Windchime Walker

Windchime Walker <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Wonder In the Ordinary 

Although I'm a relatively new blogger, my time as an online journal-keeper goes back a ways.

Today marks *four years* that I have been keeping a daily online journal. In the web world that is quite unusual. Except for the times that I've traveled without my laptop, I've only missed writing an entry a handful of days during those years. Those of you who have been reading my journal for awhile know how hard Patsy works to "finish what she begins!"

I have no idea how many regular readers I have. The first year or two I had a web counter, but when I found myself getting too caught up in the numbers, I disabled it. Some readers email me, but a lot don't. Over the years I've heard from folks in Great Britain, Sweden, Lebanon, Egypt, Canada, Japan, the West Indies, Australia, Germany, Italy, Brazil and all over the United States. I know I've forgotten some of the countries so if I didn't mention where you live, I'd love to hear from you. You can either leave a comment or contact me by email.

Often readers will say, "I could never do that. How do you make yourself sit down and write every day?" The important thing is that I never MAKE myself do it; I just do it. After all these years, writing my journal before I go to bed is as much a habit as brushing my teeth. The day wouldn't feel complete without it. I do it for myself, not for anyone else.

How long will I continue? As long as it feels right. If it ever becomes a chore, I'll stop. But I see no evidence of that happening, at least not in the foreseeable future. So invite your friends to stop by. I'd love to meet them. And please know of my gratitude to the members of my FRC (Faithful Reader's Club). I know you're out there and I so appreciate your presence in my life. When I say I write for myself that isn't entirely true. When I write, I often feel you and I are in dialogue, with ideas and energy flowing back and forth between us. You faithful readers help me see the ripple effect of each life, how the choices we make, no matter how small, impact others. Any one of you could also keep a daily online journal and make it interesting. It's not a matter of your life being especially exciting, but of your eyes and heart being open to the wonder of the ordinary.

Keeping this journal helps me notice things I might have missed otherwise. Like the pigeon coming back three times to the roof outside my window this morning to gather twigs for the nest it's building under the eaves of the police station next door. And two chickadees chirping as they hopped from branch to branch outside the same window. And the bright red cardinal singing its spring song high in the birch tree that I saw on my scoot today. And Ed with his old friend Bob Hanley working on the New York Times crossword puzzle together after they'd finished their lunches at the Subway. And my gratitude to be able to join them.

Speaking of the "wonder in the ordinary", Bob and Ed met for lunch today because of a lost hat. Ed, Bob and their friend Jack had had dinner together at Monty's on Monday night. Soon after Ed returned home he got a call from Bob asking if by any chance he had taken Bob's knit hat by mistake. Ed looked but didn't see it anywhere. Bob called Monty's and even stopped at the 7-Eleven across the street where Ed had gone to get him a half gallon of milk. Apparently this hat was a real favorite of Bob's because it was so thick and warm. After I got home from swimming, Ed told me that he'd finally found Bob's hat and had called to give him the good news. Bob told him to look inside the brim. There Ed saw a tag that read, "Handmade personally for you by Patty Dorsey." Bob has been wearing a hat I knitted for him at least 25 years ago, and it's STILL his favorite! That made me a misty-eyed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

No Respect, No Peace 

The Saint Louis Post- Dispatch
February 17, 2004 /Commentary/0522E30D086B418686256E3D003CD8EE?OpenDocument


Violence, humiliation only aggravate the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

In 1939, I left the village of Kippenheim, Germany, on a Kindertransport - a small group of children allowed to go to England - thus surviving the Holocaust. In December, I went to Israel to honor the memory of my parents, Ella and Hugo Wachenheimer, who did not survive the war against the Jews. At a monument near Jerusalem, I lit candles for my parents and for the other 80,000 Jews deported from France to the death camps.

It is impossible to visit Israel these days without being aware of the constant threat posed by terrorists. Suicide bombs kill and maim innocent persons riding in buses or taking a meal in a restaurant. We Jews who survived the Shoah know all too well that the intentional targeting of civilians is illegal and immoral. So I grieve the loss of life in Jerusalem from the suicide bombs.

But I also grieve the loss of life in Palestine, which occurs almost on a daily basis. So I went to Palestine as a member of the International Solidarity Movement to observe the difficult conditions of daily life under military occupation. It would have been enough to reach out and touch just one Palestinian and place my hand on her shoulder and tell her that I was with her in her pain. But I saw and did much more.

In Bethlehem, I saw a Caterpillar bulldozer ripping up centuries-old olive trees to clear a path for rolled razor wire and antitank trenches dividing the town where Jesus was born.
In Qalqilia, I was dwarfed by Israel's separation wall rising more than 25 feet. In President George W. Bush's phrase, it "snakes in and out of the West Bank." It keeps farmers from their fields and hems in 50,000 residents on all sides.

In Masha, I joined a demonstration against this wall. I saw a red sign warning ominously of "MORTAL DANGER" to any who dare cross this fence. Then I saw Israeli soldiers aiming at unarmed Israeli and international protesters. I saw blood pouring out of Gil Na'amati, a young Israeli whose first public act after completing his military service was to protest against this wall. I saw shrapnel lodged in the leg of Anne Farina, one of my traveling companions from St. Louis. And I thought of Kent State and Jackson State, where National Guardsmen opened fire in 1970 on protesters against the Vietnam War.

Near Der Beilut, I saw the Israeli police turn a water cannon on our nonviolent protest. And I remembered Birmingham, Ala., in 1963 and wondered why a democratic society responds to peaceable assembly by trying literally to drown out the voice of our protest.

At the end of the journey I had a shocking experience. I knew that what I had said and done was viewed by some as controversial but surely not as threatening. So I did not imagine that the Israeli security force that guards Ben-Gurion Airport would abuse a 79-year-old Holocaust survivor, holding me for five hours and performing a completely unnecessary strip search of every part of my naked body.

The only shame these security officials expressed was to turn their badges around so that their names were invisible. The only conceivable purpose for this gross violation of my bodily integrity was to humiliate and terrify me.

Of course, I felt humiliated by this outrage, but I refuse to be terrified by cowards who hide their identity while engaging in such unnecessary disrespect. It is a cruel illusion that brute force of this sort provides security to Israel. Degrading me cannot silence my small voice.

Similarly, humiliating Palestinians cannot extinguish their hopes for a homeland. Only ending this utterly unnecessary occupation will bring peace to the region.

Hedy Epstein of St. Louis is a Holocaust survivor, Holocaust educator and longtime civil rights and peace activist. Her story is featured in the Academy Award winning documentary, "Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport."

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Don't Run! 

I sent the following email to Ralph Nader after reading of his announcement on "Meet The Press" that he would be running for President of the United States again this year:

Dear Ralph

There are times to stand for our ideals, and then there are times to stand for our survival. 2000 was a time for ideals; 2004 is a time for survival. We now know what it means to our nation, the world and the planet to have George W. Bush as President of the United States. We can no longer say, as so many of us did in 2000, that there is no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. We know that GWB does not really care what members of his own party think, much less what the rest of us think. When a man can say that tens of millions of people taking to the streets to protest his war are simply a "focus group", we know he cares not a whit what anyone thinks of him or his actions. When the same man destroys friendships with countries that have been America's allies for generations, we know he cares little for the nation he pledged to lead.

George W. Bush must not be allowed another four years as President of the United States. I speak not as a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Libertarian or member of any political party; I speak as a human being who is deathly afraid for our nation, world and planet, a reasoning being who cannot imagine the damage that will be done if this man is re-elected (or elected for the first time, as is the truth of it) for another four years.

I understand that countless persons, groups and organizations have literally begged you not to run for President this year. Not that they don't think you would make a fine President, or that they disagree with your commitment to bringing a third party into American politics, but that they, like I, are fearful that if we lose even a small percentage of votes that would go to a candidate who could actually beat Bush, the worst might happen and we would have another disastrous four years of Bush & Co. in the White House. We cannot take that chance.

The fact that you have decided to run anyway makes me think either 1) you are living in some fantasy world and have not seen what has happened since Bush took office; 2) your ego is getting in the way of your making a reasoned decision; or 3) you don't really care about our planet, its species, water, air, U.S. civil liberties, women's rights, the working poor, the people of Iraq, our own troops, Muslim/Arab/South Asian immigrants, an economy that is in shambles, a federal deficit that is the largest in our country's history. The list is endless.

I add my voice to those who are BEGGING you to change your mind and not run for president this year. If you go ahead with this irresponsible decision, you will have forever lost my respect. I will hold you personally responsible if George W. Bush gets another four years in office. As I said at the beginning of this message, 2004 is a time to think of survival. Please do your part to help our planet survive. DON'T RUN!


Patricia Lay-Dorsey

If you would like to let Mr. Nader know what YOU think of his decision to run, you can email him at

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Anyone But Bush 

"So who's your candidate?", asked 10 year-old Ali as he took his seat at the art table today.

"Kerry's my man", he continued.

Sometimes I really appreciate not being the teacher because it means I can answer questions like this.

"Anyone but Bush", I replied.

Anyone but Bush. I wonder how many voters in this country would say the same thing. I'd guess there are millions of us. Look at how many people got out on the streets last winter to say "No war in my name!" Has it ever been like this before? Has there ever been a U.S. President who inspired such hatred? And I don't use that word lightly. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard someone say, "I just can't bear to hear his voice or see his face on TV", I'd be rich.

Why is that? I know the right-wing radio show hosts are always saying, "Oh, those liberals! They just hate Bush. It doesn't have anything to do with his policies; it's just a knee-jerk reaction with them."

Is it? And if so, why?

My inability to watch George W. Bush on TV or to hear his voice on radio goes back to when he was campaigning for the Republican nomination in 1999-2000. It WAS a gut thing. And I'm not ashamed of that. I believe we as members of the human species have intuitive, protective instincts for survival. I've seen this in myself on a number of occasions. I recall one day over 15 years ago when I was walking by myself down a rather deserted street in Detroit. Suddenly I felt unsafe. I didn't see or hear anything different, but something had changed. I remember walking up to someone's front door as if I were going in. I waited in their vestibule until the feeling passed, which it did. It was that same feeling of dread and threat that I felt every time I saw or heard Mr. Bush. From the beginning, I'd turn off the TV or radio whenever he appeared. Eventually I just stopped watching any TV or radio news at all. Believe me, my reaction to this man was and is deep.

I think part of it is his emptiness. I'm not saying this to be cruel, but I experience George W. Bush as an individual who is missing certain qualities and inner resources that we expect to find in adult human beings. He seems to have no curiosity, especially of an intellectual nature. He does not reflect on past decisions, meaning he cannot see the consequences of his actions, even after the fact. In terms of making decisions, there appears to be no capacity to weigh the pros and cons. What may look like a decision is simply the manifestation of feelings he's been harboring for some time. And these decisions often come out of childish hurt and/or visions of grandeur. The only benefit to Mr. Bush in getting information from intelligence sources and/or advisers is if it fits what he's already decided to do.

Then there are certain key phrases that can be used to get him to do what you want. In "The Price of Loyalty", former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill reports a discussion with the president and his advisers about giving a big new tax cut to the wealthy. According to O'Neill, the president questioned the need for such a tax cut, saying, "Haven't we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut's gonna do it again." But when Karl Rove kept repeating in his ear, "Stick to principle. Stick to principle. Don't waver.", Bush went along with it. Apparently Mr. Bush is willing to go along with anything if he thinks it makes him look strong and determined. Doubting or reflecting on the wisdom of decisions is unacceptable.

In recent weeks we have seen the president "stick to his guns" about the importance of having attacked Iraq and overthrown Saddam Hussein. I genuinely believe that Mr. Bush cannot understand why anyone cares whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or not. The man was "evil" and had to be "taken out." The escalating violent resistance to the U.S. occupation, the utter chaos throughout the country, the daily deaths and woundings of American troops--not to mention the 100,000 women, men and children of Iraq who have died thus far--doesn't seem to worry the president, except insofar as it impacts his chances for re-election. When pushed, Mr. Bush spends most of his time justifying his war and occupation by maintaining, "Iraq's better off since we 'liberated' it."

George W. Bush is not dangerous because he is evil; he is dangerous because he is sincere. If he were lying, the people would pick up on it. But how can you be called a liar if you have never acknowleged the truth, especially to yourself? Everything Mr. Bush says, he believes. THAT is more dangerous than lying. Because with a liar, you can pick up on their deceit through body mannerisms like an unwillingness to look you in the eyes, cold clammy skin, a change in their tone of voice. That is how a polygraph test works: it records such physical dissonances. But someone who doesn't even know they are lying will pass a polygraph test with flying colors. So when people say they believe George W. Bush, their perceptions are correct. This is one of the most sincere men you'll ever meet.

I think most of us know--at least those of us who have studied and brought critical analysis to bear on the issues--that President Bush is less the problem than the advisers his father has gathered around him. People like Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, and the nameless ones who stay behind the scenes. For when you have an individual who is missing essential pieces of his or her make-up, it is too easy for more strong-willed persons to fill in the gaps with their own ideas and agendas. And that is what has happened since George W. Bush took office as President of the United States on January 20, 2001.

And that is the nightmare we must end with a vote for anyone but Bush on November 2, 2004.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Windsor Women In Black 

This morning as I passed from the Stars & Stripes to the Red Maple Leaf painted on the wall of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, I thought to myself for perhaps the hundredth time that one of the best things about living in Detroit is being so close to Windsor, Ontario. Twenty minutes from my door on a good day. Is it my imagination or do I always breathe easier when I come up on the other side of the Detroit River? Especially since Bush and his crowd started their War On Terrorism--more like a War on Democracy--Canada seems so gentle-spirited in comparison. I know things are not perfect over there either, but, believe me, things are A LOT better than in the States. And today I was able to stand with my Canadian sisters and proclaim without words the kind of world we all want...a world without war.

My friends Joan Tinkess and Pat Noonan started this Women In Black group back in November 2002. Since then, for a half hour every Wednesday, from 8-15 women have stood in silence with their signs--photos #1 & #2--at the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge to the US. Not only are they seen by truckers and cars that pass by, but since they're right beside the University of Windsor, students walking by see them too. And let me tell you, their faithfulness during ths VERY cold and snowy winter is pretty awesome. They have not missed one Wednesday since November 2002; they were even out there on Christmas and New Years Day. What an effective presence of peace.

I think sometimes we tell ourselves that it doesn't matter if we get out there on the streets or not. Who's going to see us anyway? We say just "living peace" within ourselves is enough. Or maybe we do email activism, or even talk to friends and family about what is happening in the world. We might say there are so few of us it wouldn't pay to get out there.

Yet here are these women faithfully standing in silence week after week. They don't know if what they do makes a difference to anyone (except themselves). They don't know if their signs and their presence have changed even one mind. But they get out there anyway. Rain, snow, wind or sleet doesn't stop them, nor does freezing cold or blistering heat. Sometimes only a few of them can make it, but that doesn't stop them. One of their number comes directly from her job as a night nurse at a local hospital; she hasn't even gone to sleep yet.

Doesn't this make you want to try doing something more for peace than you're doing now? It does me.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Baghdad Burning 

I feel like I'm living part of each day here in Michigan and part in Baghdad. Ever since I discovered Riverbend's blog, Baghdad Burning, I've been reading not just her current entries but her archives. She started keeping her blog last August, so there are now six archives; I've read three.

I can't say enough about this woman's insights, political awareness and powers of analysis, knowledge of the current situation and history of Iraq, the political and religious players in Iraq and America, their foibles and the groups that support or hate them, her religion and culture, her neighborhood and family. I could go on and on. One more thing--Riverbend is one of the finest writers I know. And I understand that lots and lots of people discovered her way before I did. One of my journal readers wrote yesterday to say that she's been reading Riverbend's blog for some time now. She also reads A Family In Baghdad, a blog kept by a mother and her three sons. I originally found both blogs through links from Where Is Raed?, a blog I followed daily during the height of the war last spring.

Do we realize what is happening here? Because of the internet, we are now able to BE with people in Iraq and other far-flung places that most of us will never see. We don't have to be dependent on the men who bring wars and suffering or on the mainstream media that supports their actions to tell us what they've decided we should know about Iraq and Iraqis.

No, we don't believe their lies, because we've heard the truth from Riverbend, Fayza, Raed, Khalid, Majid, Salam Pax and Raed. We know they are our friends not our enemies. What they suffer, we suffer. When they celebrate, we celebrate. Through their ears we hear explosions and gunfire in the night, the heavy tread of tanks during the day. We feel their fear and anger. We see date palm trees bulldozed and lying broken by the side of the road. We cry and laugh with them. Because all of it is happening NOW. This is no memoir we're reading, no book written after the fact. These ARE the facts, and they are happening practically as we read them.

Do we realize how revolutionary this is? No other time in history has such an opportunity existed. Never before could the citizens of countries at war with each another, speak and listen to one another as individuals, with no government getting in the way.

Now when I put it like that, I realize that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Karl Rove and John Ashcroft would LOVE to put an end to such freedoms. I think we'd better keep a close eye on their behind-the-scenes manuvering, because--not to be paranoid--my guess is they are already doing everything they can to close down, or at least control, the internet. It is, after all, the most significant, effective tool for organizing, connecting, sharing, informing and communicating on a global scale. What a threat to Bush's White House!

Be watchful, friends. We don't want to lose this.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Dr. Seuss for President 

The Whos down in Whoville liked this country a lot,
But the Grinch in the White House most certainly did not.
He didn't arrive there by the will of the Whos,
But stole the election that he really did lose.
Vowed to "rule from the middle," then installed his regime.
(Did this really happen or is it just a bad dream?)

He didn't hear voters, just his friends he was pleasin'
Now, don't ask me why, no one quite knows the reason.
It could be his heart wasn't working just right.
It could be, perhaps, that he wasn't too bright.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
Is that both brain and heart were two sizes too small.
In times of great turmoil, this sure was bad news,
To have a government that ignores its Whos.

But the Whos shrugged their shoulders, went on with their work,
Their duties as citizens so casually did shirk.
They shopped at the mall and watched their TV's,
They drove their gas-guzzling big SUV's,
Oblivious to what was happening in Washington, DC.
Ignoring the threats to democracy.

They read the same papers that ran the same leads,
Reporting what only served corporate needs.
(For the policies affecting the lives of all nations
Were made by the giant US corporations.)
Big business grew fatter, fed by its own greed,
And by people who shopped for the things they didn't need.

But amidst all the apathy came signs of unrest,
The Whos came to see we were fouling our nest.
And the people who cared for the ideals of this nation
Began to discuss and exchange information.
The things they couldn't read in the corporate-owned news
Of FTAA meetings and CIA coups,
Of drilling for oil and restricting folks' rights.
They published some books, created web sites,
Began to write letters and use their e-mail
(Though Homeland Security might send them to jail!)

What began as a whisper soon grew to a roar,
These things going on they could no longer ignore.
They started to rise up and fight City Hall
Let their voices be heard, they rose to the call,
To vote, to petition, to gather, dissent,
To question the policies of the "President."

As greed gained in power and power knew no shame,
The Whos came together, sang "Not in our name!"
One by one from their sleep and their slumber they woke
The old and the young, all kinds of folk,
The black, brown and white, the gay, bi- and straight,
All united to sing, "Feed our hope, not our hate!"

Stop making new weapons and bringing more war!
Stop feeding the rich, start feeding the poor!
Stop killing Iraqis to fuel SUV's!
Stop telling us lies on the mainstream TV's!
Stop treating our children as a market to sack!
Stop feeding them Barney, Barbie, Big Mac!
Stop trying to addict them to lifelong consuming,
In a time when severe global warming is looming!

A mighty sound started to rise and to grow,
The old way of thinking simply must go!
Enough of God versus Allah, Muslim vs. Jew
With what lies ahead, it simply won't do.
No American dream that cares only for wealth
Ignoring the need for community health.
The rivers and forests are demanding their pay,
If we're to survive, we must walk a new way.
No more excessive and mindless consumption
Let's sharpen our minds and garner our gumption.
For the ideas are simple, but the practice is hard,
And not to be won by a poem on a card.
It needs the ideas and the acts of each Who,
So let's get together and plan what to do!

So they started to gather from all 'round the Earth
And from it all came a miraculous birth.
The hearts and the minds of the Whos they did grow,
Three sizes to fit what they felt and they know.
While the Grinches they shrank from their hate and their greed,
Bearing the weight of their every foul deed.

From that day onward the standard of wealth,
Was whatever fed the Whos' spiritual health.
They gathered together to revel and feast,
For although our story pits Grinches 'gainst Whos,
The true battle lies in what we daily choose.
For inside of each Grinch is a tiny small Who,
And inside each Who is a tiny Grinch too.
One thrives on love and one thrives on greed.
Who will win out? It depends who you feed!

By Author Unknown

Friday, February 13, 2004

The Real Iraq 

I feel like I've just walked through a living nightmare. It wasn't my nightmare, but that doesn't matter. It was someone's nightmare and it shouldn't be happening. And why is it happening? Because George W. Bush and his handlers insisted on attacking Iraq--I refuse to call it a war--and now the people of that country live a nightmare that never ends.

A young Iraqi woman who goes by the name, Riverbend, keeps a blog called "Baghdad Burning" . In it she tells of her day-to-day life, offers reflections from a feminist perspective, and discusses what is happening in her country. Today's entry was the first since January 31. And what an entry! I'm not going to tell what it is about. It deserves to be read in her words.

My god, will we americans never learn? Will we never see that when we destroy a country with our weapons, take control of it with our ill-informed self-serving leaders and troops, and create havoc in every sphere of life, that it is not the identified "enemy" who suffers: it is ALWAYS the innocent. Ask Riverbend.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Cause for Hope 

Two items of information gave me hope on this gray winter day:

1) The New York Times ran its most critical editorial to date of our current president. Titled, "Mr. Bush's Version", this lengthly analysis of yesterday's Meet The Press interview between Tim Russert and George W. Bush, called into question more than simply whether or not GWB knew the Iraqis had no WMDs before he used that "fact" to justify his determination to attack Iraq; it questioned his very character and fitness to serve as president. FINALLY!

2) Today I heard from Carol Bendure that Pointes For Peace added 39 new names and addresses at their table in front of the Democratic Caucus site for the Grosse Pointes on Saturday. Pointes For Peace was co-founded by Carol and Mary Read last winter to mobilize community opposition to Bush's plan to attack Iraq. From a core of 15 hardy souls, their group has grown to 300! They still gather every Sunday night to discuss national and international news at a local coffeehouse, and on February 23rd will present their seventh Peace Talk to the community. These talks generally attract between 100-150 persons, but they're expecting at least 200 on February 23rd because Bishop Tom Gumbleton is scheduled to speak about his recent trip to Iraq. By the way, the Grosse Pointes (five cities to the east of Detroit) are heavily Republican and noted for their politically conservative views. Carol also told me that 830 persons voted on Saturday in the Grosse Pointe Democratic Caucus for Michigan's Primary! This compares with 100 voters four years ago.

Believe me, if this is happening in Grosse Pointe, it must be happening everyplace!

Sunday, February 08, 2004

The Moon 

The moon blazes white
upon my quilt,
turning night into day.
I cannot sleep with
its unblinking eye
wide open
in the February sky.

What does she see,
this farsighted moon,
this unprotected orb
of light?

My legs stirring like
sea anemones
under the blanket?

A child's voice adding to
the chorus of moans and cries
in an overcrowded Iraqi
hospital ward?

A couple married so many
years they hardly wake
to make middle-of-the night
love under soft, wash-worn sheets?

An elephant trumpeting its
final cry as the poacher's bullet
pierces its heart?

A woman placing her nipple
into the already-sucking mouth
of her hungry baby?

A star dying a lonely death
within a galaxy on fire,
swirling in space?

The moon sees all, tells nothing
and knows its place.

The silent observer
of life.

Patricia Lay-Dorsey
Detroit, MI
February 8, 2004

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Becoming a Disabled Activist 

Am I becoming a disabled activist by default? I don't mean an activist with a disability; I've been that for years. I mean an activist who fights for the rights of persons with disabilities. Last weekend in Ann Arbor gave me two opportunities to hone my skills.

The first occurred at the University of Michigan Museum of Art on Sunday. When I tried to scoot into the women's restroom, the way was blocked. Through the partially-opened door, I could see a big black couch was in the way. I went to the guard and asked if someone could please move that couch out of the way so I could get into the bathroom. He had on a neck brace, so he asked the staff member who was working the cash register in the Museum Shop to help me. She came and pushed the couch forward enough so I could get through the door. Fortunately the handicap-accessible toilet stall was right there so I could use it, but all the other stalls were blocked by the couch. Obviously it had to go.

I asked the guard if any of the museum administrators were in, but, because it was Sunday afternoon, the answer was "No." I then asked for the name and phone number of the administrator to whom I should speak about this problem, and he wrote down a name and a phone number. He also told me that someone else had complained about this problem during last summer's Ann Arbor Art Fair, but nothing had been done about it. He wished me luck but you could tell he wasn't particularly optimistic.

Monday morning I called the number I'd been given, and left a message on the museum administrator's phone machine. Since I'd be out of phone contact that day, I didn't leave my number, but gave my name and a brief description of the problem. I think I said something like, "Besides being discourteous to disabled visitors to the museum, this situation is illegal." I don't really know if that's true, but it sounded good. I was courteous throughout, and said I was sure she'd want to know about this problem. I encouraged her to simply remove the couch from the restroom. Then I told her I'd call back later to speak with her in person.

Tuesday morning I called her back. The first thing she said when I identified myself was, "Oh, I'm so glad you called back. The museum was closed yesterday, so I had the couch removed. We replaced it with a much smaller cot. And we checked to be sure the door could open wide enough for anyone in a wheelchair." She went on to thank me profusely for bringing this to her attention. She then admitted that there had been an earlier request to move the couch, and she had been dragging her feet. "But as soon as I got your message, I knew I needed to take care of this problem NOW! And so I did." She must have thanked me five times for speaking up. She also told me that the museum is going to be expanding within the next five years and that handicap-accessibility is one of her top priorities.

It felt pretty swell to meet with immediate success in my first disabled activist effort, but I suspect this next issue is going to take a lot more than one or two phone calls to see the changes I feel need to be made.

I told you in yesterday's journal about going to the newly-renovated Hill Auditorium on Sunday to see my goddess daughter Emily perform in the University of Michigan Javanese dance drama, "Gongs of Truth." The background of my complaint is that Hill Auditorium has just reopened after a two-year, multi-million dollar renovation. It was such a big deal that the New York Times even ran an article about the reopening and the beauty of this Ann Arbor treasure.

Well. Beautiful, yes, but--and that's a big BUT--they left out an essential element that would have made it truly handicap-accessible. There is NO automatic door-opener from the sidewalk into the building. And the door pulls open which makes it even harder for scooter and wheelchair folks to manage.

It isn't that I expect automatic door-openers on every building, but when you've just spent hundreds of millions of dollars, kept a building closed for two years, and dug up all the land around the building itself, I DO expect total accessibility to be part of your plans. To be honest, I was shocked that they didn't have that simple aid for the elderly and disabled! The Michigan League--which is just as old--has automatic door-openers inside and out. And there was one other thing missing--no signs at street level to tell you where the accessible entrance was located. I had to scoot around both sides of the building to find it.

But they did some things right. The new handicap-accessible seating area is excellently placed. And there are not only signs all through the lobby showing where to find the ramps to the disabled area, but they even have a special handicap-accessible one-stall restroom across from the regular restrooms that also have accommodations for the disabled. So it wasn't as if they weren't thinking of us; they just missed this one, rather essential, part of making the building totally accessible.

On Sunday, I got the name and telephone number of the Hill Auditorium house manager, and on Monday morning I called her. This time I was lucky and she answered the phone herself. It turns out her husband uses a wheelchair, so she is WELL aware of such problems. In this case, she thought it would carry more weight if I brought my concerns directly to the person who had overseen the renovations, so she gave me his name and number. She also thanked me for doing this. As she said, I am doing it not just for myself, but for everyone.

I called and talked with Jeffrey Kuras, the Director of University Productions. I think Mr. Kuras was somewhat embarrassed that they hadn't thought of automatic door-openers in all their discussions around accessibility during the renovations. He said he'd bring it up with the architects at their meeting that afternoon. I told him I'd be calling back to see how thing were proceeding.

In all of this, I'm learning that it doesn't pay to complain unless you're willing to take it to the next step, and that is to bring the problem to the attention of the person who has authority to make changes. And even then, you don't just make your request and go away; you keep at it until you meet with success.

As I said earlier, I sense I'm just beginning with this Hill Auditorium automatic door-openers issue.

Yesterday I left a message on Jeffrey Kuras' phone machine, and today he called me back. In essence he said that the architects informed him that automatic door-openers are not ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) required, and that anything they might do about it would take many, many months to accomplish. He seemed to think it would cost $10,000 per door. What disturbed me about our conversation was his repeatedly saying, "Yes, it would be nice if they had automatic door-openers." Almost as if I were asking him to change the paint in the ladies room so it would be nicer aesthetically. Handicap-aaccessibility is not about being NICE; it is about being JUST. It is an issue of justice, not kindness or charity.

After talking with Mr. Kuras, I called the newly-formed University of Michigan Office of Institutional Equity and left a message for Anthony J. Walesby, Assistant Provost and Senior Director, detailing my concerns. This office is equipped to handle issues relating to discrimination due to race, religion, abilities, sexual orientation and/or gender. It has a special department that works specifically on issues of accessibility and possible ADA infringements in university buildings. They say the Anthony Walesby is a dynamic individual who is committed to justice for all.

If one door seems locked, just try another.

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