Random Thoughts and Musings by moi

Musings by a feisty, opinionated Deaf gal who wants nothing but the best for her community and her people

dimanche 11 juillet 2010

NAD On the Right Track - Now Us Do-Do?

Wow. NAD has chosen its CEO designate, and that person is Howard Rosenblum! Aidan Mack has eloquently expressed why I feel so hopeful about NAD with his selection. Warmest congratulations to Mr. Rosenblum! I, for one, happily look forward to when you take the reins next spring.

This is a positive step in the right direction, the latest in a string of good choices that NAD has made lately. Thank you so much, Patti, for reminding me of the good NAD has done recently and for lovingly telling NAD what it needs to do in order to get its base back! What NAD needs to do is a mighty long laundry list, unfortunately.

Now that Rosenblum has been selected, this is NOT the time to sit back. Far from it! Our responsibilities FROM THIS MOMENT FORWARD include:
Joining NAD or renewing our membership
Putting our support behind NAD
Explictly telling NAD what we expect them to do via letters, emails, blogs, vlogs, Tweets, etc.
Volunteering in whatever way we can to help them
Promote dialogue about NAD's role and responsibilities
Reminding, reminding, reminding NAD what they need to do and where the Deaf center is
Responding to NAD calls for action, such as contacting our legislators about captioning, for example
... and more.
But we must regularly and frequently let NAD know what we expect from them and remind them of where they need to go.

Handwaves to NAD! Go, National Association of the Deaf! Let's meet the 21st century challenges facing us together as a strong, united community with NAD taking a leadership role!

vendredi 9 juillet 2010

Challenge the Status Quo - It's OK!

It's an exciting time in the Deaf community. The National Association for the Deaf is poised to announce the replacement for outgoing Executive Director Nancy Bloch any day now. Naturally the finalists for the position are a subject of interest and lively discussion in the community. NAD has held a special place in our hearts since 1880, when it was founded to fight for Deaf people's civil rights.

I'll be blunt here in my assessment. I cherish NAD. I cherish its proud history of preserving ASL and the strong leaders it has helped to foster. I have fond memories of helping plan a Jr. NAD conference at my school when I was in high school. George Veditz's 1913 speech about preserving ASL in the face of oralism and efforts to eradicate ASL still sends chills down my spine. Yes, it sends chills down my spine because of its beauty.

Veditz's speech also sends chills down my spine because it still rings true today. We are still fighting powerful special interest groups that want to eradicate ASL and Deaf culture today.
And I blame NAD. Yes, you heard me. I believe that NAD bears part of the blame for this state of affairs.

Allow me to be clear. Special interest groups and corporations bear the vast majority of responsibility and blame for creating a state of affairs where they are allowed to promote a one-sided ideology so entrenched in our government and educational system that it is very difficult to wrest control away from them. They have created this monster that allows them to profit off us at every turn. They are more culpable here than anyone else.

BUT we entrusted NAD with the watchdog role. They failed and are failing us. We all bear responsibility for not paying attention earlier. But NAD really dropped the ball here. They stopped focusing on the big picture - the idea that we are perfectly fine the way we are and deserve to exist, and instead started to focus almost solely on communication access and employment. While these are important and NAD has made gains in these areas (most notably the recent committee passage of HR 3101, the Internet captioning bill), they are only a small part of what NAD's mission originally was and needs to be again.

One excellent example of how NAD has failed us is EHDI - Early Hearing Detection and Intervention. This is a government program designed to identify newborn babies as Deaf, excuse me, diagnose babies with hearing loss. It is placed under the jurisdiction of the Center for Disease Control, as if being Deaf were a disease. NAD was part of the coalition that fought to establish this, because we all know that one of the best predictors of success for ANYONE is complete, unfettered access to language. So of course early detection seemed like a no-brainer. But since EHDI was founded, it has fallen under the control of NCHAM, the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management at Utah State University. Management? That's right. Hearing is something to be managed! It is headed by Karl White of USU and he is VERY anti-ASL, based on what I've been told by people who have met with him directly over the past few years. Add to that the common knowledge in Deaf education circles that Utah is strongly tilted toward oralism. It becomes necessary to ask:
How did NAD allow EHDI to fall under the control of the Center for Disease Control and in the clutches of the National Center for Hearing Assessment and MANAGEMENT?
The answer: NAD was asleep at the wheel. But try talking to NAD employees, supporters, or ex-employees, and they'll point out that NAD has attended every single national EHDI conference. That's the right thing for them to do. They SHOULD be attending those conferences. But their going to every conference makes it even worse. Why weren't they fighting for control? Why weren't they preventing well-funded corporate forces of oralism from seizing control of such an important government program AND our tax money? Why weren't they presenting at EHDI conferences? Why weren't they lobbying on our behalf at conferences? Why weren't they networking? The list of questions goes on and on.

There are many more examples of how NAD has lost its Deaf center. NAD has decided to try to be for "everyone." Mistake. NAD was for everyone before. The difference was that its mission and center were clear. Now its center is clear as mud. It's limited its focus to subsistence level. In trying to be for everyone, NAD forgot that almost every other organization to do with Deaf people has a clear focus and mission. The Alexander Graham Bell Association is very clear in its focus, for example. NAD was the only nationwide organization that lobbied for culturally Deaf people who use ASL. Now by diluting itself, NAD has created a vaccuum that has yet to be filled. The Deaf Bilingual Coalition has made major inroads in EHDI by focusing on the fact that every Deaf child's birthright is ASL/English bilingualism. They have presented at EHDI conferences, they have met with Karl White more than once, and lobbied for Deaf babies. But that's just one part of the big picture. The DBC came into existence because NAD isn't doing its job. Period. NAD needs to re-discover its center - stat! We NEED NAD to go back to where it was.

But every time someone challenges NAD to do what's right for the community, tons of NAD apologists crawl out of the woodworks, criticizing the person who raises valid questions. I've seen people accuse challengers, asking them what they've done for NAD. Today I saw someone exhort someone else to study the history of NAD... and, um, I think the person raised questions *precisely* because he *had* already studied the history of NAD. Other gems include: "NAD has done a lot for you." "Don't be a backseat driver." (to someone who HAS been trying to bring change!) "Why are you attending NAD events?" (Sheesh! If we don't go, we're criticized for not going. If we go, we're asked why we're here. We can't win!), and accusations of trying to divide.

For NAD apologists: I have several questions for you.
Are you satisfied with the status quo? Are you satisfied with the fact that the system is failing Deaf children at every turn? Are you satisfied with the fact that Deaf children are now a multi-billion dollar commodity? Are you satisfied with the fact that ASL is now a dirty word in all professional spheres having to do with Deaf children except for the few that practice ASL/English bilingualism? Are you satisfied that our teacher training programs and the body that establishes standards for such are firmly under the control of oralism? Are you satisfied with the fact that audiologists, who stand to profit off listening and speaking and not off ASL, are the point of contact for parents of newly identified Deaf babies nationwide? Are you satisfied with the fact that we are a divided community because of ill-conceived laws that divide us? Are you satisfied with the fact that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act explictly defines the least restrictive environment as mainstreaming with no support and schools for the Deaf as an absolute last resort after the child has failed everywhere else? Are you satisfied that the organization that is supposed to be our lobbying machine attended every EHDI conference but allowed it to fall in the hands of special interest groups? Are you satisfied that NAD has limited its focus to access and employment when we don't have an organization demanding respect for Deaf people just the way we are?
I would *love* genuine answers to these questions from apologists.

These questions are also especially timely because NAD is going to get a new leader very soon, and the leader is key for steering NAD in the right direction. I, for one, DO NOT want the status quo. Howard Rosenblum was the only one of the three finalists who seemed to understand that NAD needs to re-discover its center, while bringing in needed money to survive and while continuing to fight for employment and access. I'm basing this on what they said during their presentations at the NAD conference here, here, and here, and on DeafNation interviews here, here, and here.

I love NAD. I post this and challenge NAD because I truly believe it has value in our community and our lives. If I didn't care, I wouldn't bother. That said...
Let's take back NAD! Let's make it truly Deaf-centered once again! Let's return NAD to its original mission!

Yes, Virginia, Deaf People Congregate!

This may seem like a small thing, but recently someone shared with me what happened during the NAD conference now taking place in Philadelphia, and it bothers me. Two Deaf people who have a Deaf child have made the choice to put the child in a very small educational program where s/he doesn't see many other Deaf people... even though they live pretty close to one of the top schools for the Deaf in the nation. It's their right to make that choice and I'm not criticizing that choice here.

And my point is...? Glad you asked. Apparently during the NAD conference, the child said something to the effect of "Gosh, so many Deaf people!!!" That just strikes me as indescribably sad. Clearly the parents are not taking their child to large Deaf events, such as DeafNation Expo, sporting events, or "X"SD events. Most Deaf children of Deaf parents wouldn't be surprised by how many Deaf people are at a NAD conference at this child's age. Again, it's the parents' choice. True. But that doesn't stop me from being sad for the child.

samedi 19 juin 2010

Colonialism In Action

I'm watching the first season of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, a TV series from HBO, on DVD this week. It is a heartwarming, sweet series and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. It has a neat premise and I'm enjoying the glimpse of life in Botswana it affords me. But as I watch, it becomes more and more obvious to me that I'm seeing a country (and TV series) soaked in colonialism, even though Botswana has been independent of Britain since 1966. What's more, Botswana was a British colony for only 80 years! So for the effects of colonialism to be as entrenched as they are in Botswana is startling and speaks volumes about how damaging colonization was, and still is, to whole cultures and peoples.

Immediately apparent effects of colonialism include the buildings, clothes, and devices/machines. The buildings mostly look like buildings you would find in America, including one posh modern hotel and a series of 1920s and 1930s-vintage buildings, as well as a smattering of houses in a variety of styles. The clothes include a lot of lovely batik prints, but the styles and cuts are very distinctly modern Western Civilization. The people, except for their fascinating and distinctive African features, look like people we would see in America. There are cars, fake nails, computers, roads, telephones (along with the attendant Yellow Pages and answering machines), and more. There are border patrols and passports are a necessity. In other words, other than the lush African landscape, this place looks much like a small town in America. I found that sad and startling.

Other effects of colonialism are subtler and more insidious. One thing that immediately struck me was how almost everyone speaks English. There is a very distinct African (Botswanan?) accent and there are a few words that they say differently, including Sir and Ma'am Rra and Mma, a greeting Dumela, and yes and no ee and nnyaa. But otherwise, it is very much English. The names were very surprising to me. The surnames are unmistakably African, including Ramostwe, Makutsi, Tsola, Bapesti, and so on. But the first names are unmistakably English, such as Grace, Lucien, Oswald, Alice, Michael, et cetera. That's amazing to me that they are choosing names that are not their ancestral names, instead opting for names preferred in a country that took over theirs. In the fourth episode, there is a scene where the detective meets with a witness, but the witness speaks the native language so his granddaughter translates between English and the native language. This drives home the point that most Botswanans (called Batswana) do not know their native language! Linguists know that language has a symbiotic relationship with culture, neither able to exist without the other. Language also shapes thought. Therefore it is possible to conclude that Batswana have altered their culture and thought patterns from the old days to something more British. Wow.

Let's examine the educational system there. There are colleges, training schools, and universities. The secretary, Mma Makutsi, graduated from secretarial college. One case involved interviewing people at the local university. The concept of formal schooling that spawns schools, universities, and colleges is very much European, not African. Interesting. Schools are where citizens and subjects are indoctrinated with the knowledge, skills, and values that a successful member of their society is expected to have upon completion of formal schooling. Draw your own conclusions from this.

There was one intriguing episode where an Indian (as in India) business owner appeared - and he was the first non-native person I'd seen up to date. He looked white from a distance then when the camera panned in, I realized he was actually Indian. He had all the bells and whistles, including a closed circuit TV system and a fancy alarm system that nobody else had. He, during the episode, got a satellite navigation system for his car. When the mechanic tried to explain how important it is not to leave the system in his car because it'd be stolen in no time flat, he pooh-poohed the advice. His attitude toward everyone else was very patronizing and condescending. It's ironic, considering that India was a British colony for far longer than Botswana. But this represents the current ideal in many cultures of the lighter-skinned you are, the better off you are, thanks to centuries of European colonization.

Colonists succeed by forcing natives to speak the colonizing language rather than their own, by forcing their educational system on the natives, and by recreating their ways of life in the colony. They also train natives to become professionals, thus ensuring the cycle of oppression continues and will continue, even when the colonizing forces have departed. This has clearly happened in Botswana.

This said, there were heartwarming glimpses of the native culture still present. The kindness, openness, and love of the Batswana are clear throughout the series. The accent and words are vestiges of what once was spoken all over the country. Mma Ramostwe, the protagonist, seems to represent a subaltern, in my view, because she frequently stands up for what is traditionally African. At one point she talks about the African heart, which holds that if one wrongs another and he or she is truly sorry for what has transpired, the wronged will try to forgive the transgressor. In every colonized culture, there have been individuals and groups who have actively resisted colonialism and reminded their peers of their indigenous values, language, and traditions. I believe she represents that here.

This all seems awfully familiar to me. Does it to you?

More on Support Issues

This is a follow-up to two separate posts, the one I posted last night and the one about Eben Kostbar playing Matt Hamill in a movie. First, two years makes a difference. The movie, Hamill, is now in post-production and it stars a Deaf actor, Russell Harvard. I do not know what happened in the intervening period to make Hamill and Kostbar truly hear the community. But we were heard. Kostbar gave up a plum role and let it go where it rightly belongs - to a Deaf person. Major handwaves and kudos go to them for being willing to reverse a stance that previously appeared as immovable as the Rock of Gibraltar.

In my post written two years ago, I talked about not vilifying Hamill for his decision to allow Kostbar, a hearing person, to portray him and how we needed to support him as a Deaf person while letting him know his decision was wrong. This is one of my most cherished principles - supporting our people while collectively steering them in a positive direction. (not groupthink!) I'm hoping that's what happened and that's what led to a positive outcome in this situation. Again, kudos to Hamill and Kostbar!

Speaking of support and Matt Hamill, I respect his right to choose his profession. But I naturally reserve the right to find UFC/MMA nauseating and a symptom of what is wrong with our society. It glorifies no-holds-barred violence and desensitizes us to brutality. I cannot, in good conscience, approve of the whole schmeer. I get upset when I hear of schools inviting Hamill to speak to students and when they show an interview with Hamill on DVD/online. Doing so gives a stamp of approval upon a tawdry spectacle of blood and cruelty. What impact does this have on young schoolchildren? I shudder.

I've expressed this opinion before and gotten many variations upon the idea that "But he's Deaf! We gotta support him!" Even people who don't like UFC are forcing themselves to watch it all in the name of supporting a Deaf person. I can't help but ask why they feel the need to do that.

I had an interesting conversation with someone recently where someone expressed disgust with UFC and I chimed in, agreeing. The response from a third person? The gist was that if not for UFC, Russell Harvard and Shoshannah Stern wouldn't have such plum roles in a feature film. I could not believe my eyes. Does one wrong plus a prime opportunity make a right? I don't think so. After all, if Il Duce were Deaf, would that have excused the rise of fascism in Italy in the 1920s through part of World War II? Do opportunities for Deaf people excuse all ills? If not, where is the line?

My personal answer to where the line is is guided by my principles. In this situation, the principles involved are as follows: I abhor unnecesary violence, therefore, I'm not going to overtly support Hamill by watching his fights. I'm going to speak up if I find that the educational institution in my area invites him to speak or show his interview. Yet I respect his right to choose his profession and I will honor that. I will not single him out if and when I criticize UFC/MMA.

I personally strongly believe in supporting my fellow Deaf people and have attended functions, taken actions, and become involved with things that I would not have if not for my belief that we need to support each other. So that is not an issue here. But I will not betray my principles. Period.

I become frustrated with this sheep-like attitude of "Deaf equals must support, no matter what." Critical thinking is our friend, not our enemy. Let's actively support our Deaf brethren and sistren, while keeping our principles in mind.

To What Extent? Where is the Happy Middle?

My mind is just jumping around here and there, with several thoughts percolating, each vying for domination... yet remaining half-formed. It's frustrating because I want to develop each of them and do a post worthy of each thought. Some are very positive and affirming, while others may seem more like I'm sitting here with my arms folded and chin jutting out (even though that's *far* from the case.) There is one thought that seems more formed than the others, so here goes...

A friend and I were talking earlier this week about how important it is to support each other, but is there a line to how far we should go to support each other? The particular example we were examining was politics. For example, what if a Deaf person runs for public office but their ideas are not going to better the Deaf community as a whole? Do-do? Some would say, "NO MATTER. SUPPORT-SUPPORT MUST." Others would say waitaminit and speak out, saying the candidate's stance is unacceptable for an elected representative. After some discussion, the best solutions we came up with were: 1. to be proactive and prepare our own people then support their campaign and 2. if we are caught off guard, to go ahead and try to work with them to get them to see reason then support their campaign. Both are positive, while remaining true to one's set of principles.

That whole discussion was a good one, and it got me thinking about various other things. I recently attended this Deaf performance, and um, I was *not* impressed. There was this one poignant moment and there were glimmers of brilliance here and there. But on the whole, it was a major yawn in my opinion. Some of it was same old, same old and overall I was left with the impression of this very self-absorbed person reliving moments that perhaps did not need to be relived. I had several quibbles with the ASL rendition, including the fact that spatial rules were ignored. One character in one monologue had been set up to be on the signer's left and another on the signer's right. Within a minute they had switched places with no logical reason for that happening, which is a *major* linguistic transgression. This happened several times throughout the show. I looked around me a few times to see if I was the only one feeling lukewarm about the whole thing. There were a lot of smiles and a few chuckles. There was no one rolling their eyes. I may or may not have been alone in my assessment of the exhibition, but I appeared to be firmly in the minority. No matter. I stand firm in my opinion. Truth be told, I would have a lot of fun writing a review panning the performance. But what good would that do? I think it'd do more harm than good. Yet I believe just applauding and saying, "Oh, it was fabulous!" over and over would not do any good either. It'd be dishonest. I was fortunate in that the people I was chatting with afterward did not discuss the gig, so I didn't have to make a decision about how to convey my thoughts right then. Upon reflection, the best way of putting it isn't apparent, even though the principle is: how to be honest, while recognizing the good parts of the whole thing. *shrug*

I am also keenly disappointed right now at one organization. In my (and many other's) view, they are in sore need of a direction change. They have a golden opportunity to do that and the time is *ripe*. However, they recently announced a decision that seems to indicate they are not interested in charting a new course. Instead, they want to do what they've been doing for way too long. In fact, based on info from a reliable source, they actively went out of their way to keep the status quo. I'm now left wondering what to do about it. I'm stunned, disappointed, and disheartened. I found out about this not too long ago, so I'm still processing this. I am, however, very clear on where I stand: They are wrong. My goal is to lovingly let them know and to urge them to change course without destroying them with vitriol born out of frustration. How? Ay, there's the rub.

All in all, the two extremes of "Shut up and just support our people" and "Time to go on the warpath!" are not acceptable in most instances. The goal needs to be constructive feedback, given with caring and loving support. Easier said than done, y'know. There are times when gentle, constructive feedback given in private is the kindest, most thoughtful thing we can do. There are others when a major jolt is just the ticket, such as the 2006 Gallaudet Protest. There are still others when something in between is most appropriate. The challenge is knowing when to do what, while remaining true to your principles and trying not to hurt people unnecessarily. I may fail at times, but it's not for lack of trying and caring about the outcome. After all, I love my community and I want nothing but the very best for it and for everyone in it.

dimanche 6 juin 2010

Yes, Deaf People Understand Sound!

This is something I've been thinking about for a long time. I had the good fortune to see Ben Bahan speak on the topic before Open Your Eyes came out. This is at the crux of why we Deaf people are fine and why so many hearing people seem terrified at the prospect of not hearing. Western civilization, ever since Aristotle proclaimed that speech equals language (and probably before that!), has had this irrational fear of not hearing. Even Helen Keller declared that she'd rather be blind than deaf. This is what we've had to fight against for thousands of years. I wish with all my heart that hearing people would understand that being Deaf is not a death sentence.

The main thrust of Dr. Bahan's article in Open Your Eyes is that Deaf people indeed experience sound. It's just not in the way that we've been trained to believe is de rigueur. When I watched him expound upon this, I was transfixed, fighting my jaw's attempts to drop. I thought back to so many things that are so part of everyday life for me - how I love feeling cats purring, how I'm very aware of what's going on because hearing people's heads turn toward a sound, how I experience music, and much more. His thesis is that we experience sound by sight and feel - and we share that information with others. Have you ever wondered how two Deaf people chatting while walking manage not to walk into poles and other hazards 99.5% of the time? It's because of our highly-developed peripheral vision *and* we warn each other - thus giving us a field of vision of 360° during the time we are walking and chatting. The dude is RIGHT.

One of my favorite stories that illustrates this is how I learned to drive a manual transmission. I learned from a Deaf person, and her emphasis was on feel. She encouraged me to drive with my feet off so I could feel the car better. I remember slowly releasing the clutch and feeling the engine spring to life. She stopped me and said, "That is the instant when you need to start depressing the gas pedal. Release the clutch while pressing down on the gas until you feel that the engine is fully alive then go." It took me a fair bit of practice, just like it takes any other person, but I now own a classic car and I love driving a stick. When I bought my classic car, I had two people sit with me while I drove it for a bit to make sure I wasn't going to damage it by driving badly. One was Deaf and before we got in the car, he suggested a tachometer to help me ensure that I was keeping the car in the right gear - which I've seen can be helpful in newer cars. But after we got back, he said he didn't see a problem with my knowing when to shift. The other person was hearing and she said my driving seemed perfect to her... then she asked me how I do it since I'm not hearing the clicks. I explained that I feel the car and it tells me when to shift (and demonstrated). I've had hearing people ask me how I drive a stick, so the idea that you have to hear to drive a stick is really pervasive. They cannot conceive of any other way, which fascinates, yet saddens me because of how limited their worldview is.

I do have another car story - when I was in high school or college, my mom was driving and I suddenly felt this awful SQUEEEEE. I told her to drive the car right in to the shop. She asked why and I told her I'm feeling something awful. Something isn't right. She shook her head and said, "But I don't hear anything wrong. Everything sounds fine." I insisted, and with much reluctance, she shrugged and we took the car in. The guy had to ask me all kinds of questions to identify what it was. Not being a car person, I struggled to explain it (and it didn't help that he kept asking me questions emphasizing sound), but between the two of us, he managed to suggest that maybe it was the brakes. Well, later that day, Mom got a phone call saying the right front brake pad was just about shot and could've caused real problems if the car hadn't gone in when it did. Oh, I was smug for a bit, crowing, "And you kept saying you didn't hear anything wrong!" Since then I've caught car problems by feel. I've never had a car problem escalate just because I don't hear that something is amiss.

I know one teacher whose students are convinced she's hearing or has a lot of hearing because she's able to crack down on yelling without hearing it. She does it by noticing facial expressions, open mouths, and annoyed looks on other students' faces. I also know a friend who gauges whether or not to dash to catch a train based on whether other people are running or not. Many of us know when someone is using their voice and signing without hearing their voices because their faces and signs look different when they use their voice. It's a lot more obvious than many hearing people would like to believe, I think. There are so many examples of how we are aware of sound, both by sight and feel, it would require a book to list them all.

I remember when I discussed the first century of formal Deaf education here in America with my students. They were absolutely flabbergasted to learn that the New York School for the Deaf (Fanwood) had a marching drill band, competed with hearing school bands, and won several trophies, placing first. I asked them why they were surprised. I got the expected responses of, "They're Deaf!" "Music?? How??" and so on in that vein. I paused, then asked them, "Who here has NO idea of what a cat's meow is?" A few astute students either got what I was driving at or knew I was going to make a point, smiled, and didn't raise their hands, while everyone else did. I then said, "So you've never seen a cat meow?" They, exasperated, were quick to assure me they had. "Oh, so you DO know what a cat's meow is like? You can identify it when you see it?" That led to an amazing discussion of how you can identify different meows just by looking at the cat's body language, facial expression, and how big the meow is - coming from the students! I then asked them how they could select a good watermelon. One student gave a very detailed description of how to hold a watermelon, thump it, and how underripe melons feel, how overripe melons feel, and how just-right melons feel. I couldn't resist asking them what type of teacher tends to catch them chewing gum in violation of school rules, and the unanimous answer was, "Deaf teachers!" Of course I asked them why they thought that was and they hypothesized that Deaf teachers have more visual acuity. In between each situation, I emphasized the idea that they do understand sound, it's just that their experience with sound is different from most people's. I then asked them to raise their hands if they like music. Everyone did. I looked puzzled, and said, "But you're DEAF! HOW???" They rushed to explain that they feel the music, either in their bodies or by feeling the vibrations in the floor go up their legs and through their bodies or by feeling something vibrating from the music with their hands. "Oh? Then how do you think they won those trophies?" They brainstormed ideas such as memorizing the number of beats, by feeling, by sight/visual cues, and so forth. I think they're right. That's exactly how the Fanwood students earned those trophies. They, contrary to popular assumption, didn't need to hear the music.

I now submit this to you, the Teeming Millions: Hearing is completely overrated.

I know some of you are going to nod your heads with complete understanding and agreement, while others of you are dumbfounded, turning this concept over in your heads. Take your time. I know this is a major paradigm shift for some of you and I thank you for being open to this. *smile* Still others of you are going to be quick to jump down my throat, saying I don't understand or I'm a handicapped person that has found coping mechanisms to deal with my disability. I beg to differ. I have enough hearing to benefit from it - unaided. I have known I didn't need to rush to catch the subway train because if it were arriving, I would've heard it. I've trained my students not to yell for my attention because I will not look at them, but I will sign, "If you want my attention, you are to raise your hand. I ignore yelling." I've jumped because of a loud noise in another room. Sound is part of my life because I don't have a choice. It comes in through my ears without any encouragement on my part. I mention this only to illustrate that I have experience with hearing and I recognize that it is a different sense that offers advantages - and disavantages! - not found with seeing and feeling. It's just not the sense that I get the vast majority of my information from, nor is it my preferred sense. Therefore my premise is not based on a series of coping mechanisms, nor a way to assert pride in a disability/deficiency. Rather, my assertion is based on the paradigm that sound is not the be-all and end-all of human experience. Take that in your pipe and smoke it, Auditory-Industrial Complex Behemoth!

mercredi 2 juin 2010

If It Ain't Broke, FIX IT!

I have had an epiphany.

The auditory-industrial complex WANTS us to be broken hearing people. The last thing they want to happen is to have us be whole, complete, organic, and natural Deaf people. They thrive on breaking us and keeping us broken.

Overreacting, you say? Really? Then how do you explain the current push to codify audiologists as the first point of contact in the entire state of California? There's much ado about nothing, you say? You don't say? Then why is the list of supporters for AB 2072 so suspiciously rife with members of the auditory-industrial complex who stand to profit off the backs of Deaf children and their parents? Why do so many teacher training programs for the Deaf only mention ASL/English bilingual instruction in passing or not at all? I could go on and on here, but I'd be getting off what I really want to talk about tonight. I'll just reiterate that there is a lot of money to be made off Deaf babies and children, and keeping us broken and oppressed is incredibly lucrative. I do hope to go into depth on that another time - this topic deserves more time than it's getting tonight.

One unfortunate result of the auditory-industrial complex keeping us Deaf people figuratively pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen is "playing hearing," which Richard Horrell-Schmitz poignantly describes his own experiences here. This moving piece struck so many chords (insert rueful acknowledgement of the irony of my phrasing here) with me, and apparently with many others, based on what people are saying on Facebook.

How many of us have felt like a broken hearing person at least once in our lives? How many of us have felt deficient and defective because we do not experience sound in the same way most of the world does? A show of hands, please. Yup. All of us have been there, haven't we? I know I have. But we aren't broken. Not at all. We are a perfectly valid variation of the human experience and we have wonderful gifts to share with the world... if only they would let us. But thanks to the massive auditory-industrial juggernaut, we've all been force-fed media messages that to hear is the be-all and the end-all of existence and we've grown up in educational systems that reinforce that message in a variety of ways to varying degrees. We've been trained to believe that the closer to hearing we appear to be, the better off we are.

I didn't lose my hearing like Richard did, so I've never been trying to recapture what I once had. But I have tried to capture what I believed I should have and to try and fix myself. I've taken over interactions and started interpreting for other Deaf people when they didn't understand what a hearing person was saying. I've reveled in my English skills and clucked at those who have poor English. I've done everything possible to mold myself into the so-called norm. As I look back on all these things, I cringe. I then forgive myself because it is part of my journey toward being a self-actualized, healthy, whole Deaf person... then I cringe some more.

As I look back, I cannot help but be astounded at how by being more Deaf in my interactions with hearing people, how much more respect I get and how the playing field has been leveled. Instead of my letting them know I'm Deaf and metaphorically holding my hands up in supplication, I just go about my business and expect that all will be fine. I sign to hearing people now when I need to interact with them, with a friendly smile, but unwaveringly sending the message, "I'm Deaf. I'm here. Deal with it." Recently I went to a farmer's market with a friend who was in town for a short visit. A vendor was offering free samples of this omgtastic pecan pie and I signed, "Yes, please" and "Thank you." My friend was pointing in the manner many of us Deafies do when we began this exchange. The bakery lady then asked, "Would you like to try the blueberry?" I perked up and signed, "Yes! I'd love to!" with a smile. She smiled back, nodded, and said, "Okay." I then asked her, signing, how much the pecan pie was and she told me. This is with a hearing non-signer. I kept this up during the entire trip and I noticed my friend started signing to the vendors too. I'll have to ask him what made him change his approach, now that I think about it. We didn't discuss it at all - I just went about my business, doing what has become second nature. I've found that this approach really equalizes the playing field with non-signers. I'm being myself. They're being themselves. We're meeting in the middle as two individuals, with mutual respect. I have had less problems signing with hearing people than I did before I started living this way.

The most amazing part to me is how *right* this feels. I feel cleaner. Purer. More whole. More organic. I think more of us should do this, but I know that's not going to happen for a while. Too many of us have been brainwashed. I still find myself excising dysconscious audism in myself from time to time, so I understand! Richard is right. Playing hearing is a losing game. Thank you, Richard, for writing your entry. It is a treasure.

It's time to stand up for our community and tell the auditory-industrial complex, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! We are PERFECTLY FINE the way we are! LET US BE NATURAL, ORGANIC, AND WHOLE!" It is time for us to show the world we are valid and not broken by showing them who we truly are and cherishing that. It is time for us to stop playing a losing game. Let's play Deaf instead. Let's embrace who we are and truly be Deaf.

lundi 23 mars 2009

Unexpected Audism & Au Revoir

Wow, it's been *ages* since I last blogged! Hi again... that is, if any of you are still around. *smile*

Awhile ago, I went to my local drugstore and the clerk said something to me when I wasn't looking. When I realized what was happening, I signed, "I'm Deaf. What did you say?" with a smile on my face. This usually results in their repeating themselves or scrambling for a pen and paper. Not this time. She awkwardly signed, "I'm sorry you're Deaf" with the most infuriating look of pity on her face. I signed back, "Don't be sorry. I'm happy I'm Deaf." She shook her head and signed, "No, no. Sad. Sorry you're Deaf." I was aghast. How can a person who signs have such a negative view of me and my people? And how DARE she deny my feelings and perspective as if I don't matter? I asked some friends how they'd respond and I got some interesting comments... how would YOU respond in that situation? I'm curious.

While I'm blogging, I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity to bid DeafRead au revoir. I think Tayler and Jared did the community a great service in many ways. I've "met" so many amazing people from all walks of life through this forum, and I cherish that. I think for a long time DeafRead was the place for a genuine, respectful exchange of ideas and views. Don't get me wrong - I don't blame DeafRead for the actions of some bloggers and commenters - the responsibility lies entirely within those individuals. Before I continue, this is a very hard post for me to write.

Please indulge me by allowing me to describe my journey and thoughts as a blogger since 2006, and one who's been blogging with DeafRead almost since the very beginning. I saw DeafRead as a place where we could all come together, and it was. Some people who don't sign and aren't part of the Deaf community joined DeafRead and that was a surprise. But as a curious, open person, I started reading their posts. Some of them seemed to be interested in exploring this community, learning about others, and letting us know they're out there. I grew to appreciate people like Robyn of New Zealand, Abbie of New Jersey, and David Poirer of Canada. However, this influx also brought people who were very negative about the Deaf community and our beautiful signed languages. This was hurtful and completely counter to the purpose of DeafRead, I felt. I tried talking with one of the founders about this, but he was firm in his position that everyone had a place at the table. I agree, in principle, but not when those people are destructive. Many others were speaking up about this as well.

At the same time this was happening, DeafBlogLand was overtaken by some toxic people who were out to bash others. This was very upsetting, but I figured it was kind of part of the territory. Site owners needed to take responsibility for their entries and the type of comments they would allow. But the frequent flare-ups and attacks grew wearying and took a toll on me. Truthfully, the last straw for me was the Milwaukee Witch Trials of 2008. Seeing reputations trashed, people's jobs threatened, and more did it for me. I essentially stopped reading DeafRead that summer because I couldn't take it anymore. 

I've been back twice since then just to see what was up. Both times the impression I came away with was, "The CI is a miracle!" and a few entries about minor Deaf events. This seems awfully two-dimensional. Where's the variety? Where's the vibrant, colorful community? 

Curious, I asked around, asking these three questions: Have you read DeafRead regularly at any point? If so, do you still follow DeafRead regularly? If you stopped, why did you stop? The responses were invariably something along the lines of Yes, no, and because it doesn't reflect me and/or the attacks are just too much. That's exactly how I feel. 

I checked DeafRead tonight for the third time since summer, and what do I see? A spate of angry posts. The first one I saw was Can't We All Behave?, followed by Barb's take, Amy's take, and MishkaZena's take. Ben's post that was listed on DeafRead next to Barb's was removed, but Google caching uncovers it here (but not for long, I'm sure.) I'm sure I've missed some posts, but I don't care. The posts listed here contained more than enough vitriol for me. The ugliness in some of the comments in these posts was appalling. I flashed back to last summer and I realized I don't want to be here anymore. 

THIS is why I haven't been able to bring myself to blog. I don't feel safe. I have no issue with people who disagree with me. It's a free country and one of my core values as an American is, "Dissent is patriotic," as Jefferson once said. It's when that dissent crosses into attacks and name-calling, no matter what the provocation or no matter what perspective one has, that it becomes wrong. This is one reason this is a hard post for me to write. I feel muzzled. I'm unable to write here without carefully considering every word and trying to figure out how to say something so I won't be attacked. I know no matter how hard I try, some people are going to find a way to attack me. I don't want to be in an unsafe atmosphere any longer.

I don't know if I'll be blogging much once DeafRead places my blog on the inactive list, but I certainly hope so. I just know that every time I think about blogging, I think about the attacks I've seen. My decision will not insulate me completely, I know, but at least I'm taking a stand against the venom out there. I'm taking action to make myself safer. 

Goodbye, DeafRead. It was great while it lasted.

**Note: Comments will be moderated, as always. Of course dissenting opinions are welcome, as long as the writer writes with respect. *smile* But be aware that comments may not be moderated quickly. This is the first time I've logged into my Blogger account in months. I found a few comments up for moderation, and they will be let through. I apologize if any of those were yours. No offense was intended.

mardi 7 octobre 2008


I’ve resisted the term CODA from the beginning, which is unlike me. I’m big on allowing members of a group to define their own identity and not to define them when I am not a member of the group. But the term that Americans have gleefully adopted to define those who are hearing with Deaf parents has always been jarring and wrong on some fundamental level for me.

The first thing that I was able to explain that was wrong was the addition of “adult” to “children of deaf.” I mean, what, are we trying to make sure people understand that they’re not children of children? Not children of senior citizens? Not children of rocks? What? I know they were trying to avoid confusion with the more common acronym “COD,” or Cash On Delivery. But it immediately struck me as ridiculous and still does.

Other than that, it still felt wrong. But I couldn’t explain why. I read Paul Preston’s book, Mother Father Deaf, and I realized, yesyesyes, that term feels so right. When I started signing it instead (or sometimes HEARING, MOTHER FATHER DEAF), it felt like the universe was smiling on me. I didn’t have the words to articulate why this felt so right, however, except that it was the “Deaf way.”

It’s been interesting to note the reactions I’ve received when signing it the old Deaf way rather than just fingerspelling CODA. If I had a nickel for every time someone replied, “Ohohoh, you mean CODA...” Others have given me a blank stare. Still others say, “RIGHT, CODA THAT.” *shrug* I’m not going to stop doing what I’m doing, even if it somehow discombobulates those around me.

When I was reading Paddy Ladd’s weighty tome, Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood, so I could see what the fuss was about, I was struck by the Britishism HMFD. Ladd explains that British Deaf people sign HEARING MOTHER FATHER DEAF, and they’ve made it into an acronym. The Deaf community there uses HMFD. That was like a homecoming for me. YES! HMFD! Yes!

I’ve been struggling for years to articulate just why I hate the term CODA so much, and I don’t think I’m there yet, but I’m much closer than I was. For one thing, it bothers me that the old term wasn’t good enough for them. They had to reject the ASL phrase and turn to English to define themselves. To me, that is a wholesale repudiation of what makes them unique. I’m offended by that.

I know what I said is going to offend at least some of you. But I just had to get that out of my system. I really find the term CODA to be a denial of their heritage. They weren’t satisfied with the beautiful ASL phrase and they turned to the majority language, cobbled together an awkward, ridiculous, laughable acronym, and shoved it in our faces, getting offended when Deaf people didn’t immediately jump on the bandwagon. (Oh, yes. I remember some of them scolding me way back when.) No wonder so many of us caved. Again, I’m all for allowing people to define themselves, but this sticks in my craw.

And now to find that the Deaf community across the pond embraces the British Sign Language phrase, wow. That was liberating. I hope we can do the same here, even though I’m not optimistic. I plan to continue using the ASL phrase HEARING MOTHER FATHER DEAF, and I think I may start using HMFD in print.

I offer this not to cause controversy or hard feelings, but as food for thought, whether you agree or not.

jeudi 7 août 2008

A Metaphor for Life?

My family was at the pool this morning, when someone nudged me, chuckling, and asked me to look at the guy in the next lane. The guy had two tufts of hair near his temples and they were standing up on end, with a slight curve to each, resembling devil's horns. She said, "Doesn't he look like the devil?" He DID! He had a very dark complexion, dark hair, and a very intense look on his face.

A bit later, she nudged me again, saying, "Now that's a metaphor for Life: You're in the water of Life, going along, with the Devil in the next lane." *chuckle*

mardi 5 août 2008

If You Hate Being Shaken Awake, This One Is For You! There's Hope!

Raise your hand if you prefer being awakened by a light rather than being jarred awake by some shaky vibraty thingamajig. Me too, me too. 

I seem to be very hard on alarm clocks for some reason, and I suspect it's because I use the snooze button quite liberally. I am *not* a morning person, no matter how hard I try. This leads to replacement of alarm clocks every couple of/few years, unfortunately. I always make sure I have a back-up alarm clock.

This means planning ahead, since we can't exactly wander into our local drugstore or megastore and pick up a teensy, cute alarm for 5.95 plus tax. Deaf agencies have by and large done away with their Deaf Stores, since they were money pits for the agencies. The Internet to the rescue for many of us... (those of us who have *access* to the 'Net ... and many of us don't.)

The last time I needed alarm clocks, I was able to go to my local Deaf Store and pick some up. Imagine my shock when I looked at the displays and saw only *one* clock that I could plug a light into... a SonicBoom clock. And I have the *worst* luck with 'em. I'd gone through three in one year at that point. Every other type of alarm clock I've ever had lasted at least one year. Dismayed, I asked the shopkeeper about plug-in light options. She whispered to me,
"I know. Isn't it awful how the alarm clock manufacturers have stopped making plug-in alarms? I've gotten so many complaints from customers. But I have just the thing for you! This company, DeafWorks, is a small outfit in Provo that modifies alarm clocks so they can be plugged in. A few just came in last week and I save them for customers like you."
In alt, I bought two, thanking her profusely. They've served me well, and they were *cheap* compared to other alarm clocks out there.

I'm now taking stock of my alarm clock inventory, and ... urk. Time to think about making sure I have back-ups that work. 

I find alarm clock vibrators one of the cruelest inventions known to man. They fall off the bed, they move where they can't rouse me, they give me an awful headache if they're too close to my head, they scare me, and they put me in a foul mood for the rest of the morning. I. Cannot. Stand. Vibrating alarm clocks. I'll tolerate my Sonic Shaker pinned to the bottom of my nighties when I'm traveling, but that's about it.

So why in blankety-blank *would* alarm clock manufacturers decide that we all need vibrating alarm clocks? Manufacturers, if you read this, take heed: We *want* options. There are those of us who prefer being awakened more naturally than being rudely roused with shaking things that don't stay where they're supposed to stay, create lumps under the bed/pillow, and induce people to produce strings of expletives every morning. 

But I digress. There is hope for those of us who want, need, and expect plug-in lights. There are only two alarm clocks on the Harris Communications website that I could find that are not Sonic Boom clocks: the Hal-Hen and the Wake Me Up. Both are rather pricey and they're *huge*, which is not a good thing when your nightstand real estate is limited. DeafWorks to the rescue! They offer three options, the Original, the Futuristic, and the Jumbo, all for less than $47, and two for less than $40! Thrillsville!

There's hope, there's hope!

PS - if there are any other online retailers of Deaf products, please leave a comment for all of us - it would help us know where we can go to shop. Thanks! *smile*

*Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been, employed or affiliated with DeafWorks. I'm simply a happy customer. :-)

jeudi 31 juillet 2008

Beautiful English = Lousy Signing? NOT!

I happened to notice this comment in Teri Sentelle's latest entry. The commenter's point was not contained in the portion I'm about to quote and it was more of a toss-away additional thought, but it felt like a slap in the face:
I was shocked to see him on video signing beautifully. I thought he was not a fluent signer because he writes like Harvard scholars.
The implication of this statement is that good signers are not good writers. If one is a good writer, therefore, one is probably not a good signer. THIS is one reason why AG Bell, the Oberkotter Foundation, and the auditory-industrial complex are able to convince so many parents that signing is bad. And for our own community members to believe this too is scary. Have we not seen ample evidence of people with native-like competence in both languages to put this myth to rest yet? Ben Vess comes to mind. So do David Eberwein and Shelley Potma. There are scads more out there, and I'm naming many names in my mind right now.

I took this as a personal affront. Does this mean that people reading what I write automatically assume I sign like I just finished ASL Level 2, just because I happen to know my way around a sentence? I can assure you that is *far* from the case. (and no, I absolutely *refuse* to offer you, the Teeming Millions, proof, thanks to how toxic DeafBlogLand has become. I'm hanging onto my anonymity for my personal, professional, communal, mental, emotional, and spiritual safety. End of rant. Back to the topic at hand.) I find it indescribably sad that at least one of our own people believes that good writing skills and good signing skills are very unlikely to exist in the same person. 

Good writing ≠ good signing
True? (I say heck no!)

dimanche 27 juillet 2008

Who Are You? Look No Further Than Your Home.

Last Sunday I was wandering around, exploring open houses in my neighborhood - it's a fun way to spend an afternoon. One house I went in was still cluttered, and it was very clear that the owner had recently passed away. There was a note on the doors admonishing everyone not to let Duncan, the cat, in. Duncan had been adopted by the neighbors but still sneaks in whenever possible. There were a few notes in the living room about what the executor wants, and some boxes that were in the process of being packed up. All the furnishings and the appliances were from mid-century (which I love!). It was easy to imagine this little old lady living out her life there.

The whole thing made me very sad, yet I was very moved. Just by walking through this tiny 1930s-era house, I was able to glean glimpses of what this woman was like. She was a non-smoker (no scent of cigarettes or attempts to cover the smell up, nor any ashtrays or stains in sight), a highly literate person (books everywhere and bookshelves in almost every room), who traveled some (some tchotchkes and travel things were out, but not a lot), and who enjoyed her garden (it was maintained nicely). She enjoyed Sudoku and crossword puzzles (a stack of Dell and Penny Press books were in one bedroom). From looking at what she read, she enjoyed history (both local and national), mysteries, politics, novels, current popular fiction, landscaping, art, and a smattering of other things. There were also playing cards, a television, and a CD/cassette player. I got the feeling I would like this woman very much and that we had a lot in common.

I realize I probably will never know her name, what she died of, what her heirs are like, and what will become of her possessions. But I really feel like I know her in a sense. I'm sad she passed on and I hope it was an easy, peaceful death.

The experience is making me look around my house and wondering what people would learn about me. I have books everywhere and tons of bookshelves too, and my books definitely reflect many, but not all, of my interests. Travel is part of my house decor also. My furniture choices also make a statement in and of themselves. A brightly-colored iMac is prominent in my office. I'm seeing signs of my offbeat personality reflected throughout. Some of my values are obvious from what I've chosen to show and not show so much (only one small TV is visible, for example). I'm taking stock of my house and thinking about whether or not I want to tweak anything that my house is telling people about me.

What does your house say about you? What would you want your house to say about you? You're welcome to leave comments, but if you don't, I invite you to mull these questions over anyway. :)

jeudi 17 juillet 2008

Sample Attacks and RSS Readers

Irresponsible comments

Hmm. In my most recent post, I've received generally polite comments, even from those who didn't agree, and I thank my commenters for that. However, I received one comment that just could not be allowed through because he called individuals or groups names. In the past, I simply didn't let this type of comment through without saying a word about it. But because of the current situation in DeafBlogLand, I am publishing it in this post and dissecting it to show why I feel this is an example of what none of us should tolerate.
(at 9:14) Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Call For Accountability For All":

Responsibility? The deafhood goons has [sic] hijacked deafread since last May.

Deafhood's favorite modality is bullying others so the mess seen on the deafread sphere is very representative of deafhood.

Richard Roehm
Calling a group "goons" should never be acceptable. I'd say the same if someone called Rachel and Elizabeth of Cochlear Implant Online goons, and I'm saying it about this comment. And blaming the current mess solely on deafhood is unfair. There is plenty of blame to go around.

And please note that how I talked about the comment focused solely on what was said, not on the individual involved. This is an important point.

RSS Readers

On to another topic, RSS feeds. Some people have been asking for subscription lists on blogs, but there's a far better way to be notified when your favorite blogs have new posts. That's to use a RSS reader. I'd like to encourage all of you who want another way to read your favorite blogs to look into using a RSS reader.

There are many options out there, both computer-based and web-based. I love RSS Menu for the Mac, because it puts my RSS feeds right into the menu bar. But I'd hafta install it... and update it on all the computers I use, which gets unwieldy. So I use Bloglines instead, since it's web-based and I can use it on any computer that has Internet access. There are other programs and Web-based readers out there that you can use. Check Version Tracker for computer-based RSS programs to try out. There are other web-based readers that I've heard of, like NewsGator, Google Reader, and others. If you know of any others, please do leave a comment so all of us can learn more.

For me, Bloglines is very, very easy to use. You sign up for an account, and it walks you through the steps easily. The DeafRead team posted a step-by-step tutorial on how to use Bloglines in the early days of DeafRead. There was also a video showing how, but it's no longer there. You do need to scroll down to How to read DeafRead in a RSS Reader, and the instructions are the same for any website. If there is no RSS link on the blog, you can just click on "Add" in the top lefthand corner, type in or copy and paste the blog address itself and Bloglines will look for the RSS feed for you.

A nifty perk is that Bloglines is offered in 9 languages, including French, but c'est moi... *grin*

I'm not here to advertise Bloglines, but to encourage y'all to use RSS feeds to directly access your favorite blogs and vlogs. I personally go to both DeafRead and my Bloglines home page. Which I do first depends on a lot of things at that moment. Experiment. Play. Find out what works best for you. Some of you may want to just stay with DeafRead, which is fine! Some of you may want to move exclusively to a RSS reader, which is fine! Whatever works for you. :)

*I know the person who commented above is a controversial figure in the community, but I will not tolerate any comments that attack him as a person. Any such comments will be rejected.

Call For Accountability For All

This is a comment I left on Joey Baer's blogsite in his follow-up post to leaving DeafRead.


I have to concur with the premise that DeafRead is unsafe. I've all but stopped blogging publicly because the atmosphere is just too toxic.

So yes, in a way, I'm one of those bloggers who left DeafRead too, even though I haven't asked for my feed to be removed from their roster.

I've read Tayler's statement about how all of us need to take responsibility. I agree, and I try to do my part by remaining firm in the belief that people can say what they want - they can agree with me, they can disagree with me, whatever, but they need to remain respectful toward everyone if they want their thoughts to appear on my blog. I wish all bloggers took this responsibility seriously and insisted on respectful dialogue, even when there is a lot of dissent.

However, I do not feel that the DeafRead editorial team has lived up to its responsibility to create a safe environment. Their inconsistency and bending of their own guidelines has contributed to this situation, as well as certain bloggers, vloggers, and commenters. I still cannot believe they have let posts attacking individuals through.

I feel bad for Tayler and the team, though. No matter what they do, they get criticized. I can understand that. I admire Tayler and Jared for establishing DeafRead - that is just awesome. However, I seriously believe the team needs to re-evaluate everything, revamp their guidelines, and ensure that all editors are on the same page - no, the same LINE - when it comes to what is OK and isn't for the front page.

One thing that bugs me about Tayler's announcement is that it is almost impossible to respond to his post. You have to be logged in to comment. Log in to what, I still haven't figured out. This has the unfortunate effect of shutting down a lot of the dialogue that Tayler could be having with members of the online community he created. If he wants to disallow anonymous comments (which has pros and cons), he could use OpenID, which allows people to use their blog accounts from any platform, their AIM screen names, and other online identities. I would have commented there if not for that, and it's unfortunate that we can't talk directly to him on this forum. Tayler, if you're reading this, I hope you consider this. I know it must be so hard to deal with what is happening, but we need to be able to talk to you directly.

Kudos to you for standing up for your principles. We need to support each other, the DeafRead team, and people in our community - while demanding positive changes and accountability from the DeafRead team and from every one of us who blogs and/or comments in DeafBlogLand, while respecting diverse viewpoints - even if we disagree. I'm all for freedom of speech and freedom to have diverse opinions, but with that freedom comes responsibility.

*Comments will be moderated, as always, and all opinions that are respectful will be let through. Attacks against anyone or any entity, as always, will not be tolerated.

lundi 9 juin 2008

Drama in DeafBlogLand

The saga du jour is the DeafRead-Cochlear Implant Online mêlée. Everybody and his brother has been blogging about this since the news broke midweek, with criticisms flying left and right.

I’m saddened by the whole thing. There are hurt feelings everywhere and a lot of righteous indignation… some justified, some not. I can’t help but think that Tayler has been one of the staunchest defenders of inclusion on DeafRead, and when he boots someone off, he is instantly accused of either pandering to people who can’t stand Rachel or he hates Rachel/perceives her as a threat. That doesn’t make sense at all.

Remember how last winter there was intense pressure to remove audist blogs from DeafRead? Tayler refused to give in. He and the editorial team were harder to move than Mt. Everest. They repeatedly defended the decision, insisting that everyone had a place at the table. That leads me to think that there has to be more to this than Tayler has said online. It’s not as simple as “she’s out because she’s not on my side and she upsets people.” I wish more people would remember this and not be so quick to play judge, jury, and executioner here.

That said, I think Tayler and the DeafRead team need to put the facts out there for us to evaluate. We need to keep asking for the facts. I have many questions, even though I have faith in this team. I want to be able to put my support fully behind them… and I will, once I know the facts and it seems that their actions appear to be justified and appropriate.

Another thing that this whole fracas makes vividly clear: this insane either/or dichotomy.

Implants OR natural signed languages
Speech OR natural signed languages
AVT OR natural signed languages
Hearing OR Deaf
deaf OR Deaf
DeafVillage OR DeafRead

Bloggers who are in a tizzy about Rachel’s being forcibly shoved from DeafRead are saying they’re going to leave DeafRead and join Deaf Village. I’m scratching my head, because really, there is no need to choose. Why can’t people be on both sites? Those who are on both but only want to read one site are welcome to do that. It seems to me that this DeafVillage OR DeafRead mentality is some kind of bizarre extension of the insistence that one has to make a choice to either speak or sign with Deaf children. That’s not the case. Let’s give them everything. Let’s be part of everything.

Another issue here is that very few people are acknowledging how Rachel is a polarizing figure and even if they do, they usually do not acknowledge why. Patti Durr had this to say:
she has a horrible view of ASL and Deaf culture people and by virtue of writing such she has deliberately and intentionally steered any parents away from Deaf culture and ASL and she had this attitude long before she got any nasty comments in her blog. Just as it is a pity when any vlog/blog chooses to paint CI people in a horrible light, so too is it a pity when any CI person (or supporter) choose to paint ASL and Deaf people in a horrible light
Exactly. She also says in the same comment:
and I am sorry to say this kim but for every nasty comment u can show me that has been directed at CI folks or CI supporters (and I don’t accept or like those) I can show u some pretty ugly stuff coming from these very same folks
Horrible comments are not necessary and should not be accepted, no matter what one’s paradigm or who those comments are directed toward. I’m struggling with how to say this, because I truly do not want to hurt Rachel or anyone. I just want to express how I feel and what I think about what people are saying, how they are presenting themselves, and what respect truly is.

This is why I love Patti Durr – she is so gentle and loving toward everyone. I was very moved by this entry directed at Rachel. It expresses so much of what I think and feel about Rachel's writing.

Tony Nicholas raises an important question: what exactly is respect? How does one show respect?

I do not feel that Rachel, Melissa, and Elizabeth have shown me, and others like me, respect. I do not feel that they have truly listened and tried to understand different perspectives. I feel I have been trying, as exemplified in this post and others I’ve written. And I continue to try to do so. Tony, again, hits a home run when he says:
Personally, I find the attitude displayed [or Canine Territorial Marking as the case may be] on Cochlear Implant Online, every a bit arrogant as those Elizabeth and Rachel [and their mother] accuse the “militant deaf” of displaying. Reducing comments, perspectives, et al, to the status of “that’s an interesting viewpoint”, is frigging patronising. With Elizabeth’s admission that she and her sister are basically two little college girls, she puts her foot right in it. I will abstain from baring my fangs here. Mother is there, lurking in the shadows.
Bingo. Let’s be honest here. Some people who accuse us of being militant have hurled the most vile invectives toward us. The ugliness is not one-sided. This is why Rachel and other partisans are such polarizing figures. To be fair, Rachel herself has never, to my knowledge, been openly insulting. Her barbs are subtler, but they find their mark just the same.

I agree with Patti when she said that she doesn’t want to declare open season on Rachel। I don’t either. She is a person who deserves to be treated with respect. She has mine as a human being. So do every one of you. However, it is necessary to examine the situation more critically and acknowledge what has been said and done.

Please don’t interpret this as anti-CI or anti-non-signers. It is NOT. There are many people, like Robyn, Kim, and many others, who truly want to listen to everyone and share their experiences. Their attitude and their way of presenting themselves is what makes the diference. I cherish these people and consider them very much part of the community.

I still dream that one day we will all be able to come together in mutual respect and harmony as a community, even if we do not agree. For that to happen, we all need to examine our own attitudes, words, and motivations. I’m examining mine. I invite you to examine yours. Here’s to a healthy, respectful online community that includes people from all walks of life.

lundi 12 mai 2008

Support Hamill? Yes and No

Many, many people have weighed in with their opinion on the controversy surrounding Matt Hamill's decision to have Eben Kostbar play him in Kostbar's movie, Hamill. However, there is one element that has yet to be blogged about that I'd like to touch upon.

Hamill is a member of the Deaf community and does not deserve to be vilified for this decision. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that my title contains the word "yes" in response to whether or not we should support him.

Before I go any further into my premise, let's examine Hamill's (entry dated 5/9/08) and Kostbar's arguments. Kostbar, an actor, wanted to create a role for himself. He does this to make a living. He became interested in the Hamill story, befriended Hamill, and has spent two years researching this story, writing it, and preparing for the role. Understandably, he's loath to give up a starring role in a movie that he has spent so much time developing and financing. Hamill has equally valid reasons for wanting Kostbar to play him. Kostbar looks similar enough to pull it off, he has become a friend, he has worked so hard to make this project truly represent Hamill, Hamill wants this movie made, Kostbar may be the best choice in many ways due to all of his preparation, and so forth. No matter where we stand on this issue, we have to recognize that Hamill and Kostbar have valid reasons for wanting this project to continue as planned, with Kostbar taking the title role. Furthermore, the project appears incredibly well thought out and sensitive to a Deaf audience.

While I can empathize completely with them and their goals, I'm still lying here on my sofa, typing these words, "I don't care. It's still WRONG for a hearing person to play a deaf person on so many levels." Those who insist that it is Hamill's choice repeatedly make two false arguments:
1. It is Hamill's choice (and thus denying the ripple effects of said choice).
2. This is just a small group of extremists protesting this decision.

Argument number one: I will be the first to concede the truth of this - it is indeed Hamill's choice. He should have the freedom to decide who will play him. However, I believe that Hamill either does not realize or does not care about the consequences of his choice. He seems to be only thinking of his project, not about the community. This action runs counter to community values. A Deaf community member normally considers the community's needs and interests very carefully before proceeding with a decision that affects the community. This decision could have very negative consequences on Deaf actors and on Deaf children who do not see themselves represented on the silver screen. Has Hamill considered this? I'm no mind-reader, but I wonder about this.

Argument number two: This is patently and absurdly false. From where I stand, from the discussions I've had in the Real World and online, popular opinion is running strongly against Hamill's decision. It actually seems to be a small, yet vocal minority that is calling us extremist, militant, and every foul name under the sun while blaming us for the problem. They are, of course, entitled to their opinion. But they seem to be ignoring the points made by many who have expressed concerns. It seems to me that they're too busy blaming us, saying the movie may not be made, we're making the community look bad, and a lot more in this vein.

Speaking of blame... MishkaZena hit the nail on the head - it is Hamill's decision that is causing this debate, not us. Hamill had the temerity to claim that "[i]t's unfortunate that there is always a small portion of the deaf community that feels the need to protest the most trivial things in life." We wouldn't have had to raise the issue if not for his decision. And this is most assuredly not trivial. I'm not willing to accept *any* blame for this discussion. All we're doing is listening to our Deaf intuition (no, not channeled through any of our "Deafhood priests" or anything equally ridiculous,) and taking a stand.

Hamill, and these people, are going about this from individualistic American culture, which is more concerned about looking out for their own interests. We are approaching this from the collective Deaf community viewpoint. That's the difference between the two perspectives. From reading comments, there are quite a few people who see both points of view and are torn. I can understand this, because I have mixed feelings as well. To me, though, a principle is a principle. I'm stickin' by mine.

An issue this raises: the role of a hearing ally. Kostbar, even though his statement was beautiful and he is seriously *hot* (sorry, hadda throw that in there), needs to consider this carefully. Someone told me a story that perfectly illustrates a true hearing ally a few weeks ago: She wanted to nominate this hearing person to be on the Gallaudet Board of Trustees when they were recently filling seats. The hearing person said, "I'd rather seats go to Deaf people first. Once that happens, then and only then, would I consider maybe being nominated. It's not my place to be making decisions for Deaf people." Exactly. Kostbar, while professing a deep love for Deaf people and for our culture, is still making decisions that benefit himself, not us. (see above about collectivism) He is also sounding remarkably paternalistic when he asks us to consider that he "helped birth a project" that will allegedly bring about heightened awareness. I believe that Kostbar is sincere, but he is either unaware of or choosing to ignore what he's doing. At the moment, he is not acting like a true hearing ally.

Allow me to anticipate some bloggers' arguments: "You're brainwashed by Deafhood priests." "You're not thinking for yourself." "You're a crab." "It's his CHOICE." "What's the hubbub about? He's just ACTING, for Pete's sake!" and more. None of these are true. I'm not brainwashed. I'm thinking for myself, and I believe it shows in how I've examined Hamill's and Kostbar's statements and empathize with both of them. I've already discussed the choice issue above. When one is talking about oppressed minorities, a member of the majority culture acting as the oppressed minority simply does *not* wash.

Let's go back to my originally stated premise. Hamill and Kostbar are getting a lot of anger heaped upon their dark-haired heads. This is unnecessary. We are civilized people and capable of debating this issue calmly with respect. Angry name-calling is not going to further our argument; in fact, it will only serve to alienate them. Kostbar's synopsis already says that Hamill feels out of place in the Deaf community. Aren't some angry bloggers and commenters proving his point? For-for? Matt Hamill is one of us. Let's reach out to him. Let's talk with him and open a dialogue with him about this topic. For example, we could suggest that he play himself and that Kostbar get a lot of credits in the film (producer, director, writer, yada, yada). We could try to explain why his decision runs completely against our community values and how damaging it could be to us. Even if he does not change his mind, he will have had the opportunity to see that this issue runs much deeper than a small group of pouters and whiners complaining, and that that image of a small group of whiners is completely untrue.

We need to support Hamill as an individual and as a community member, even if we do not support his actions. Hamill can count on my support as a person, even while I lie on my stomach, banging this entry out on my sofa, critiquing his actions and decision. This is the responsible thing to do as a community member, examining actions and discussing them while supporting each other.

**Note: Only productive comments will be allowed through, even if they do not agree with the points in this entry. Inflammatory and insulting comments will never see the light of day.

dimanche 27 avril 2008

DeafSide: Home?

The message at the DeafRead conference last winter, according to people who were there, was loud and clear - DeafRead was our home and now we don't have a safe harbor. Since then, DeafRead Custom has arrived. I see pros and cons to this approach, but I confess to having implemented it happily. And now we get DeafSide? Woo-hoo!!

DeafRead Custom is an interesting creature. It's very difficult to hide many blogs because you have to click on one blog at a time and wait for the page to reload after each blog. I suspect it was implemented this way on purpose in order to force us to be choosy about which blogs to hide. Once I discovered that, I had to pause and come up with a set of criteria to help guide my clicking and waiting. They can all be boiled down into two sentences:
If the blogger is irresponsible about airing his/her opinions and routinely accuses others of being divisive, militant, exclusive, etc, I'm not interested. If the blogger repeatedly forces Deaf-centered people to have to defend our existence as a valid, viable one, I'm not interested. *click*
I'm only interested in reading/viewing entries from responsible bloggers, even if I don't agree with them. The blogs that I have hidden run the gamut from ASL users to non-signers, and they are hidden only because they fit the criteria above. But hiding only 15 blogs has made DeafRead a much more pleasant experience for me. Kudos to Tayler and Jared for coming up with this solution!

I don't understand what the hue and cry is about DeafSide myself. The idea is freakin' BRILLIANT! According to Tayler and Jared,
We understand the need for a safe harbor for the cultural and linguistic minority. DeafSide will not be a place for vblogs with a lukewarm reception to ASL. The vbloggers will unabashedly support ASL and other signing languages and have a strong Deaf cultural center. DeafSide will provide a protected area to help all signing languages thrive and encourage positive discussions among the signing Deaf.
And the problem with that is what, exactly? Women have forums where they feel safe and can celebrate womanhood. Different ethnic groups have forums where they feel safe and can celebrate their experiences. CI parents have forums where they feel safe and can celebrate their stories. And it goes on. We can't have ours? If that's the case, something's wrong with the picture here.

And the cries of "Exclusion!" are unfounded. The only "not" anywhere in their announcement says that "DeafSide will not be a place for vblogs with a lukewarm reception to ASL." Otherwise everything is described in language that describes what DeafSide will be. There's no mention about having to have certain backgrounds, certain hearing levels, certain levels of signing skill or *anything* like that. The only requirement is to "unabashedly support ASL and other signing languages and have a strong Deaf cultural center." And that's bad how, exactly? I fail to understand the fear here.

EVERY single time we Deaf-centered people create a safe harbor, it's invaded by people who would wipe us out with their attempts at "normalization." Not only that, some of our own people jump on the bandwagon and point fingers at us, accusing us of every crime under the sun... when all we want is a safe place.

DeafSide can only help DeafRead, as I see it. Many people have lost a lot of interest in DeafRead because it's not a safe place anymore. Deaf-centered people, who came to DeafRead to celebrate signed languages and our uniquely Deaf way of life, have been reduced to defending our very existence. That's one of the reasons I haven't been blogging these days. No matter how busy I was, I used to be able to find time to blog every once in a while. But I personally don't feel safe anymore. I don't mind having discussions with people in a give-and-take fashion, where everyone *listens* to each other. People who know me know that I can often be found sitting down with someone and talking to them, trying to raise them to a higher plane and to make them better community members (not by brainwashing, thankyouverymuch. I want people to think for themselves!). So that's not the issue. The issue is that since last summer, when I blog, I've had to defend my existence against people who believe that I need to be fixed. That's scary and nauseating all at once. And I'm not alone. Based on discussions in the Real World, MANY bloggers and commenters feel the same way.

Now with DeafSide, that safe harbor will be back! I believe that will encourage many people to return to blogging/vlogging/commenting and it'll bring more people into the fold. The brilliance of the plan is that DeafSide will be directly channeled into DeafRead. This will bring back the Deaf-centered voice that's been slowly disappearing from DeafRead. This will ensure that the goal of DeafRead remains - a place to bring all perspectives into one central site.

And ANYONE is welcome to join DeafSide, no matter what their background is, their signing skill is, or anything like that, as long as they show respect for the Deaf way of life.

I'm throwing my full support behind DeafSide (even tho' I think the name should be DeafCenter, DeafHub, or something like that). Thank you so much, Tayler and Jared, for crafting such an amazing solution to this dilemma!

samedi 5 avril 2008

Don't Give Up!

I've had a really, really rough 6 weeks, and there have been times when I've been ready to completely throw in the towel and just do nothing but my job, my family and friends, and my personal interests. No more community involvement. No more caring. I've had to deal with people who do not value the Deaf community, who are willing to tear down leaders to further their own selfish agendas, and with unprincipled leaders. It. Has. Been. Rough. I've gained some equilbrium back over the past two weeks, though. What has helped me get through the crap is having a base, consisting of many different people from all walks of life, who believe the same as I do - in being the best person I can be, in putting the welfare of the community first before myself, and doing whatever I can to support our leaders and our community. I was also touched by the comments left in my "Trials" post by people I have never met. Thank you! A huge shout-out to my base, all of you! *hug*

If we could all operate from a respectful Deaf-centered perspective, supporting the community and the larger world out there, doing everything we can not to damage any living thing, and showing kindness and caring toward everyone else, the world would be an amazing place. But every single one of us, as individuals, can make a difference.

I got the story below via an e-mail from a friend, and it is shown here exactly as it was in the e-mail. Just one person believing in another makes all the difference. Every time I read it, I sniffle. Thank you to whomever originated this e-mail and to all who sent it on. I hope you enjoy it, and do what you can to make a positive difference in the Deaf community and in the world!

Freedom and Jeff
Freedom and I have been together 10 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings. Her left wing doesn't open all the way even after surgery, it was broken in 4 places. She's my baby.

When Freedom came in to Sarvey Wildlife Center in Everett, Washington she could not stand.The Center is run by volunteers who like animals.

Both wings on the eagle were broken: her left wing in 4 places. She was emaciated and covered in lice. We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the veternatians office.From then on, I was always around her. We placed her in a huge dog carrier with the top off that was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lay in.

I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight; and she would lay there looking at me with those big brown eyes. We had to tube feed her for weeks.
This went on for 4-6 weeks, but she still couldn't stand. It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldnt stand by herself in a week.

You know you don't want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon. I didnt want to go to the Center that day, because I couldnt bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear. I went immediately back to her dog cage; and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle.

She was ready to live. I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day.We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove,and then to jesses,(these are thin leather strips) and we started doing education programs for schools in Western Washington. We wound up in the newspapers, radio(believe it or not) and Miracle Pets did a TV show about us.

In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere), so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo. Lost the hair -the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. I swear this happened time and time again.

Fast forward to November 2000, the day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant. They did the tests; and I hwas to come back Monday for the results. I went in Monday, and I was told that all the cancer was gone. Yahoo!

The first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the "big girl" out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadnt said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew. She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), She touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I dont know how long. That was a magic moment. We have been soul mates ever since she came in. This is a very special bird.

On a side note: I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power coarse through his body. I have so many stories like that.

I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedom's.
Hope you enjoy this.
PS - I found the website, and a different version of the story above on the site, entitled "The Circle of Healing."