Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Phone Call

I think he was angry because I haven't given up hope. But that's only a guess. I wore my black ribbon today and, stupidly, it was hard for people to notice because I'd worn a very dark shirt. I had to point it out to people and then ask them to ask me. It was a tad weird but I was going to talk about Brent Martin on my first day wearing the armband. What wasn't weird was the response I got. As soon as I began describing Brent's murder and the point of the black armband people got very quiet, very serious and asked questions that indicated that they very much got the point of the protest. It's heartening to know that there is caring in a world where such violence can occur.

Thus, I was feeling good about the day. Doubly good because I'd been contacted by a reporter from the Sunderland Echo who is interested in doing a story on the protest. He indicated that he knew Brent's mother and would let her know about what we are doing this week. Emails have poured in to my hotmail address from people who are joining in and people who are saying thanks for bringing this story to a broader audience - to a community of those who care. I should be wary of feeling good because that just means that an axe is waiting to fall.

On the way home from work, while in the car, I got a phone call from someone who I've chosen not to name here. But this is someone here in Ontario who is fairly well known for their work in the field of disability. I don't know him well but we've met on occasion and I've always felt that he saw me as either 'frivolous' or a 'wing nut'. That's OK, I'm an adult, I don't need everyone to love me anymore.

His phone call was to express concern about the black ribbon campaign and to ask if I'd even thought about what I was doing or was I 'just acting on impulse'. I told him that of course I'd thought about it, but that I was also acting on impulse. I had been angered by the story and my first impulse was to shout 'ENOUGH' as loudly as I could. My blog seemed to be the place to do this and therefore, I did.

He said that, this is a quote, 'campaigns like this are meaningless, they get everyone stirred up for a few days and nothing changes' ... I told him that I didn't agree. Brent's story has changed something in me. It's changed something in others. Isn't that where real change begins? Personal awareness. Making a pledge to oneself that one will no longer simply sit and mutter ... that one will now stand and shout. He actually 'tut tutted' me. Tut Tut. Really.

"How many others has this happened to, how many tragedies, why should this one be different?" he asked. Again I told him that because we'd gotten into the habit of silence when one of our own is murdered, brutally murdered isn't a reason to continue with silence. Every minority community has had to break silence.

It's time for us.

To break silence.

I asked him to think about the fact that there were people, maybe not many, but people in Holland, England, Ireland, Canada, the United States, Austrailia, New Zealand that were wearing black armbands in memory of a man with a disability. In memory of someone lost. Isn't that at least a hint of who we are as a community? Isn't that a beginning of a vision of who we could become as a community.

He Tut Tutted again. And I got mad.

I told him that I had not given up hope. I will not give up hope. I will stay the course. I will fight the battles as they come and trust my impulses when they seem to be right.



Though he seems comfortable in the quiet.

I will be silent no longer.

And then, I hung up.


wendy said...

I wish I knew who said this, but it is a quote I hold dear. "Just because we can't do everything doesn't mean we can't do anything!" This person invading your car with is negative messages is missing the point!

Anonymous said...

Good for you Dave. Perhaps you should have "tut-tutted" him back.

Anonymous said...

I have always found this quote to be a powerful one:

They came for the Communists, and I
didn't object - For I wasn't a Communist;
They came for the Socialists, and I didn't object - For I wasn't a Socialist;
They came for the labor leaders, and I
didn't object - For I wasn't a labor leader;
They came for the Jews, and I didn't object - For I wasn't a Jew;
Then they came for me - And there was no one left to object.

Martin Niemoller, German Protestant Pastor, 1892-1984

Anonymous said...

In the end we will remember not the words of our enemy but the silence of our friends.


Tom said...

What happened to Brent is beyond ordinary words. His murder hits me in the gut, like a sucker punch.

Yet I have a great respect for the power of words, for their ability to define the indefinable and to even heal.

I wonder if your caller didn't have the words to articulate the true reason(s) for his call. Maybe he, like I, fear that there is the very real possibility that Brent Martin becomes an abstraction, a symbol. That Brent's death turns more into what we are about than who he truly was.

Wear the black ribbon. And send Brent's mother some flowers or a card.

Anonymous said...

I've worked in the disability field for long enough to have realised that often times we are our own enemy. This phone call, this person is a perfect example of how we are held back from within. Our progress is stunted by those we trust to care for others and change our world. We often ask the world around us to change and expect that it will, but some of our own are terrified of that change and not always willing to look within and change ourselves first.

Thank you for this post. It comes at a most opportune time as I struggle with some of the same concerns at my agency. Not that I ever was a silent person, but I will be much louder from now on.

Casdok said...

How dare he tut. Its attitudes like this that make me so angry. Im glad you were able to say your piece and put the phone down.

Unknown said...

This telephone call confronted the attitude of someone with faith,- which is the belief that there is something in life worth doing, and the feeling of it,- with disbelief and lack of courage. You are the one who dares, Dave, so in my eyes you are already winning.


Eric said...

What a tragically defeatist attitude from your caller.
We can all make a difference however small, and somedays that is all that keeps me going. Inaction or ignoring also has consequences at some level, and can indeed define us.

"And a spirit is characterized not only by what it does, but no less by what it permits, what it forgives, and what it beholds in silence."
- Leo Baeck

ms bond said...

Dave. Think about how many more people know about Brent Martin thanks to you. In less than a week you have been responsible for spreading his story to hundreds if not thousands of people. I know that I personally have shared his story with 7 people. And I am not even wearing my black armband yet (I keep forgetting to find something that will work). I just blurt out Brent's story to whoever will listen. That means I have been responisible for making seven people tear up. You can bet that at least one of those seven poeple will share Brent's story with someone else. And that is going to add up...you have started a movement. You are one of my heroes. And most importantly I don;t think a single person who has read your blog would claim that this hasn't made a difference. So this is what I say to Mr. Negativity on the phone ...."piss off."

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tom: "I wonder if your caller didn't have the words to articulate the true reason(s) for his call. Maybe he, like I, fear that there is the very real possibility that Brent Martin becomes an abstraction, a symbol. That Brent's death turns more into what we are about than who he truly was."

Maybe your caller should have thought through his reasoning to call than acting on impulse.

Anonymous said...

and if we do not speak out THIS is allowed to continue


rickismom said...

It could be that he is right--that in the reality of this world, there will always be evil people who do evil things. But I think that it is important for US to note this death for OUR sakes. So that WE retain a bit of the goodness we were created with.And if it helps someone, even once, to stand up when he sees even a smaller injustice being done, that will be well worth it.

Anonymous said...

I am wearing black this week. Just as Matthew Shephard was remembered, Brent should be remembered. This shouldn't happen again, and disablism needs to be eliminated the same way that other -isms are, by making every human being aware of it.

I'd like to see some kind of web tribute to people who are victims of violence because of disablism and related hate crimes. A memorial of sorts.

AZ Chapman said...

Hi dave Az here. I am a teen with cp and nld. I am sorry about that rude man on the phone. believe in the power of hope. Stop by my blog to learn more about me.

Yatseq said...

Well done Dave. What an asshole!!!
On Friday our service users will discuss if there is anything else we can do to protest. To stop them from hurting innocent people! Maybe we can do anything :)