Just a couple hours ago, I saw this article posted to an Email list I’m on. I’m happy to see that local police departments aren’t always turning a blind eye, so to speak, toward these issues of blatant discrimination. Of course, I also understand that the outcome of this story isn’t always what happens, and there are still far too many instances where the police will tell a victim of such discrimination that it’s “a civil matter”, or “they can’t really do anything”, or, worse, “Really, you should just leave.”
Whenever I read these stories, I also read the comments. They are often more enlightening (and, in some cases, saddening) than the actual story. That’s certainly the case with a couple of the comments posted after this story. Unfortunately, I was unable to figure out how to post comments myself, so I guess I’ll post them here, where nearly nobody will see them.
Nicole: you say that this guy that works at the restaurant in question should have been alerted that he violated someone’s rights, but hauling him off to jail was wrong. So, are you saying that his breaking of our country’s laws is unimportant? Or is it that you believe the laws that protect people with disabilities are somehow less relevant than other laws, and their enforcement isn’t as important? Please enlighten me. Maybe there are more important things for the police to deal with? Or maybe you really don’t believe any laws were really broken, and we people with disabilities are only allowed to travel and enjoy an evening out of our homes at the pleasure of, and with the blessing of, others?
Personally, I’m happy to see that someone’s putting some teeth into the laws. Unfortunately, fines and jail time are the only thing some people understand.
As for “dog hair flying around”, thank you, first of all, for your apology. As a guide dog owner myself, our dogs are often cleaner and better groomed than some of the so-called humans that are allowed in public. Moreover, the most you’ll ever see of my dog is as he walks by, and after that, perhaps, his head or tail, as he stays quietly tucked under my chair or table, well out of your space.
I stress here that with rights come responsibilities, such as the responsibility of keeping my dog clean, unobtrusive, and out of the way. Fortunately for all, these responsibilities are also built into the laws that protect us, which is to say, our right to be accompanied by a service dog is not absolute. A person with a disability may be asked to remove his service animal if that animal is disruptive, poorly behaved, and so forth. This is as it should be.
I’ve said that the comments are sometimes sadder, and certainly more enlightening, than the story being commented upon. In such comments, we will sometimes see what a person really thinks or believes. It saddens me that some who would read this story and other stories like it would believe, and even express, that they find that our rights to freedom of movement are less valuable than are their rights. Perhaps, I suppose, it would be better if we just stayed at home, out of the way, and let the rest of the world carry on. It saddens me that even in our “enlightened” age, some would hold such views. Just remember, there isn’t so much difference between you and me. I don’t mean this as a threat, or even a wish, merely a statement of fact. There isn’t a lot of difference between you and me.
This puts me in mind of another story, this one in the UK. This fellow and his girlfriend, who is a guide dog owner, went one afternoon to have lunch at an Indian restaurant. The prson who was waiting on them proceeded to deny him service. An argument ensued, and another diner then told the guy (who was doing the arguing for his girlfriend) to go home, to leave so they could enjoy their lunch, and to get a proper job. This, more than the actual refusal, shocked, angered, and saddened me. Do some out there really hold us with so much contempt? Are there really those who seem to believe that we are no more than an inconvenience to them, an annoying bit of their lives that should just go somewhere else so that they don’t have to deal with us? Are there really those out there who believe that our humanity is less than theirs, and that somehow, things would just be better if we’d go home, go away, and leave them in peace?
For those of you who feel this way, I have only this to say. Too bad. I’m not going home to spare you the discomfort of having to look at me. I’m not going away. I won’t intrude upon your life, but neither will I apologize for my existence in your ordered little world. I live, I love, I have a family and friends and, yes, a proper job. My world is larger than myself, and it extends beyond the four walls of my home. So get used to it, I’m here to stay, and so are the rest of my disabled brothers and sisters. Look upon us well; there is little difference between you and me.
And, to those who come to our country to seek a better life, I welcome you. Ours is a land of opportunity. There is room for everyone who comes here legally. There is plenty of opportunity for those who wish to seize it. Come, and welcome. But know, understand, and obey our laws. We are a country of laws, and they apply to you as well. If you own a business, drive a taxicab, or work in some sort of job that causes you to come into contact with people, it is your responsibility to know the laws, including the ones that cover people with disabilities. Ignorance does not make you immune, and after 80 plus years, there’s no longer any excuse for you not to know better. This applies equally to my American-born kinsmen.
Anyway, I’m sure I could go on, and probably will some other time. I always welcome your thoughts, so keep those cards and letters coming.