Sunday, April 22, 2007

Freedom isn't Free

Yesterday I was with some friends enjoying the absolutely gorgeous weather. We all shirked our duties (quiz-grading, studying, working, etc.) and acted like a bunch of adult kids just romping around for several hours under the bright blue skies. I even managed to forget about Virginia Tech for a few hours.

When we pulled into a parking lot of a local restaurant, a friend saw the following bumper sticker on a car:

"Freedom is not free."

She asked me what it meant -- she truly didn't get it. I told her it meant "FREEDOM COST MONEY, FREEDOM NOT COST-NONE."

"OH-OH-OH."

That led me to think about what the bumper sticker is really telling us. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, or even millions, yearn to emigrate to our good ole U.S. of America every year. Why? They want a better life, and more than that, they want freedom.

Freedom from what, though?

FREEDOM FROM RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION

While religious persecution is not as overt here as it is in other countries, there are some muted instances of what I like to term "dogmatic criticism," when congregations split from their parent church because they don't like the changes that are happening. Since the ordination of Gene Robinson, several parishes have split from the Episcopal church because they don't agree with having a gay bishop. The most recent news comes out of Colorado, and can be found here: Congregation to split from Episcopal Church. Now, it's true that congregations have the right to do what they want to do, but the fact remains that religious persecution still exists to a degree here in America. Rather than Catholicism or Judaism or Islam or a sect within each global religion being persecuted, religious leaders and the parishioners are DOING the persecuting and discrimination against others. Hmmm. Interesting.

FREEDOM FROM DOMINANCE

Now, I'm not going to delve into philosophy here and hark back to the great philosophers of the day. Apologies to those of you fascinated by philosophy. :) What I will say, though, is that our general ability to follow our free will and do what we want to do has largely become governed by "Big Brother," especially in the last several years. I can cite a large number of petty Big Brother projects, like red light and speeding cameras, but the abortion issue is paramount to me.

I am a woman. I believe in a woman's right to choose to have an abortion, ESPECIALLY when her own life is at stake, or if the pregnancy was forced. By forced, I mean if the woman was taken against her will and raped. If that rape results in a pregnancy, then the baby is a result of lack of free will on the mother's part. Should we not allow these people to make their own decision when they can, rather than the government telling them, "I'm sorry you were raped, but since we made abortion illegal, you need to keep your baby. Now after 9 months of pregnancy and labor, you can go ahead and give up your kid for adoption. Is that really fair to the fetus? I don't think so, but that's just me.

I would never condone abortion just because someone got drunk, had sex, forgot to use a condom, and woke up pregnant. I would, however, respect the person for making a decision that was in the best interest of all parties involved. If that entails abortion, so be it.

Lately, the tide has been turning to make abortion illegal once again. I feel like crying out that of all the "bans" the federal and state governments have, the abortion issue so clearly shows that we're losing free will to the government, which is largely made up of white, middle-class males. Big Brother, indeed.

FREEDOM FROM CENSORSHIP

We can all say what we [insert adjectival word here] want to say. We can say it nicely. We can throw in a bunch of expletives. We can be brusque, charming, rude, boring, flattering, cute, monotonous, repetitive... and it doesn't matter. The only thing we cannot do is knowingly slander someone else's name. There are people who take great pains to make sure their information is accurate and supported by more than one source. I call them journalists. Whether they are paid by the Washington Post or New York Times or fellow bloggers just wanting to educate their readers, these people set the bar and exemplify why it is so important for us all to celebrate free speech.

However, there are those who do not uphold journalistic or even general ethical standards and do come very close to committing libel or slander in their blog entries. Readers can whine and moan and bitch -- and they have the right to do that, thanks to our free speech law. With free speech comes responsibility, and as bloggers and readers, we all have a responsibility to strive for ethical practices and have respect for one another.

I'm sure our founding fathers, those great men who wrote our Bill of Rights and the rest of the Constitution never dreamed of a day where we would be typing away on machines that could broadcast to the world in a nanosecond just exactly what we think about something or someone. With immediate technology in our hands (literally), it becomes more and more important with each passing day to take a step back, reread what we've written, and make sure it's respectful, appropriate, and worthy of being wirelessly sent out into cyberspace.

FREEDOM IS NOT FREE

I promise I have a point. We have the freedom to do all these things, and sometimes we're restricted for our own individual health and safety. But we wouldn't have any of those freedoms if it were not for the revolutionaries who defeated the British Redcoats. Those people did not want to pay taxes to a British Empire who did nothing for them. We all bitch and moan every April about paying taxes to not only our federal government, but our state and local governments as well. We pay sales taxes on goods. We pay property taxes. Even our Sidekick and Blackberry (and Treo, etc.) bills have taxes. But y'know what? Even though I bitch that our freedoms are not free, I'm glad we have them.
  • I'm glad I'm not a female who cannot go to college.
  • I'm glad I'm a woman who can wear what I want to wear.
  • I'm glad I'm a deaf person who has a license to drive.
  • I'm glad I can choose my own life partner, rather than going into an arranged marriage.
  • I'm glad it's relatively simple for me to obtain a passport and go nearly anywhere in the world.
  • I'm glad I can choose whether to follow my religion or not.
  • I'm glad my friends can choose to convert from one religion to another without persecution (not counting the questions people have along the lines of "why would you do that???").
  • I'm glad my friends can go into a gay bar without fear of government and police officials rushing to arrest them for sexual deviance and threatening to slice their heads off.
  • I'm glad I can stay out as late as I want, without a government or military-imposed curfew dictating me to be home before dark.
  • I'm glad I can write this blog without fear of being shut down because I disagree with our government.
I'm glad we have to pay for our freedom.

Freedom may not be free, but I think the cost is pretty darn minimal.

EDITED TO ADD:

A commenter alerted me to the fact that the "freedom is not free" slogan actually means that we earn our freedoms (and freedoms of others) through blood. (Thanks DeafPundit!) If you think about the wars that the U.S. has engaged in in the last half century, our soldiers were fighting overseas in order to liberate others from oppression. They were not fighting to liberate Americans. Prior to that, though, we fought for our own freedoms -- against the British. Against the Mexicans. Against each other (had I grown up in the mid-19th century, I would have lived in a secession state). The South fought not for propagating slavery, but for the right to secede from the Union. Then we fought in WWI because we were/are a major player in world affairs. Our own security was threatened in 1941, and we entered into WWII.

And now? We're sending our soldiers overseas trying to fight terrorism, but also to fight the Iraqis so that Iraqis can have a democratic government. Seems kinda ironic, don'tcha think?

*sigh*

Okay, this blog is now officially ended. :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Musings on Blogging

As a member of the DeafDC blogging community (as a repeat comment-poster), I have of late become extremely fascinated with the ease and comfort in which we interact and "talk" with one another online via the blog comment pages -- and most of us don't even know who the other person is. Many handles exist and we think of them by their blog handles, not by their real names. The few who use their full names are typically DeafDC bloggers and are representing themselves as such; the rest of us are just joining the fray. And even the rest of us may utilize not one, but two, three or four different handles -- and in those cases, the handles reference the content of the comment posted.

The other day, DeafPundit, a regular DeafDC commenter, posted the following blog on her own site: http://deafpundit.wordpress.com/2007/04/09/i-wonder/

After I posted a reply to another reply for that blog, I started thinking about what it really means. The original reply, written by MishKazena, said:
I think our blogs and vlogs will be archives and studied carefully for decades to come, more like specimen under microscope by social scientists, linguistics and ASL/Deaf Studies students. With the rapid utilitization of cochlear implants and future implementation of genetic engineering to repair the deaf genes, the Deaf Community as we know will shrink.
My own reply:

I’m not so sure that the Deaf Community will shrink. I think it will change — it already IS changing. No cultures or communities are stagnant, anyway. I think it would be a huge mistake to try to keep the Deaf Culture “as is” at this moment in time. Think about how much we’ve changed in the last 5-6 years, thanks to the advent of two-way pagers, the Sidekick(tm), Treo(tm), BlackBerry(tm), etc., high-speed internet, videophones, digital cameras with video capability, and of course…

blogging.

Blogging seems to be the new Deaf Club. And there’s no bigger “Deaf Club” than DeafDC right now.

That leads me to the following...

The Deaf community/Culture as we know it is constantly changing. We can hardly say that things have stayed the same as 100 years ago, much less 20 years ago. For many of us, we no longer regularly have to "plan in advance" our meetings, our get-togethers, our times to catch up. With a few keystrokes on a wireless device, it's now possible to meet up at a bar, a friend's house, or even a park, for some catching up time. Just last week, I imed a friend about 3 hours before the DC DPHH started to see if she was interested in getting together for a bite to eat beforehand. She was. We did.

No longer are the long-goodbyes needed; instead, the reason we take forever to leave a place is because we want to say goodbye to everyone we know there. And now it's "see you next month," or "I'll email you tomorrow" or "oh, send me an email, we can figure that out." The goodbyes themselves are relatively quick. A hug, a smile, maybe even a peck on the cheek, and away we go, knowing that we will see each other in the Online World.

Is that a good or bad thing? Do we still need the real Deaf Clubs? Do we still need a "home base" where we can get together on weekends, shoot pool, hang out and commiserate with one another? Or is a happy hour once a month, on Friday evenings, sufficient? And are the happy hours really welcoming to those in our large Deaf community who may not be comfortable because they don't drink (for various reasons -- religion, addiction, etc.)?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Find Out What It Means To Me

Years ago, many of my friends had either rainbow or HRC stickers on their car bumpers or rear windshields. I noticed one friend did not and one day inquired as to why.

“If anyone wants to know if I’m gay, all they need to do is watch me get out of the car.”

I laughed, because it was funny….and true.

Years later, here we are, talking about what it means to be deaf, Deaf, hearing-impaired, oral, manualist, cuer, Hearing, ASLian, English, Strong Deaf, hearie, militant deaf, African-American, black, Black, white, Caucasian, Latino/a, Hispanic, Muslim, Sikh, Indian, Pakistani, short, tall, average, heterosexual, gay, bisexual, male, female, and human.

To those people pushing the identity issue…

  • If anyone wants to know the status of my ears, all they need to do is hear me speak.
  • If people want to know my gender, all they need to do is look at my external sexual assets.
  • If you wonder if I’m white, black, brown or yellow, all you need to do is look at my skin color.
  • If anyone wants to know my sexuality, ask the people I’ve been with.

Who we are, as humans, does not comprise just one label. We are entities. We are infinitesimal. We are boundary-less. Our ideas, our thoughts, our beliefs change from day to day. Every day we have experiences that teach us. Even our hair changes from day to day. Every day I get more gray hairs – I’ve stopped counting. ;-)

To quote a wise friend’s away message: We are all alike in that we are all unique.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that we drop the use of labels. What I am encouraging is that we remember that we are not only people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. AND that we remember other people are not necessarily of the same mindset as we are and respect them, their experiences, their opinions, and their beliefs.

That’s what this all really boils down to: RESPECT

Find out what it means to me.

And you.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Generalizations

I went to an education conference over the weekend. It was there that I observed one rather esteemed professor/researcher make the following generalization:

"Deaf people learn differently than hearing people."

Now waitjustaminute here....do you mean to tell me, Mr. Professor, that ALL deaf people learn alike? And that ALL hearing people learn alike? And therefore, ALL deaf people learn differently than hearing people.

Wow. How Kantian.

Dear Mr. Professor,

I take offense to your generalization. Implying that all deaf people think the same is tantamount to saying that all white people are the same, and that all black people are the same. Are all women the same? Are men? I think not. I hope you would agree, too.

While many deaf people do learn through visual means, there are plenty out there who can and do utilize auditory input for learning. And there are hearing people who learn differently. Just walk into any bookstore and look at either the education/reading or disabilities section(s). I know that you know this, being such an esteemed researcher and all, but why did you have to lump deaf people into all one category?

I am not a "typical" person. For that matter, what IS normal? (See Blog title above.) Every group has their oddballs, their outliers, their abnormalities, their quirky people, and yes, their norms. When you have "norms" you also have standard deviation.

The only thing that every single person on this planet has in common is this: we are all unique.

Now, I don't mind if you say N=100 and that of those 100, 50 say they prefer to learn by seeing (watching interpreters or teachers signing), 25 say they prefer to learn by reading, and the other 25 saying they prefer to learn by osmosis. But don't simply say "[all] deaf people....."

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

DC Deafie

Apologies

First of all, you have my apologies for being absent. I certainly did not intend to post one blog and then leave y'all high and dry for a couple weeks. I had good intentions. Really, I did. But then I got busy with:
  • teaching/creating powerpoints for class
  • accepting another class midway into the semester as a "substitute" (don't ask)
  • going to a conference -- more about that later
  • trying to actually see friends and be more communicative with them
  • realizing that i've been a horrible relative and not seeing a family member in months even though we live 30 minutes apart. Sad, really.
Also, for those of you who are curious, I have decided not to reveal my identity publicly, for one reason: the way we respond to one another is influenced by what we know of that person. So, for now, I'm content to be anonymous and see what happens here.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

~DC Deafie

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Kiss My Thin @$$!

No, I don’t drink Slim-Fast. No, I don’t eat diet bars. No, I’m not anorexic. Or bulimic. Or vegetarian. I’m a carnivore. I love meat. I don’t like fruits and vegetables so much. I love food – especially filet mignon, roast potatoes with herbs, chicken fajitas, etc. As I write this, I’m eating 3 pre-packaged egg rolls for lunch. (Yes, they’ve been heated up.) My current favorite snack: Tostitos with salsa or queso dip.

So, why then, do people feel the need to comment on the fact that I’m thin? If you saw an overweight woman walking down the street or coming into a store, you wouldn’t say, “wow, look how fat you are!” Would you? And yet, I get variations of the following comments:

“You’re SO thin!”
“I wish I was as skinny as you. You’re so lucky!”

Yes, I’m thin. Thankyouverymuchforpointingouttheobvioustome, ma’am.

But let me point this out right back at you:

Any time you comment on my size, you make me ├╝ber self-conscious. Why is this society so hell-bent on complimenting and rewarding those who are ultra-thin? I consider myself healthily thin. I may be at the bottom end of the appropriate weight for my size (which is a range of about 10 pounds), but I’m not underweight. I have as difficult a time gaining weight as many people have losing weight – we all know it’s metabolism-related. I was blessed—or cursed—with a high metabolism. Whatever the reason, I’m thin. If I were eight inches taller and a lot prettier, I might qualify to be a model. Or would I?

Recently, the modeling world was turned upside-down. In September 2006, the Spanish Association of Fashion Designers, who organize fashion week in Madrid, banned models with a body mass index (BMI) of 18 or below. The United Nations’ health experts recommend a BMI between 18.5 and 25 (source: BBC.co.uk, Sept. 13, 2006).

According to CNN, “Madrid's regional government, which sponsors the show and imposed restrictions, said it did not blame designers and models for anorexia. It said the fashion industry had a responsibility to portray healthy body images” (Sept. 13, 2006). Thirty percent (30%) of the models who showed up for the fashion week were not allowed to participate. Well, that took care of the starving models, but…

Far be it for a model to gain weight! Oh, the horror! Such actions should not be tolerated! Models must simply be “perfectly” thin – no more and now, no less.

Last month, former supermodel Tyra Banks was lambasted in the media for gaining weight, and for being 5’10” and weighing 161 pounds. Good lord! If that’s fat, then I’m not thin – I’m simply bones covered with a bit of skin. I’m proud of her for basically telling the world to “kiss her fat ass” if they had a problem with it.

As a society, we project images of beauty and perfection to teens and tweens. Who exactly determines that 5’8” and a BMI of 18 is representative of stunning beauty? Who determines that being a bit on the curvy and meaty side is just simply not acceptable? Who made it possible for women of all ages, heights and sizes to walk down the street and state the obvious to me?

Time to go eat some leftover hunan beef. Mmmm!