Travel to Clint Eastwood's Resort?

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Tonight a very controversial film won at the Academy Awards. The fact that the vast majority of those watching the event had no clue about the depth of the controversy is not surprising to those with disabilities.

I forward (below) a very interesting essay by fellow activist and public
scholar, W.C. Cleigh.

"It is unfortunately true that since what is happening in America and much of the world today is in fact a paradigm shift, those who see the world from the viewpoint of disability culture need no explanation of why M$B is an atrocity while for those who do not, it may well be that no explanation will suffice."

Why We Protest
W.C.Cleigh

Many do not understand why disabled activists are protesting Million Dollar
Baby. Even some disability studies students agree with mainstream critiques of
the movie, finding it "poignant and heart wrenching." In this, they express
an utter lack of understanding of disability activists' objections to M$B.

The very fact that such movie viewers and reviewers found M$B "heart wrenching
" and sympathize with the "decision" to kill the disabled character, makes it
obvious that they are functioning from the ableist (aka Mainstream) paradigm
of disability rather than seeing disability from the paradigm of disability
pride/disability culture. This is very likely not any individuals' (personal)
fault. It is a fact, as Irv Zola observed, that ableism is "metabolized in the
bloodstream of society." I would not even blame `Dirty Harry' for his ableism
were he not taking a role very like that George Wallace played vis a vis an
earlier movement to end discrimination.

It is unfortunately true that since what is happening in America and much of
the world today is in fact a paradigm shift, those who see the world from the
viewpoint of disability culture need no explanation of why M$B is an atrocity
while for those who do not, it may well be that no explanation will suffice.

Perhaps an analogy will help. For this to be understandable, and inoffensive
to other minorities, it must be understood that I am Cherokee although many
think that my appearance (coloration, etc.) is European. Picture a movie,
perhaps set in the late 19th century for believability, in which someone like
me finds out about her `Indian' heritage - or is `outed' - as an adult. She
is then sent to what is essentially a prison - say a reservation in this
analogy. All of her belongings are confiscated and virtually every stereotype
of the `squaw' is imposed upon her. Now assume that this movie portrays her
committing suicide rather than protesting her imprisonment/degradation,
despite the fact that the filmmakers `set up' her character as the feisty,
fighter type when she was assumed to be white. Now visualize her enlisting
the `aid' of one of her white `friends' to kill her. Would most Americans
still find it "heart wrenching?" Would they still `appreciate' the decision
to end her life? Now assume that it is opening to critical acclaim and looks
to be a box office smash and an academy award winner. Would mainstream
viewers and reviewers understand/support Native American activists protesting
it?

The problem, of course, with such analogies is that when applied to any other
minority "better dead than." makes little sense. Yet "better dead than
disabled" is not only immediately recognizable, it is such a part of ableist
oppression that the reasons we object are rendered opaque. We are not the
only minority to suffer genocide. We are, however, the only one that is
expected to beg for a place in the cattle car.

Some have assumed that Clint Eastwood's involvement in M$B is the sole reason
for disability protests against the movie. While it is certainly not the sole
reason it is nevertheless a good one. Mr. Eastwood not only defended a
perfectly justified ADA suit (over a $6.5 million renovation to his resort
that left all future guests in wheelchairs without a washroom they could
enter), he did it in a most smarmy manner. It is my understanding that, among
other things, he avoided being served notice of the suit for more than 2
years. This demonstrates that his zealous support for the ADA Notification
Act (which would require 90 days notice before ADA complaints could be filed)
is disingenuous in the extreme. He knows that all he'd have to do were it in
effect is avoid being served and he could never be sued again - thus
eviscerating an already far too weak law. He is openly ableist and proud of
it. He is doing his utmost to block the civil rights of disabled people.
Thus comparing him to Gov. Wallace is, I think, appropriate.

So here's my suggestion to all who found M$B `heart wrenching' rather than
stomach wrenching: decide which paradigm you will occupy. Those who wish to
stay in the ableist paradigm and attempt to hide behind a veil of ignorance
can expect to draw fire from those disability activists who are not patient
with ableists. For those who wish to shift their paradigm and enter the world
of disability pride and disability culture, a journey awaits. Please;
however, be prepared to have your deepest assumptions about disability, the
relationship between disabled and non-disabled people and indeed, the nature
of social relationships in general challenged. One of the very exciting
things going on today is that disabled people are challenging not only the
oppression that we have suffered for millennia, but the very basis of
oppression in society. We are asking questions about the fundamental nature
of hierarchies and human nature and challenging society to see what my people
call the sacred hoop (or circle) - the interconnectedness of life and
particularly how interconnected human beings really are and how very much it
diminishes us all to assume that any life is valueless.

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