When I sat down to supper with Phil tonight, I asked him if there is anything in which he believed for which he would be willing to break another law. I learned today that a friend who had never been arrested recently protested for a cause and purposefully got himself arrested. It was an organized protest in front of an office, and when there was no response, the protesters went into the street and blocked traffic in one direction. When the police came, my friend was among the tenth of the people who did not remove himself from the street, and after many warnings, he and the others were arrested. The cause had nothing to do with traffic. In my younger days, I would have simply scoffed at anyone who protested like this, but these days I can see the courage in doing it. I still don’t think breaking one law in protest of something completely different does much good. I think there are negative implications regarding inconveniencing others and diverting police attention from people who more urgently need to be arrested.
If I had been a Black person in the era of Jim Crow laws, I very well may have sat at lunch counters which was illegal at that time. I can understand breaking the very law against which one is protesting, and in this particular case, less people and possibly no one are being inconvenienced. After all, white people sat at lunch counters, and other white people had to wait their turn. Getting arrested for breaking a law for which one is protesting makes sense – at least sometimes.
There are times when breaking the same rule about which one is protesting is inappropriate. For example, I’m glad blind people refusing to remove themselves from exit rows are not as common today. I understand that in the 80’s, a group of blind people wanted to change the rule which eliminated them from sitting in the exit row seats on airplanes. They believed they could help others out of the plane and do anything else required of them in the event of an emergency. So they purposely sat in exit rows and wouldn’t move when asked. I heard about people being carried out of the plane because of this. If I had been unfortunate enough to be on a plane when this was happening, I would have been angry and would have gone right along with the majority of passengers clambering that blind people get their butts out of those seats, so the plane could take off. Unlike sitting at a lunch counter, I don’t see sitting in the exit row as a right, and I definitely don’t think it does anyone — blind or sighted — any favors to sit there to prove how independent blind people are.
After discussion of these things, Phil and I couldn’t help turning next to the recent case of a blind man who was removed from the plane with his guide dog. The plane was on the ground for an hour, and although the dog was moved under another passenger’s feet, as time progressed, he moved back out in the aisle. Then the flight attendant copped at attitude, and a representative of the airline came on and removed them. According to TV interviews the man with the guide dog has given, it was only at this point that the man became combative — especially when he discovered he was the only person being removed from the plane. frankly, I would have too. I know this person well enough to know he would be ready to do as much as he could do to not inconvenience others. He and I served on the board of Guide Dog Users INC. (GDUI) together for a year, and although we were ready to fight for our right to have our dogs with us, he and I had conversations about having to try to be ambassadors and good representatives as guide dog users.
It is well documented and well-known in the blind community that the current president of Guide Dog Users Incorporated has no love for the man removed from the plane. I was caught in the crossfire between the two of them before I finished my term on the board. I wasn’t surprised that the organization did not come out in support of him, but I was deeply saddened. I was discreetly asking a board member some questions about what was going on in GDUI and quietly asked about this issue. I was told that no other organizations had come out in support of him, and the appropriateness of the man’s behavior in the scenario was questioned. The next day, someone else much more publicly asked some of the same questions I did privately about how an organization supposedly advocating for guide dog teams wasn’t supporting this team. This same board member accused me of somehow orchestrating this more public confrontation. I had absolutely nothing to do with it.
The paranoia of this board and president doesn’t seem to have any bounds. People have been kicked off the board without going through any of the processes set up in the constitution for dealing with such issues. I find this truly ironic, because during a meeting when I was GDUI’s secretary, the person who would later become the current president protested against actions taken against others simply because they weren’t liked. I respected her for calling people out for being unjust, and it was one of the many reasons I considered her a friend at the time.
The newsletter editor has quit, because an editorial board was convened to approve articles. This job typically falls under the duties of an editor. However, the editorial board — comprised solely of members appointed by the president — was convened after more than one viewpoint of events in the organization was discussed in the newsletter before her resignation. Free speech has been similarly curtailed on official lists of the organization. I was asked to write my regular column in the latest newsletter and decided in good conscience, I couldn’t do it. This entry is probably full of the ideas about which I may have written.
Neither this writing nor any future actions of protest I may take will get me arrested, but I hope it will make some waves. It’s important that people realize many members are dropping GDUI like a hot potato, and until some semblance of order and balance is restored, I don’t believe GDUI deserves one red cent of donations! When I came on the board of Guide Dog Users INC., I was proud of the organization. During my term, I saw that especially the GDUI board definitely had egotistical people, personality conflicts and serious deficiencies. Still, I was proud to be a member. Just a year and a half later, I’m disgusted by the obvious cowardice, lack of compassion, and favoritism in GDUI leadership. The only reason I am even considering becoming a member again is to get these people out of office in case the drop in membership hasn’t already destroyed the organization. Whatever decision I make regarding rejoining GDUI in 2014, it will be an act of protest.