Day 7 – August 17, 2017 (Measured fury)
8:01 a.m. – Back home after my walk.
I have mixed feelings about allowing myself much credit for completing this morning’s walk. It was easier than the others because it was fueled by a measured fury, a fury that was part of every stride, every movement.
Where does the fury come from? My father and uncle and many of my friend’s fathers and uncles fought in World War II against the Nazis. My father was in the 20th Armored Division, one of three divisions that liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp. The president of my country is the Nazi’s ally. He an ally of White Nationalists, and he is an ally of the KKK. When I hear some talking heads ask each other why the president is behaving like this. I want to snatch them up by the nape of the neck and, in a loud voice, say: “You guys just graduate the Rhetorical Questions Workshop? Because he is a racist! Because he is a Nazi! Wake the fuck up!”
I did the uphill walk again today. It was no match for me. Let me right-size that. It was no match for fury.
When the New York State Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council was formed in the 1990s when the late Mario Cuomo was governor who could have imagined that less than 20 years later, his son and current governor, Andrew Cuomo, would do everything in his power to undermine and pulverize, not just the council’s ability to function, but the sense of safety and right-to-privacy citizens have when attending the TBISCC’s public meetings.
During a remarkably productive TBISCC meeting this Friday, this writer learned and attorney for the state’s DOH, Nicholas Cartagena (firstname.lastname@example.org) issued an email to a private citizen saying if she wanted copies of the council’s minutes she would need to file a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request. For the past two decades council minutes were made available to members of the public once approved by the council. They’d be available at the meetings or sent via email or regular mail.
There’s an even more ominous sign in Cartagena’s email. He says the TBISCC is part of the DOH and therefore it documents are subject to FOIL. This is the first time to this writer’s knowledge that a state official has blatantly claimed the council is part of the DOH and therefore the DOH runs the show. While this certainly appears to violate the legislation that formed the council; it unequivocally violates the purpose of the council, which, under this governor more than any other, seems to be the goal.
This is just one more example of Cuomo’s DOH doing all it can to be obstructionist, when it comes to the public’s right to know what it’s government and advisory councils to state agencies are doing.
Not only does a FOIL requirement violate the construct of the relationship the advisory council has with the public, it puts an unnecessary and punitive burden on people with brain injury disabilities.
- First: Submitting a FOIL request to the DOH is a laborious and time consuming process, largely because of the DOH’s at times blatant resistance and disingenuous posturing in response to the request. I recently submitted a FOIL request (after an email request to Deputy DOH Commissioner Mark Kissinger was ignored) asking who in the DOH was drafting the manual for the TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver). After a month I was informed the DOH needed an additional month to gather the names. When the names identifying those creating the manual finally arrived, months after the FOIL was submitted, they were: Mark Kissinger, Lydia Kosinski, Maribeth (Knuckles) Gnozzio and Dawn Weiss, the latter three all directly under Kissinger. In other words, Kissinger and the DOH knew and had the requested information the moment it was asked for.
- Second: The DOH can legally charge 25 cents a page for documents provided as a result of a FOIL request, making it a financial burden for those on fixed incomes like, say, many New Yorkers with brain injuries.
Unless one’s been living under a rock, or, is severely delusional, it seems quite clear that Andrew Cuomo is New York’s version of New Jersey’s Chris Christie. He’s a bully. Something his father was not. He also doesn’t give a damn about New Yorkers with brain injury disabilities, a group of people his father genuinely cared about.
Perhaps when no one was looking, Cuomo took a pledge not to follow in his father’s footsteps. If so, he’s living up to it. I’ll give him that.
I take no pleasure in wounding others. None. However, no equal rights advocate gets to choose the oppressors. They are who they are. They are accountable and must be held accountable.
You can’t play favorites as an advocate. Silence in the face of oppression is never an option. Silence empowers the oppressor. Silence in the face of oppression is not in my repertoire. It never has been.
As an advocate you will inevitably wound others along the way. But if, for example, someone denies people with disabilities a seat at the table, I am going to say so. If a company providing services to people with disabilities in the community engages in community-based warehousing, I am going to say so. If a non-profit organization designed to help others offers little more than lip service, I am going to say so. If leaders from any walk of life are are among the oppressors, I am going to say so. It’s what advocates do.
Knowing people have been wounded by my advocacy is not pleasant. There are, however, reasons I will not stop. At the top of the list, those being oppressed suffer the deepest wounds of all. And then there’s this. Knowing that oppressors have a found a way to live with themselves as oppressors has made it much easier to live with myself as an advocate.
Those who have been wounded by my advocacy should take a moment to reflect. Perhaps they will realize their wounds are self-inflicted. Those that have complained about me remind me of someone complaining to a friend about getting a speeding ticket. Complainer: “That S.O.B. cop gave me a speeding ticket, can you believe it?” Friend: “How fast were you going?” Complainer: “Around 70.” Friend: “What was the speed limit?” Complainer: “Forty-five.”
Sunshine is the best disinfectant and my task as an advocate is to bring things that impede or deny equal rights into the light of day. My suggestion? Don’t speed.