Mike Kueber's Blog

August 1, 2015

Conversation and missed encounters

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 3:10 am
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A couple of days ago at Lifetime Fitness I attended a special Yoga under the Stars.  As I was leaving, I noticed an acquaintance whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of months.  I swung in his direction, said hi, and bumped fists with him before continuing on my way to the locker room.  After I got to the locker room, I regretted not stopping and catching up with the guy, so I went looking for him, but he was already gone.

Why didn’t I stop in the first place?  I wasn’t in a conversational mood and had only an instant to decide whether to stop and, if I did, what to say.  So I took the easy way out, and afterward was disappointed.

This incident brought to mind two concepts:

  • Encounters.  Last year, I blogged about the recommendation of French philosopher Gabriel Marcel that people should pay more attention and energy to their day-to-day encounters.  Author Michael Novak described this philosophy as follows: “Marcel brought new light to daily experiences, such as recognizing the ‘presence’ of other persons and ‘encounter’ with another person – in other words, not just a passing, inattentive moment with another human being, but something more.  He drew attention to the difference between sitting between two people on the subway for an hour – treating them without recognition or interest or attention – and the act of having a memorable exchange of personal qualities.”
  • Conversation.  A few weeks ago, I blogged about the art of conversation in the context of cocktail parties and how this art can enhance encounters.  Indeed, several episodes of Downton Abbey include situations where conversation is treated as an art to be learned and practiced.

In hindsight, I kick myself over the missed opportunity after Yoga under the Stars.  Next time, I will be ready.

July 31, 2015

Cecil the Lion and Chris Duel

Filed under: Facebook,Law/justice,Media — Mike Kueber @ 1:37 pm
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Cecil the lion and Chris Duel

Chris Duel is a local media personality who works well in both the political and sports arena.  I met him to do an on-line interview when I ran for the City Council and I then I bumped into him at this year’s Rock and Roll Marathon.  He has always seemed a thoughtful moderate, so I was a bit surprised this week when he posted on his Facebook wall some over-the-top support for the liberal hang-wringing/anger over Cecil the Lion:

  • Amazing how late night comics like Kimmel, Stewart & Colbert catalyze opinions & national consciousness while mainstream news usually fails.

I decided to pour some cold water over this ode of love:

  • People whose views are catalyzed by Stewart and Colbert are a small subset of America. They are creatures of cable. There’s a reason they aren’t mainstream.

One of Chris’s friends decided to put me in my place:

  • Michele Autenrieth Brown: It’s a fact: more people get their news from Facebook than any other source. And, most people don’t watch Colbert, Stewart or any others on live TV. They stream it… or watch clips on social media. They are mainstream and a result of a lack of fair and balanced coverage. They poke fun…but if you watch Stewart with frequency, you will see some fantastic interviews with the leading news makers of the day. I will miss his sense of humor and calling BS when it is so desperately needed.

After a little research on the subject, I tried to put Michele in her place:

  • Me:  Michele, Fortune magazine may have recently reported that more people get their news from Facebook, but the magazine went on to say, “Still, for most people on social media, neither Facebook nor Twitter is terribly important for their news consumption. Just 4% of Facebook users and 9% of Twitter users call their platform ‘the most important way I get news.'” I do watch Stewart frequently, and he more often than not does challenging interviews of politicians, but the first two segments of the show are almost always directed at eviscerating conservatives and conservative causes. He is an unabashed liberal and a proponent of liberal causes.

Earlier in the day, Chris addressed the Cecil the Lion matter by attacking those who had apparently challenged the shrill Cecil defenders of having screwed up priorities:

  • Chris:  As some criticize Jimmy Kimmel for criticizing the killing of Cecil, Paul Alexander posted this brilliant reply to those who are angry that Kimmel isn’t showing anger at what they’re angry about: “Let me explain something to you. Jimmy Kimmel was pissed about Cecil….because he was pissed about Cecil.  That doesn’t mean it’s the only thing he’s pissed off about….or that it’s the most important thing he’s pissed off about….or that he’s suggesting it’s the only thing YOU should be pissed off about.  It was what he was pissed off about at the moment…..so he got pissed off about it. This notion that if he’s not pissed off about exactly the same thing you’re pissed off about at exactly the same moment you’re pissed off about it that he is somehow therefore dissing you and your personal cause of the moment is ridiculous.  This notion that he shouldn’t have been pissed off about Cecil because it would have been more appropriate for him to be pissed off about what you’re pissed off about is juvenile, arrogant, illogical and is a reflection on…….YOU….not him.  You’re pissed off about something else? Fine. Go get your own network tv show and get pissed off about it. But Kimmel is under no obligation to carry your water.  It’s the Jimmy Kimmel show. It is not the “Oh, yeah, well what about (fill in the blank)?” show.  If you think his jokes fall flat, light him up. He’s far from my favorite comedian.  But this criticism he’s facing about his reaction to Cecil is bullshit.”

I’m not sure what Paul Alexander does for a living now, but when I came to San Antonio he was a TV broadcast sports anchor.  And because I occasionally see pompous posts from him on Facebook I liken him to MSNBC talk-show guy Ed Schultz, who was a TV broadcast sports anchor in ND before I moved to Texas.  Although I was tempted to call out Alexander for his ad hominem comments, which he is wont to do, I decided to keep it civil and challenge him on substance:

  • Me:  I’m not sure what unspecified complaint is being made against Kimmel because the only one I’ve heard is abortion. That isn’t some random thing to be pissed at. Rather it is closely associated with the Cecil killing because it relates to the value that we put on life. No one complains when liberals chastise conservatives for their self-proclaimed love of life while at the same time promoting capital punishment. Hypocrisy, they yell. Well, this is basically the same thing in that conservatives are charging liberals at being excessively concerned with animal life while sanctioning the termination of human fetuses. Kimmel put the dentists face and name on national TV. What would you think of putting the face and name of abortion doctors on TV?

Neither Chris nor Alexander responded.

Sandra Bland

As with most the white-cop, black-victim stories on Facebook, I initially don’t devote enough energy to learn the details (conveniently, that help me to avoid rushing to judgment), but if stories don’t go away I eventually find myself commenting.  That happened a few days ago regarding Sandra Bland when one of my Facebook friends (and law-school classmate) posted her disgust with some macho cops.  Before I provide our Facebook thread/stream-on-consciousness, I suggest these take-aways:

  1. The race card.  Liberals and the media prefer a narrative of white-cop, black-victim.  If the cop is white, then race is relevant.  If the cop isn’t white, like the Bland case, the Staten Island case, or going back to the white Hispanic neighborhood cop Zimmerman, then race isn’t mentioned.
  2. Resisting arrest. The vast majority of the incidents involve the victim resisting arrest or a lawful order.  A simple solution would be to teach people to not resist arrest.  Instead Bland was taught that she didn’t need to cooperate with a cop other than giving her name and driver’s license.
  3. Black-on-black crime.  Most people believe that cop-on-black violence in only a small fraction of black-on-black violence, yet the media provides only a small fraction of its energy in highlighting and examining the issue of black-on-black crime.  No wonder that race relations in America with a black president are the worst they’ve been in years.

I wonder if any of the people who are so critical of the policemen in these situations have every had a family member who has served in such a capacity.  I’m not sure whether I would sleep easier with a son soldiering in Afghanistan or policing in a rough part of town.  But perhaps most people aren’t as critical of the policemen as the media suggests.  Ordinary people on juries and grand juries often absolve the policemen who has already been convicted in the media.

Facebook thread:

My friendly law-school classmate:  My mama always said something along the lines of big guns on their hips make them think they are big men everywhere. wink emoticon We were talking about this troubling issue about the whole Bland video at work this week. As CNN Commentator Mark Lamont Hill stated, “I refuse to legitimize police violence against people by telling them that if they behave differently, maybe they won’t die . . . maybe you won’t end up on the ground. Yes, there are strategies we can use to survive. But the fact that we live in a world where we have to deploy strategies not to be murdered or killed or assaulted by police unlawfully is absurd.” Trooper Encinia’s attitude that he is entitled to submissive, obsequious, blind obedience to his every comment is what was so disturbing. And it would have been disturbing whether or not Sandra Bland died. His arrest of her was wrong. Plain and simple. And these kinds of arrests happen all the time, but they are not on the national news.

Kueber:  I’m not sure this is much of a story if Bland hadn’t subsequently committed suicide. And I don’t know if the arrest caused the suicide.

My friend:  Did you read what I said? “And it would have been disturbing whether or not Sandra Bland died.” It would not have been “much of a story” unless it was you or one of your kids who was arrested on this bogus stop. She was arrested because the trooper had to prove his dominance and that all should fear and respect him whether he’s being an ass or not and then she was held on a completely made-up-after-the-arrest charge and then she was held in a jail cell for 3 days and then she committed suicide. You want to argue the precipitating event. That is avoiding the point here. The point I was making in this particular post was that we should not have to bow down and kiss the feet of every single police officer no matter what they do. Surely you can agree with that.

Kueber:  A black CNN commentator used terms very similar to describe his view – i.e., you said we should not have to bow down and kiss the feet, while Marc Lamont Hill said we shouldn’t have to kiss the officer’s butt. Of course, I agree with that, but….  about a year ago, I had an experience very similar to Bland’s initial encounter.  Some gruff, old white cop was directing traffic for a massive cop-funeral procession and he suddenly started yelling at me for being in a lane that he wanted empty.  As a lawyer, I knew he was in the wrong and I was mightily tempted to elevate the argument (as lawyers are wont to do when they know they hold the winning hand), but instead I followed the cop’s belittling instructions with only enough talk-back to maintain my self-respect without escalating the matter.  Lamont Hill went on to say, “Black people have a right to assert their dignity in public.”  I felt like asserting my dignity, too, but instead I backed off and came home to write a blistering post to my Facebook wall about the unprofessional cops in SA.

Kueber:  As I thought some more about this matter, I wondered how I would feel if one of my kids was involved, and I’m not sure whether I would be more disappointed in my kid as the cop or my kid as the driver.

My friend:  Mike, spoken as a person of privilege, my dear.  [She loves to accuse me of white, male privilege.] And the reason for noting the race of the CNN commentator? Does that make his statement less or more valid? I just don’t think that the trooper would have been insisting, first of all, that you tell him why you were irritated. That kind of question is manspeak to the little ladies who are supposed to be pleasant to the big man at all times. Okay. You want to argue about whether she should have answered his question about why she was irritated? Or why she wouldn’t put out her cigarette? Or why she was scared of getting out of her car when he was acting like a bonkers macho pig? And I don’t mean pig as in police-speak but in macho-speak. And let me tell you that I actually do have friends who are police officers. And I would be very, very disappointed if they acted like this. And I would be very unhappy if my kids argued with a police officer because I want them to live. Pretty stunning support for why this was such a bad arrest.

A friend of my friend:  Tell it, girl. I’m with you 100%. It seems so obvious to me. We shouldn’t be pointing at Sandra Bland’s behavior as causing this disgrace, both her treatment and the racial hatred that animates so many people in Texas. I can’t even imagine living my entire life with the fear and outrage she must have felt, while smiling and being a “good girl,”

Kueber:  Refusing to look at Sandra Blank’s behavior reminds me of the Bush-43 comment about the soft bigotry of low expectations. “Scared of getting out of her car!” R u kidding?

My friend:  And I am not refusing to look at Bland’s behavior. I looked at it. I watched the video several times. And he had absolutely no reason to threaten to drag her out of her car. She had broken no law that required that kind of response. She hadn’t even “cussed” at him yet, if you want to consider that an arrestable offense WHICH IT IS NOT. Her later outraged response to his outrageous behavior was understandable to me. Not the wisest or most Godly behavior. But understandable. Perhaps if she had licked his boots after she had offended him BY HONESTLY AND DIRECTLY ANSWERING HIS QUESTION AS TO WHY SHE WAS IRRITATED by his bogus stop, then maybe she would have just been humiliated and not arrested. Yeah, I can sure see why he had to abuse, humiliate, and throw her on the ground FOR PULLING OVER BECAUSE HE WAS APPROACHING FAST BEHIND HER and failing to signal a lane change. We need to stop trying to be apologists for what is clearly bogus behavior by the trooper. His arrest warrant was even more bogus because he knew he did not have any real justification for his behavior. NONE. And every time someone supports this arrest by blaming her “behavior,” they add another nail in the coffin of our civil liberties. Now, to go back to the beginning of this string of comments, my post was about how Encinia’s behavior and reactions are reprehensible regardless of whether Sandra Bland died. And yes, this is getting publicity because she died. It is a shame that someone has to die before this kind of issue is discussed. And for those who are posting all those “I support the police” statements, the implication is that police are infallible. They are not. They have hard, scary jobs. I deeply admire the ones who do it well. And when the others screw up they should be called on it. Because they have scary power. So we the people have to make sure they use that power fairly and wisely. And off of my soapbox now. G’nite.

Kueber:  I watched the video for 17 minutes and the crux of the matter seems to be when he asked her to put out her cigarette and she refused.  Although she had the right to refuse that request, he had the right to ask her to get out of her car, and she had no right to refuse that.  From that point on, most legal experts agree that the officer was entitled to take the actions he did, even though Brand sounded confident that she was entitled to sit in her car and say nothing other than “you’re doing all of this because of a traffic ticket.”  This altercation didn’t happen because of the lane change; it happened because of how Bland responded to the traffic stop.  Encinia did not threaten to drag Bland out of her car until she refused his polite request that she get out of her car. You mentioned the danger to our civil liberties; do you consider an individual’s right to immediately challenge an overreaching authority figure (cop/fireman, teacher/principal, captain of ship or plane) to be an important civil liberty? Both you and Lamont Hill express your distaste for kissing the ass/boots of an officer, but I wonder what that has to do with an officer politely asking you to put out your cigarette. And finally, I noticed that the officer’s name is rarely used, and I wonder if that is because it doesn’t fit the preferred liberal/media narrative of the privileged white authority figure abusively dominating the oppressed black person. Reminds me of the media’s need to characterize George Zimmerman as a white Hispanic.

July 27, 2015

Jeb Bush and single mothers

Filed under: Culture,Facebook — Mike Kueber @ 3:31 am
Tags: ,

A couple of years ago, a Facebook friend posted a poster bragging that single mothers had raised the two best presidents of modern times, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  She got mad at me when I countered that their mothers may have been divorced multiple times, but neither was single long.  Furthermore, in the case of President Obama, he was co-raised by his grandparents.

Last week, a similar poster appeared on Facebook along with a criticism of Jeb Bush for something he wrote two decades ago in a book, Profiles in Character. In a chapter titled “The Restoration of Shame,” Bush apparently blamed the “irresponsible conduct” of births to unmarried women on a flagging sense of community ridicule and shaming.

When Bush was recently asked by MSNBC about the passage, he responded, “My views have evolved over time, but my views about the importance of dads being involved in the lives of children hasn’t changed at all. In fact, since 1995 … this book was a book about cultural indicators and the country has moved in the wrong direction. We have a 40-plus percent out-of-wedlock birth rate.  It’s a huge challenge for single moms to raise children in the world that we’re in today and it hurts the prospects, it limits the possibilities of young people being able to live lives of purpose and meaning.”

NY Times columnist Charles Blow recently challenged Bush’s position and instead opined a two-prong solution:

  1. First, we should seek to reduce the level of unintended pregnancies in this country. This means that we must wrestle earnestly with poverty, as well as make a more comprehensive sex education and a full range of contraceptive options available, regardless of income.  People should become parents on purpose and not by accident.
  2. Second, we have to examine how we have used the law as an instrument to push unwed fathers out of homes, particularly poor ones, rather than encourage them to stay.

I agree with both men.  Blow’s solutions involve government activity, and that is especially appropriate here since many policy analysts believe that the government’s welfare policy played a large role in causing the disappearance of the dad from many families.  But Bush’s concern for cultural decay is also appropriate because government policy alone does not dictate morality and values.

July 25, 2015

Colin Cowherd

Filed under: Media,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 1:20 pm
Tags: ,

Earlier this week, radio talk-show guy Colin Cowherd was making an argument about how simple the game of baseball was when he offered as supporting evidence the fact that most of the major leaguers were from the Dominican Republic, a country noteworthy for its weak education system.

I believe Cowherd’s statement, although irrelevant, is true, and Cowherd has since provided objective proof of it.  But it is also, in the mainstream media, something that is not said in polite company.  Therefore, ESPN has taken Cowherd off the air.

I don’t envy being a radio talk-show guy, especially those employed by politically-correct corporations.  These guys are supposed to be edgy, but their livelihood is at risk if they say anything that offends an important stakeholder of the corporation.

p.s., if I had a dollar for every time I heard a northeast liberal make a snarky comment about the intelligence of southerners, I could retire :)

Playing reporter

Filed under: Media,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 1:14 pm
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There were a couple of items in the news this past week in which I think the media completely missed an important angle to the stories:

  1. Border sieve.  Kate Steinle was a young woman killed in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant.  The media has focused on the fact that San Francisco is a sanctuary city, so even though the killer was a felon who had been deported multiple times, the city had shortly before the murder released him from an custody instead of turning him over to ICE.  Although the sanctuary-city issue is an important one, I also think the incident does serious damage to the Obama administration argument that our border security has improved.  Rather, the fact that this guy was able to illegally cross our border at least six times shows that the border remain a sieve.
  2. Pre-game preparation.  One of the big story angles leading up to the British Open was whether Jordan Spieth should have gone to Scotland a week early to get acclimated instead of competing in the John Deere Classic in America.  When Spieth competed strongly in the British Open, the argument seemed to have died a quiet death.  But I think the argument should have ended with an exclamation mark because the man who defeated Spieth by one stroke in the Open was Zach Johnson, another golfer who played the John Deere Classic before catching a chartered red-eye to Scotland.  The John Deere Classic should have an easier time filling its field next year.

July 23, 2015

Larry Summers vindicated?

Filed under: Culture,Education,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:13 pm
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In 2005, at a conference on diversifying the science and engineering workforce, Harvard president Larry Summers proffered three potential explanations for why women were underrepresented as professors in the highest science and engineering positions:

  1. High-powered job hypothesis (i.e., women were distracted by family obligations)
  2. Different availability of aptitude at the high end (test results showed that men tended to have both the highest and the lowest scores)
  3. Different socialization and patterns of discrimination in the search and placement

In his conclusion, Summers explicitly attempted to provoke further discussion by suggesting that different aptitude was the dominant cause, saying he would like nothing better than to be proved wrong.

But, instead of proving Summers wrong, the politically-correct police charged him with sexism and careless scholarship.  After a year-long trial in the media, Summers was forced to resign as president of Harvard.  And when his name was floated as a potential Secretary of the Treasury under President Obama, this brouhaha was used to sink his prospects.

I thought of Larry Summers today when I read an article in fivethirtyeight.com about six American boys winning the International Math Olympiad.  The article pointed out that boys have dominated not only the American team but also teams from other countries ever since we joined the competition in 1974.  Eighty-eight percent of the six-person American teams have been entirely boys, and the teams from other countries average 0.5 girls per six-person team.

Joe Klein once defined politically incorrect as a statement that is true, but not proper to be uttered in public.  The lynching of Larry Summers seems to be an excellent example of the politically-correct police on steroids.  Or, as Summers said, I would love to be proved wrong.

July 22, 2015

Poolside ruminations

Filed under: Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 10:26 pm

Whiling away the summer hours lounging with friends in my apartment pool, I try to shift the conversation to my favorite subject – philosophy.  Not all of my friends enjoy the reflective life, but usually I can find a subject that piques their interest.

Last summer, one of my favorite discussions concerned the most important traits in deciding whether to date someone.  We eventually settled on four – smart, attractive, warm, and personable – although I was surprised that some friends discounted brains.

Last weekend, I stumbled into another interesting discussion when a single, 53-year-old friend expressed great satisfaction with his life.  He felt like he had it all – e.g., a prestigious and satisfying job, looks that much younger women found attractive, athleticism that enabled him to compete with college kids in sand volleyball, and excellent social skills.  Because he was sounding a little smug, I decided to challenge his sentiment:

  • Would he be willing to give up his career and his wealth to be ten years younger?

To my surprise, both of us quickly agreed that we would give up our money and our career in order to have ten more years of life.  I suspect there was some hubris in our thinking that we could quickly find responsible, satisfying work in some other capacity, but also it reflects a lack of interest in having wealth.

A few days later, I posed this question to my best friend (60-years old), and he just as quickly declined to move back to being a 50-years old.  He had put a lot of effort into accumulating his wealth and was unwilling to accept the ignominy of being 50-years old without any assets.

Yesterday, I posed this question to a couple of drinking buddies.  One of them said it was a stupid question that didn’t make any difference or any sense.  Instead he wanted to talk about the latest gossip about NFL practices about to begin.  I wanted to remind him that the unexamined life is not worth living, but he wouldn’t agree.

July 18, 2015

The laissez-faire style of parenting

Filed under: Facebook,Parenting — Mike Kueber @ 7:14 pm

Laissez faire is generally thought of as an economic system in which private parties are able to act without government interference, but the term is also more broadly defined as “a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering.”

I grew up in a community of laissez-faire parenting.  Kids were taught that they could be anything they wanted to be, but the community neither excessively admired the overachievers nor meanly scorned the underachievers.

This week a Facebook friend showed a different style of parenting.  Jeff Webster, a former city councilman and current business executive, posted the following:

  • JW – I have been told you can hire someone to help with college applications and essays for HS Seniors. Anybody have any suggestions?

Several of Jeff’s friends provided some useful, encouraging information, but Frank Montemayor took a different tack:

  • FM – Just my opinion, but if my kid can’t do that solo, maybe college isn’t for them…. Good luck.
  • JW – There is art to applications these days. Some tips and best practices. Just like professionals getting advice. Not like when I went off to college.
  • FM – I have been told by my kids that I am a bit gruff, but I put it in their court. :); so far it’s worked….
  • JW – Using that analogy. ..I guess we should not hire tutors for school or trainers for basketball. LoL.

Several people congratulated Jeff, but no one seconded Frank’s viewpoint, so I did:

  • MK – I’m with you, Frank, but I’m a bit gruff, too. I have a son who to this day believes that he didn’t get a football scholarship because I refused to produce a highlights tape to send to college coaches, while his friend’s dad did this (as well as camps/trainers) and got a D-1 scholarship. There’s an arms race going on!

Frank and Jeff civilly exchanged a few more thoughts:

  • FM – Not the same thing in my book… An application and a couple of paragraphs…by high school, should be able to do that….again, just my opinion.  It’s not like I didn’t care…I proofread it for grammar and told her if it made sense…
  • JW – Frank…we normally agree on most things. However, there is an art to the process now…not just fill in the blanks a couple of paragraphs. To each his own. My job is to get my son in a good university. ..not worry about how others get in.

Jeff’s strategy is not really a new one.  Decades ago, I remember my ex-wife wanting to get our pre-teenager sons involved in certain activities because “it will look good on their resumes.”  I didn’t like the strategy then, and I don’t like it now.  But I don’t doubt that the Websters of the world will win some battles because of this characteristic.

Incidentally, when one of my sons was applying for a medical residency, he asked me to help him with his personal statement and I eventually did some significant editing.  Later, when he interviewed with the Mayo Clinic, they told him that they were especially impressed with his personal statement and they ultimately selected him for their Emergency Medicine residency.  And he lived happily ever after.

So I understand the Webster philosophy.  Maybe he has more energy than I did.

July 16, 2015

Cutting to the chase of political correctness

Filed under: Culture,Facebook — Mike Kueber @ 12:31 am

When I was running for the SA City Council, my biggest issue was the outrageous employment benefits given to the police/fire.  One of my friends suggested on multiple occasions that I soften this criticism at candidate forums by first describing the appreciation I felt for the people who staff these first-responder positions.  But in the heat of a stump speech, I invariably failed to soften my spiel and instead cut right to the chase – i.e., the police/fire unions were taking advantage of the city.

My tendency to cut to the chase manifested itself again today on Facebook when I criticized a poster from a state senator calling for more respectful language.  Senator Zaffirini proposed:

  • WISH MORE PERSONS USED RESPECTFUL LANGUAGE. This includes not describing a person by a condition, illness, or disability and not joking about them. Examples follow:
    • Say, “the person who is blind,” NOT “the blind person.”
    • Say, “the patient with diabetes,” NOT “the diabetic patient.”
    • Say, “the student with an intellectual disability,” and do NOT use the “R” word.
    • Say, “the person under guardianship,” NOT “the ward.”
    • Do NOT say, “I’m having a senior moment” or “My Alzheimer’s must be kicking-in.” Such conditions are serious and certainly not humorous for those who have them (or their loved ones).
    • Do NOT say, “She drank until she was cross-eyed” or “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Such statements demean persons who have strabismus or one eye.

If I had learned a lesson from my friend, I might have first said something nice to the senator about being respectful and even noted that I had recently learned that autistic kids (sic) sometimes take “mainstream classes,” not “normal classes.”  But instead I cut right to the chase:

  • “I think most of these examples are unnecessary tweaks that produce stilted speech. What’s wrong with “ward”? I agree with the so-called “R” word, but didn’t realize that the term had been become so bad that it can’t be spelled out in polite society.”

Senator Zaffirini responded – “Mike: Indeed, the “R” word is anathema among all of us who champion the needs and interests of persons with intellectual disabilities. Using “ward” is like calling a person “chattel.””

Following this exchange, I did a bit more research and learned that the senator’s suggestion were based on a new strategy in the disability community to encourage the use of “people-first language.”  According to Syracuse University Disability Center:

  • People-first” or “person-first” language is a way of describing disability that involves putting the word “person” or “people” before the word “disability” or the name of a disability, rather than placing the disability first and using it as an adjective.  Some examples of people-first language might include saying “person with a disability,” “woman with cerebral palsy,” and “man with an intellectual disability.”  The purpose of people-first language is to promote the idea that someone’s disability label is just a disability label—not the defining characteristic of the entire individual.

Bottom line – I recognize that I have a sensitivity deficit and am willing to consider reasonable modifications to my speech pattern (adjectives placed before nouns) on a case-by-case basis in order to avoid offending reasonable people.

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