This is the testing time, now, this is the waiting, waiting with every fiber near to taut, stretched out tight between cautious optimism and sheer skepticism. We meet with the Dean of Students this evening (if my boss calls me to confirm), and if all goes accordingly, the team will walk away with some well-earned knowledge, namely:
-What’s the budget, and can we have at it?
-Where’s the physical Office of Disability Services ACTUALLY GOING TO BE??? (and please don’t put us in that “new” Administration building that won’t be completed for another 2 years)
-How about signing off on the Policy for Persons with Disabilities at UCC, so we can take it to the next person up the administrative chain? Please...
And other little assorted issues… But above are the basic foundations of everything we’ve been doing for the last five months.
Given what's on the table, let me state that I feel I may just droop into a little flop, unable to even throw a wobbler, if the following occurs:
1. We learn the Dean of Students has*:
· Gone to a last minute meeting, off-campus, not to return. Try calling tomorrow, or the next day, sometime.
· Gone to Kumasi for the week for a wedding.
· Gone on sabbatical.
*These could all actually could happen.
2. We learn Administration thinks**:
· This new “disability fee” should just cover the cost of a lift in the as yet unfinished Administration building. And that should just about cover that!
· The Office of Disability Services doesn’t need a whole office. It can share with the Debate Team.
· You know, this Policy is really wordy. Let’s leave it off until next year. Or should we just cut out some of these pesky support services instead?
**Yes, I’m completely exaggerating. It’s my sneaking doubts that are being best communicated, not reality as it's been expressed to me. And the Dean of Students is a lovely man who has been supportive since our initial stages of idea development. But you, reader, can perhaps understand that my skepticism (wariness?) is well-grounded in this firm reality: no upfront administrative support = everything we’ve done and want to do becomes Mt. Everest. Well, maybe one of those slightly smaller mountains, but still.
So what of that straining between optimism and skepticism (ok fine, fear)? Where’s the optimism, you say? It’s in this…the students aren't going to give up. And, I think, they might just be getting past the point of politeness. I had a great conversation at the Forum with a gentleman from the Ghana Federation of the Disabled (GFD) about politeness and new approaches in Ghana to advocacy. He told me, as many others have, that DPOs in Ghana have seen doors swing open the fastest and legislation passed most effectively under promise of demonstration. Hey, we decided, when you know what works, you use it. We talked about peaceful movements in the U.S. that became revolutions in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, like the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Lib (I threw in the Gay Liberation Movement, too, but I don’t think that was a super popular reference) and the Disability Rights Movement.
Now as something as a side note, I have to say that on multiple occasions, I’ve heard people say that all the post-Baby boomer generations lack a defining event – none have had an experience like the music, the protests, the fear, the anger and the tragedy that ran riot around the Vietnam War. So I guess it’s been a little flat since then? It’s been boring and undefined X, Y, and Z, all those end of the alphabet letters, not really very thought or image-provoking at all (with the exception of xylophone, yo-yo, and zebra). Well, what come to mind instead are rather generations marked by a multiplicity of events, experiences of social and political revolution in the global North and South (yup… “everyone” has the internet…go google). Whether you’re an X, Y, Z or whatever, ignoring these monuments to human social progress seems like actively keeping your eyes on the back of the person in front of you. What defines a generation, after all? (And who really pays attention to these things, anyway, except when blogging?)
I definitely don't define myself as a Gen-Xer. I define myself by how willing I am to learn and by how much I am willing to yield. I define myself by what fight I will allow to stretch me until I am taut, by what voice I will use, by what story I will write, and by what ending I will give it at its close.So, at this close, I’ll quit with the skepticism. And fear. And optimism, really. Instead, I’ll remind myself and you of all the great and small struggles against human rights violations that have been fought and are being fought now, all over the world. Right here, this evening, is just one piece of one battle, in one place among many; yet it is still meaningful and worthwhile. Sound cheesy? Well, then, go find yourself a human rights violation to address (shouldn’t be too difficult), see how it goes, come back after a bit, and tell me that again. And if the worst happens, since my boss still hasn’t called to confirm the meeting – be it a rescheduled appointment, or a disappointing (inaccessible) choice of locales for the Office, or a semi-squashed Policy – there are plenty of students around who will show me how to be brave. I’ll just follow their lead.