Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What am I doing about it? - A work study revisited

While on the shuttle bus home today, a student took issue with my recent letter from the editor (posted as a blog here on 25 April 2006). In the letter I decried the lack of opportunities given to somebody with a mental handicap. Rhetorically, I asked if anyone had “taken the time to teach him to play the piano, to write a story?” This student returned the question to me saying that I had done nothing but point a finger.

For exactly two seconds I was at a loss for words (a rare thing, according to those who know me). And then, I shifted the discussion and said nothing because what I wanted to say would have been an impolite challenge, too short for a three minute bus ride.

So, here’s my response now:

Taking a stand and exposing a problem is never easy. If it was, civil rights workers in the South would not have been killed. People would have reacted to Hitler’s extermination policies quicker, and the press would not have let Scott McClellan get away with the obvious lies and half-truths that he did.

Taking a stand and exposing a problem is never easy. Taking a stand is the first action in taking a step. Getting up and out of the comfortable zone of “minding one’s own business” requires fighting against emotional inertia. Some people will never do this once in their lives.

Taking a stand and exposing a problem is never easy. If it was, then journalists would not be killed while in pursuit of a question that humanity has been asking for at least 2,000 years: What is Truth?

Taking a stand and exposing a problem is never easy. And making it more difficult is the realization that it is not my job as his coworker to take a stand for this person. It is the job of his family and friends, his community. It is my job as a journalist to report on the problem - to bring it to the public attention. The only concession I can make to his humanity through my relationship with him is to allow him the space to pick up the tool he chooses.

What am I doing? I’m doing what little bit to evoke change that I can humanly do.

Am I just pointing a finger with out actually taking an action? No more so than any other person who has stood up to say “this isn’t acceptable.” Is my letter from the editor all that I could do? No, but it’s all that I care for the public to know about what I’m doing – what I do in my personal life is not for the world to examine and not for anybody to ask me to justify.

Now I return the question: What are you doing, aside from complaining?

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