckoned. That’s why we were here. I took the elevator down a few stories to a deep cavern which leads visitors through American history via the lens of African Americans. You follow an ascending ramp back up to the main floor. There is much to see and feel and think about as you walk the corridor.

There was part of one wall that told the horror story of families broken up on the auction block. In particular, the  curators related the story of a woman who was being put up for sale who refused to let them take her child. Take her child away from her. Out of her arms. This was her baby.

As she screamed and held the baby dear, she was lashed by a whip. Still, she held on to her sweet child. And, still, she was beaten by the people who were going to sell her. And sell her child. And the bastards wrenched her heart, her precious baby, from her arms. This horror was depicted in an ink drawing.

As I turned away from the canvas, I saw a man. He was a father. His skin was the same shade as the mother in the drawing. The woman who was for sale. He was holding his sweet baby in his arms. I can’t stop thinking about him and his family, and the woman and her family from hundreds of years ago. And thinking about progress and the journey that we are still on as a country and as a people.

My mind is racing and boiling and roiling and recoiling. And thinking. More thinking.

Abetting the Deplorable

A rain spattered windshield at DCA. You can see the tower.

I hate taking cabs. Really I hate taking cabs by myself. Really I don’t like a stranger driving me home.

The stranger that picks me up at the airport after a late flight. The stranger that is surprised that a nice Doc like me lives in my neighborhood and wonders if I don’t feel scared and asks how do I like living as a minority?

This is the script that more than one white cab driver recited. I get in the cab, tell them my address and the quickest way there and then they start talking some racist shit like I’m in their bigoted white people club just waiting for the safety of their cab to go all KKK with them.

And I just look out the window while trying not to respond in a way that will either encourage him or insult him. The former because I want him to stop. The latter because he is driving me home and it’s dark and I don’t want to be dumped. This was especially terrifying before we had cell phones. I felt vulnerable. Oh hell, I was scared that he’d force me out on the sidewalk in front of the cemetery on Lincoln Road. I’d be a ways from home without much chance of another cab coming by. They didn’t want to take me home, to my nice middle-class neighborhood, in the first place. And don’t call me ridiculous because anyone who easily and safely spouts dehumanizing and vile comments could just be bilious enough to do something else hateful.

So I wouldn’t say anything to offend the racist in his rant. And I likely made it seem that I, at least, didn’t disagree with him. But I did. And when he pulled up in front of my house, the blue one with the white picket fence that was even brighter under the reflection of the street lamp in front, I would get out of the car as fast as I could. I learned to keep my roller bag small and next to me in the back seat so I didn’t have to wait for the intolerant asshat to open his trunk. I wanted to be away from him and his ilk as fast as I could.

I always felt complicit, though. I felt like I should have told him that I wasn’t a member of his intolerant club. That his racist insinuations–or sometimes a full rant–were deplorable. Instead, I learned to interrupt him as soon as he brought up his surprise at my address. I’d tell him how lucky I was to live in such a wonderful neighborhood with such terrific neighbors.

We are the company that we keep.

What So Proudly We Hailed?

Ft._Henry_bombardement_1814

Are you a patriot? Are you a real American? What does that mean?

Different things to different people, of course. This is #Amurrica. Home of the free and the brave. And of the diverse set of opinions that make us so interesting–if not highly functional.

Back to the home of the brave, some are braver than others. So there’s this professional football player that sat out the Star Spangled Banner for the entire pre-season. And just recently, it was noticed. I decided against tracking down the source of this Nile, I think it’s not germane to the tale-but I bet there’s a story there, too.

So, anyway, the athlete, who gets paid bring-your-team-to-the-Superbowl-but-not-actually-win-it wages, gets in big PR (that’s public relations, also known as yelled at on TV, Facebook and internet newspapers. Likely also in print newspapers, but are you actually physically reading them? I thought not.) trouble. People are saying that he is disrespecting veterans who have fought and died for this country. And there’s some people saying they fought and died just for this type of protest. It’s been noisy. And full of emotion.

Tonight da Twitterz lit up with a hashtag (this is a way for people to coalesce around a topic or idea on Twitter. I respect that many people do not get Twitter, but please, humor me on this.). There are always trending topics on Twitter. It’s based pretty much on volume of a word or phrase that people are using and which pass through Twitter’s servers. For example, it’s pretty normal for #TheBachelor to trend when people are watching it on TV. It must be on now. The Doc has pretty much no knowledge about this hashtag but I see it weekly. [As an aside, why do they call that kind of show reality TV?]

But back to the point, thousands of people are tagging their posts with #VeteransForKaepernick. Like this one.

And this perspective on the national anthem >>

These are among the many moving and patriotic tweets from veterans across the country. People who served in different wars in different parts of the world and who represent the entire diversity of the U.S. And, no, there is not a consensus among veterans and active duty around the way the football player is protesting against racism in the U.S. That’s #Amurrica, too.

Last, there’s nothing that I could write on this topic that would be more meaningful than this tweet by a vet >>

Yes, that is how a patriot sounds. Thank you for your service, good sir. And thanks for the reminder that we all have a role in making our country better. #AmericansForKaepernick, and, as they say, “Hooah!”

All In All Is All We Are

I'm Sorry, handwritten note

There used to be a TV show on when I was a kid called Happy Days. It was a situation comedy about the olden days of the Fifties. I think was a spin-off from a pre-Star Wars film by George Lucas.

So there was this too cool character that was named Fonzie. He was so cool that even more cool than his slick leather motorcycle jacket and perfectly stacked Brylcreemed hair was his title. The Fonz.

The Fonz was very tough, most excellent with the ladies, respectful to the adults and able to extract music from the jukebox in the diner via a well-placed fist. He was also papally infallible. Seriously. He was damn near perfect.

He was so utterly faultless that his vocabulary could not accommodate words that would conflict with that reality. He physically could not say the word wrong or the word sorry if the words preceding those nouns were I am.

This was difficult for The Fonz, because nobody is actually without sin. It just doesn’t work that way. So when an extremely rare occasion of error or omission occurred, he was unable to use his words to express himself.

And yet somehow, without specifically saying, “I was wrong,” or “I am sorry,” it was clear from the context and his emotion that he was admitting his offense and acknowledging his failure. This was because his character was indeed sorry. Not pretending. But for real.

This is in contrast to the parade of non-apologies, abdication of any responsibility for wrong doing, and contortions of language to obscure any rational admission of fault that I have been listening to over the past week.

Why is it so hard for people to admit that they done effed up, when they, as a matter of fact, effed up? Parsing the meaning of the word “is,” is frankly unacceptable. Sorry about how someone feels isn’t the same as being sorry for what you did. Technicalities, skirting of the truth and sleight of hand is skeevy and inauthentic.

Even if he couldn’t say it directly, you knew exactly what The Fonz was saying. That he was wrrrrrrr… and that he was sssrhrrr… He meant it. Be like The Fonz.

Close Cover Before Striking

Public handwashing. Not handwringing.

So there’s this interesting new bar and restaurant design. It’s not about tap placement. Well, not  in a traditional view of bar taps, that is.

It’s not about the relative space of standing room to table. It’s not about the frenzy to biergarten-esque shared space. It’s not about $15 craft cocktails with artisanal bitters and homemade tonic. It’s not even about beers that taste like the ripe sweat wrung out of a summer half-marathon runner’s shorts.

Nope. It’s about the john.

In paean to efficiency, privacy and the quagmire of single-sex bathrooms, new joints are opening up with a cluster of individual water closets with toilets and, frequently, baby changing tables, to serve the tail end of customer needs. There are a series of doors, could be two, could be eight, that open into a lobby of sinks, all to better wash one’s hands after doing one’s business.

Gone are the days when The Big Guy and Baby Bear would lament the lack of personal hygiene of their bathroom cohorts. “Doc, the guy DIDN’T WASH HIS HANDS!” (Frankly, I was always pleased to hear this. It made me believe that they were washing theirs.)

Gone because, now, everyone can see the water and soap action of anyone leaving the toilet. I especially like seeing the signs above the sink exhorting employees to do the right thing. Now, we all know. Anyone can see. Hand washing has become more public.

The data was there; three in five folks have observed others not washing their hands after peeing or pooping. And one in four people don’t use soap. Eww.

So now, given the public commons for handwashing, there’s a new way to publicly shame people. Guys, women are watching. Women, we all know. Watch your fellow patrons leave the water closet and see if you can make them wash their hands with your disapproving eyes.

Frankly, you should have been doing this all along. Just wash your hands!