Inexcusable silence in the face of police brutality

I can tell you from firsthand experience that there are quite a few good and decent and blazingly courageous members of law enforcement. In fact, it was members of the NYPD that saved my life when I was held up and shot in the head in 1984. Nevertheless, facts are facts.  From Oakland to NYC to Seattle and back there have been and continue to be glaring examples of police brutality inflicted on non-violent protesters who are doing nothing more than exercising the rights our constitution gives them, not to mention drawing attention to the fact the freedom that is supposed to come with being a citizen of the United States of America is slowly but surely disappearing.  Not to mention the fact that the 1% are running the show and are clearly behind the violent response.

And much of the mainstream media is in bed with the 1% because the mainstream media is owned and operated by the 1%. Close to 30,000 New Yorkers marched in NYC the other night. Try finding that in mainstream media. You’re living on another planet of you think the majority of the mainstream media isn’t as invested or nearly as invested in squashing the Occupy Movement as big business and Washington (but I repeat myself) is.

When you see American veterans being physically assaulted by law enforcement, there is silence from the White House and Congressional leaders. When you see 84-year-old women like Dorli Rainey drenched in pepper spray there is silence from the White House and Congressional leaders. When you see non-violent protesters being beaten, doused with pepper spray, punched, trampled by those members of society who are supposed to protect them, the silence of our country’s so-called leaders is deafening in its support for the ongoing brutality.

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Dorli Rainey after being doused by pepper spray by Seattle PD on Nov. 15 2011

The current silence of those in Washington as well as the silence of so many leaders in states and cities across the country when it comes to the violence being inflicted on non-violent protesters is no different than those who remained silent when Alabama’s governor George Wallace and Georgia’s governor Lestor Maddox waved the banner of racism; it is no different than those who remained silent when Birmingham Alabama’s Bull Connor turned fire hoses and police dogs loose on non-violent protesters including children.

As Dante Alighieri said: “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” Many of our nation’s leaders are booking rooms in  hell as we speak.

The Hottest Places in Hell

On the one hand you have New York State Department of Health officials who will proclaim their commitment to making sure brain injury survivors in New York receive the best services possible under the TBI Medicaid Waiver. But the DOH signs a contract with Southern Tier Independence Center in Binghamton knowing full well STIC will hand the work to a clinical predator like Tim Feeney who prances about proclaiming he has college degrees he doesn’t have.

Then you have STIC, the Southern Tier Independence Center and their executive director Maria Dibble who would no doubt proclaim their loyalty to people with disabilities, yet Dibble and STIC have no problem giving work to a man they know lies about his credentials to the very people STIC and Dibble claim to care about.

At least the DOH has enough respect for a consumer led advocacy coalition to sit down with us and while some of their position related to the Feeney debacle is, in a word, indefensible, there are other things the DOH is doing that are admirable. Not so STIC and Dibble and sure as hell not so Feeney, all of whom simply ignore requests for answers for the consumer led advocacy coalition.

I’m in the early strides of penning a book about my experience as a brain injury survivor as well as my experience working in the field. Feeney and his enablers are certainly great examples of yet another reality dramatically wrong with the health care system. Just as troubling are those who go along with the ruse. NYSARC again hiring Feeney for a presentation knowing damn well he is a fake.

Soon a round of interviews will begin, with elected officials, law enforcement officials, DOH officials and many more. Meanwhile, it appears time to do all I can to bring the media in on this. In addition to inflicting Feeney and his enablers on men and women (and for Feeney, children too) with disabilities, there is more than a quarter million in state dollars being paid to the contract that pays Feeney and his crew.

For any advocacy group to not take a public stand against this means, by default, they are standing for it.

As Dante Alighieri said, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.”

 

THE COST OF ADVOCACY

Someone who loves me recently suggested I might want to consider pulling back on my advocacy for others when my advocacy might hurt me, or cause me to lose a job. I am moved by her kindness and caring and understand fully why she and others worry about my welfare. But I can’t hold back on my advocacy at all.


Dante Alighieri wrote, “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality,” or stay silent. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The true measure of a man’s strength is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of trial and controversy.”


Whatever price I might pay for my human rights advocacy is far less than the price I would pay, emotionally, morally, spiritually and physically, if I chose silence. Moreover, whatever price I pay pales in comparison to those enduring the experience of being treated as if they are less human than others. A woman who is a good friend of mine and a survivor of brain injury recently pointed out to me that once you become disabled, you are expected to be obedient, you are expected to acquiesce to the will of others, often people that have anything but your interest at heart. She is right.


I will never sit quietly by when I see others being denied their civil rights, their right to live in dignity. For the last decade plus my advocacy has been focused primarily on people with disabilities, primarily people with brain injuries – like me. But I have and will always advocate for those who are gay, black, latino, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, etc. It is who I am.


I have lost jobs because of my advocacy. It is quite likely my current struggles can in large part be traced back to my unwillingness to keep my mouth shut when I witnessed people being denied their rights. It is a price I am more than willing to pay.


Consider the following observations:


  • If there were not millions involved in the Civil Rights struggle, we would not be referring to Barack Obama as President-elect Barack Obama.
  • Were millions not advocating for gay rights, there wouldn’t even be a dialogue about whether or not to give an official nod to gay marriage.
  • Had people not advocated, women may still not have the right to vote, black Americans would still be riding in the back of the bus and there would not be an American with Disabilities Act.
  • Were there not extraordinary consumer advocates like Ralph Nader there would not be cushioned dashboards and air bags and seat belts and more. Do you think the auto companies put them in out of the goodness of the hearts? If you do, then you have a better fantasy life than I do.

I have said more than once that I am willing to give my life in the struggle for equal rights for all. I meant it.

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