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First of all, I wanted to say thanks so much to [ profile] eternalmoogle, [ profile] aneuhaus, [ profile] eldritchhobbit, [ profile] akane42me, [ profile] swashbuckler332, [ profile] st_crispins, [ profile] comfortable_yet, and many other friends for the birthday wishes. My 21st did involve quite a bit of consumption, but none of the alcoholic variety. To celebrate, [ profile] eyepiece_simile, [ profile] dragonfly66, and I took the train up to San Francisco to catch up and walk from Union to Ghiradelli Square to indulge in Ghiradelli's famed chocolate-y goodness. And authentic, organic crêpes made by this awesome lady from Martinique. The day itself involved getting around to some books I've been meaning to read (Leonard Mlondinow's The Drunkard's Walk) and talking to some of my favorite people :D All in all a very pleasant day.

I had another draft or two in progress about other things, but right now I'm watching the National Memorial Day Concert that my parents recorded, and it's setting off all of my political activist buttons. It's the sort of event embodying the sort of post-"isms" that make prejudice and discrimination so insidious to fight today.

José Pequeño, his mother, Nellie, and his sister, Elizabeth, were recognized during the concert to elicit support for veterans with disabilities and their families. Don't get me wrong - the story of caregiving for someone experiencing extremely debilitating disability and the ongoing financial and emotional challenges they face was heartwrenching. Even sadder is that there are hundreds of thousands of individuals and their families, veterans and civilians alike, who are struggling with similar situations, lacking the resources and support. I can only hope that they were actually able to raise some awareness about the issue.

The kicker was that two white actresses, Dianne Wiest and Katie Holmes, performed the roles of the mother and sister, respectively. Seriously, why must these white actresses tell the story of these brave women, who were clearly in the audience with José and willing to share their experience. I wonder if they were even offered the chance to speak themselves. Is their silence rested on the patronizing assumption that the average American wouldn't take them as seriously as they would high profile white actresses? Must women of color be subject to every possible hardship before mainstream whites will sit up and take notice of their struggles? Must people of color render ourselves worthy of pity if we want the government and the public to even recognize that our struggles are legitimate and considered for political address/redress? Are women of color so helpless and unable to help themselves that white women must appropriate their voices?

And I'm personally ambivalent about the portrayal of people with disabilities as permanently helpless, barely eking themselves into self-sufficiency with extreme medical support. It is true that war can be horrifically disabling physically and psychologically. But treating them as objects of pity and focusing on their hardships after the fact avoids the issue of the circumstances that make their lives so hard now. How do we effectively address the multitude of barriers facing veterans who need additional assistance to transition back into civilian life and ensure that they have access to such assistance? The VA system is under extreme administrative strains in taking care of more and more constituents with chronic conditions and painfully debilitating psychological distress.

I still wonder if my neighbor had actually been able to get the PTSD inpatient treatment and proper surgery he needed, he never would've committed armed robbery, turned himself in, been found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity in one county, and finally sentenced to five years with probation in the other. But I digress.

The VA and the healthcare system just don't have the capacity to serve all the people it means to, and all too often caregivers - particularly, but not exclusively, women and people of color - bear the greatest costs. The environment and the community mediate the experience of disability. Healthcare and Medicare are slow to catch onto the value of home health services and actually empowering individuals with disabilities the services they need to be autonomous; court cases like Olmstead v. L.C. are an important precedent towards community/home-based care and providing care in the least restrictive setting. Actually implementing that precedent and taking preventative measures so that institutionalization is the last resort can be extremely costly as much as it is necessary.

If you want to hear about how you can help, some resources are listed here.

And I have no new words about Prop 8. While I understand that the law must recognize the mandate of the majority, we're still disenfranchising countless individuals of their right to marry when increasing number of states, even DC, are finally mandating this right. At the risk of sounding terribly naïve, upholding prop 8 is denying people the right to benefit from the 1,000+ legal benefits that heterosexual couples can claim.

I can only hope that Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed soon to bring back justice to the Supreme Court.
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June 2010

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