Tag Archives: ableism

Waiting For Krypton: Education Post for Media Diversity UK

Lee's depiction of DC Comics' Superman and Batman.

Lee’s depiction of DC Comics’ Superman and Batman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The opening scenes of the documentary Waiting For Superman depict education reformer/charter school advocate Geoffrey Canada as describing one of the saddest moments in his life. When he learned that Superman was not real, he was distraught because there was, in Canada’s words, “I was crying because there was no one coming with enough power to save us.” From his perspective, DC Comics’ Clark Kent/Superman “just shows up and he saves all the good people,” “even in the depths of the ghetto.” As a fellow comic book fan, I would have to question whether Mr. Canada knows the story of Superman, and the criticism thereof from the likes of one of his allies for justice, Black Lightning (Jefferson Davis, who, in one rendition, just so happens to be a public school principal) , who noted that Superman may be Kryptonian, but he is still white, and avoids the Suicide Slums (the poor side of town where Metropolis is).

I want to lay aside that criticism, and talk about the idea of power, and what it means in eyes of education reformers. As I quoted Mr. Canada above, he was distraught that there was no one with all of the power to save what Geoffrey Canada calls “failure factories,” or schools in predominantly impoverished neighborhoods that primarily feed the community drop-outs and/or felons, and yes these are communities that are of predominantly black and Latin@ American populations. These “failure factories” are what stifle economic growth, deprive corporations of an educated workforce, and communities of stability. From the perspective of philanthropists such as Bill Gates (from the documentary and his history of being active in the Education Reform movement), children receiving education is for the purpose of the workforce, so that multinational corporations can keep up with global competition. In Waiting For Superman, the topic of power is not discussed again until we see education reformer/charter school advocate Michelle Rhee at work, who was given “broad powers” to make sweeping changes. The issue of power is an interesting topic, and to see it discussed explicitly in these two instances are what caught my attention. Where does power come from? Who has it? What does it look like?

For the rest of the essay, please go read Waiting For Krypton: Race, Ableism and Education Reform

Christianity, Disability, And Nonviolence #TheNewPacifism

Image from The Enablist Project

I hear it everyday: “That’s the classroom YOU belong in!” “Go in there, I dare you!” As an educator who is on staff for a LINC program (Learning In Community) for students with mostly mental and learning disabilities, I catch the tail end of snide remarks made in the hallway form General Ed students. I resist the temptation each day to respond, “You wouldn’t last a day in here.” And truly, they would not; most of the jokesters are students who work so hard and utterly fail to skip their classes. They would not be able to meet the head teachers’ and my social expectations for our learning environment. From three years ago when I first started substitute teaching unto today where I have now been greatly blessed to work at one secondary education school, I always had an interest in working with students with disabilities. In my encounter with these students, they have transformed the way I do pedagogy (teaching), and the way I see the world.

For some time now, I have been thinking of the ways in which working with PWD (persons with disabilities) can help us understand how we are all made in the Image of God. IMO, this image is an undefineable mystery that can lead us to question, and ultimately seek a relationship with our Creator. When I was in seminary, in our worship course, we talked a lot about worship, and how worship styles reflect our theology, and how our worship theologies shape the architecture of our church buildings. Never once did we talk about ACCESSIBILITY, and how PWD are oftentimes left to enter through the backdoor, an out-of-sight, out of mind brand of segregation. On a sidenote, the church I attend is built in such a way that everyone enters primarily through the backdoor, where there are two accessibility ramps. In the sanctuary, a space right in the center of the pews on the right are either reserved or used for PWD. For PWD with hearing disabilities, radios are made available. These are just some of the observations I have made.

One of the relationships from church that has changed me is with a third grade boy with a mental disability we will call Dee. As a substitute, I used to sub (most of the time at teachers’ requests) at Dee’s school. For Kids’ Night Out at church, Dee’s enthusiasm for pizza and playing games always makes me happy. Dee loves Jesus and is a fan of Spider-man. When Dee tries to act out (the first step is anxiety), I am call on to redirect him; Dee can make me smile if I am in a bummed mood. It is a reciprocal relationship, though I am over two decades his senior.

Love not only looks like give and take relationships, love also looks loving words. It means a critical awareness of the language that we use. About a month ago or so, I was called to the carpet because I used ableist language in a post about social justice. At first, I was flustered, and angry for like 3 minutes or so. Then, I sat, and thought about what I was saying, that somehow the metaphor of “blindness” means cold-heartedness and ill-compassion. That’s highly problematic. I thanked the commenter, and editted the post to reflect the correction. It just so happened the same day, my friend Katie shared a post with me, having the same useage of blindness as I had, so I facebook messaged her, and one of the results was this blog post: The Failure To Bother To Love: On Ignorance and Ableism. I think she speaks for both of us when Katie wrote, “When I wrote that article, was I trying to hurt blind people? No, I wasn’t thinking of them at all. And that’s exactly where my sin lay.”

Our sins sometime do lay in not bothering to even think about others. What’s also interesting is the language that we prefer when we have readings of biblical texts. While the writers of Scripture prefer ancient worldviews, we as “civilized moderns” want to tame the beast we call the Bible. In the name of imperialist Western rationality, we will make Jesus’ exorcisms about people with epilepsy. In the modern mind, Jesus BEING PRESENT WITH and curing people of mental illness is translated isolating them (institutionalization), then this type of interpretation does do violence to PWD and the biblical text. Using the stories of Jesus’ miracles to promote the segregation of PWD from able-bodied privileged society is just as morally repulsive as rabid segregationist who twist Ezra-Nehemiah to advocate racial segregation.

There have been a number of excellent blogs post written on the afterlife, theology and disability this year: Brian LePort, Joel Watts, and Suzanne McCarthy: 1, 2, and 3. Maybe for a later post I can talk about Resurrection and Disability, but today, I want to briefly talk about nonviolent ethics and Christology.

The New Pacifism should address INSTITUTIONAL ABLEISM, the exclusion and violence versus the bodies of PWD that goes untalked about. One of the things we do not talk about when it comes to violence is sexual violations and injuries suffered by PWD, particularly children with disabilities. According to the World Health Organization, CWD are almost 4 times more like to be victims of physical violence, and 3 times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse. Recently, I witnessed one of my students being bullied by another student. The point was to humiliate my student, as soon as I spotted it, I had to keep myself from going in a fit of rage, and when I confronted him, the bully lied (of course), but there were three adult witnesses. My student was noticeably shaken for the rest of the day. After taking the appropriate disciplinary action, I turned my attention to my student, hugging and consoling him throughout the day.

This week I attended a mandated course on Nonviolent Crisis Prevention, and I could not help but think about how to think about the theological implications of such measures. For example, when a person with disabilities is anxious, we were taught a supportive posture. The Incarnation is the priestly Supportive Stance par excellance, God being with us and healing us with first of all God’s presence in the midst of suffering. When a PWD student is acting out in defiance, a direct approach is taken. Jesus’ prophetic teaching ministry is the method that God manages human affairs. As members of humanity, we all have free will, but God chooses to exercise God’s dynamic sovereignty to show us how to regulate ourselves (i.e., love God, love enemies and friends). If situations get really bad as in physically violent, we learned nonviolent ways of deescalating said situation. If unruly warmongering empires are the epitome of systematic forms of violence, God took non-violent action at the Cross, disarming the Powers that Be by first exposing their lies. After deescalation, once a PWD student regains their rationality, it’s up to the teacher to reestablish communication through words of healing. It is at the Resurrection that Jesus’ scarred corpse is healed, he returned and was uplifted as God Among Us so that the Church can be a place for healing.

Peace Theologians like Stanley Hauerwas have addressed the plight of PWDs, this is true, but it is not enough to share the stories of PWDs; we must move beyond this to dismantling ableist privilege in our daily lives, our words, and in our institutions. Only when we recognize the subjectivity of and the Imago Dei in everyone, able-bodied and with disability, can pacifists be able to call themselves more non-violent.

My Review Of Iron Man 3 With Suggested Subtitles! #IronMan3

*WARNING WARNING SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT MAJOR SPOILERS*

Of all the nerds and blerds I know IRL and on Twitter, very few were excited about Iron Man 3 as I was. After reading and hearing rumors of the possible appearance of Rescue (Pepper Potts’ own Iron armor), I was even more excited. For all of the goodness that were Iron Man and Iron Man 2, I was sick of Pepper Potts being a strong female character who wound up being a damsel in distress at the end of both films. My hope was that if Iron Man was this serious, the Iron Man Trilogy (again, me hoping) would out do Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. As it turns out, this was not the case, by any stretch.

From the trailers and posters, everyone believed wrongfully that the primary villain for this film would be Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin. HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHA! Marvel pulled a GOTCHA! Welllll yes, and no. In the first two Iron Man films, there are two kinds of villains: that of the sideshow/parody variety, and the real serious threat to America and the Iron Man. In Iron Man, Ten Rings leader Raza gets clowned by Tony and Obadiah Stane. Stane takes over Stark Industries, and becomes Iron Monger. In Iron Man 2, Justin Hammer (who’s apparently supposed to be British btw in the comics, cough cough) is a Tony Stark wannabe and has this crazy desire to have a phallocentric contest with Tony for who has the best technology. Mickey Rourke plays Whiplash, and has a vendetta against the Stark family because of Howard Stark’s unjust dealings with his father. Part of what made the first two movies of the Iron Man Trilogy great was the textbook perfect comic movie blend of humor and serious tone. Not so much with Iron Man 3. Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 experiences Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result of his encountering “gods, aliens, other dimensions” while he’s just a “man in a can.” In The Avengers, Captain America asks Tony, what can he do? Tony responds: Playboy,Billionaire, Philanthropist.

In other words, Tony Stark gets questioned by persons (superheroes) who are in everyway his equal (and in many ways, his superior). Poor Tony, his ego is crushed, his worldview now must change. Awwwww Poor Iron Man. My impression of Iron Man 3 is similar to Chauncey DeVega: “As such, the original Iron Man was a joyous, fun, and self-aware film that exemplified the best of what a comic book movie should be. In contrast, Iron Man 3 feels tedious, bloated, and forced.”

The acting performances were well executed, the writing and editting, on the other hand left much to be desired. One moment, a child Tony meets in Tennessee reminds him that Tony is “Tony the Mechanic,” a man who fixes and builds things, the next moment, Tony is pulling a MacGuyver, purchasing random objects at a hardware store, then the next, he’s invading a random mansion. Aldrich Killian, head of Advanced Idea Mechanics is motivated out of desperation, revenge for Tony Stark rejecting him. So, obviously, he recruits disabled veterans to use as human time bombs and one actor to play “The Mandarin.” Maya Hansen, a botanist, collaborates on this evil scheme all because Tony had just a one night stand with her, wait what? No, she also wants to perfect the Extremis formula that could potentially do things like help people grow their limbs back.

We were promised a buddy cop movie (which we did get) along with Tony Stark being taken down a notch (which, um, we didn’t really). He still was in an environment surrounded by electricity, and he had the means monetarily to hunt the terrorists. There was no “Castaway” Tony Stark I was at least hoping for. The other plot hole that just confused the heck out of me was arc reactor in Tony’s chest. For the first two movies, Tony’s decisions centered around this one piece of equipment because it was this that kept the shrapnels from cutting his heart. First, in Iron Man 3, we do not see anything to do with the arc until the end, when Tony is getting it removed. Second, it’s as if the first two films never happened, in addition to The Avengers.

A PLOT HOLE THIS BIG!

In The Avengers, Tony experiments with the Arc Reactor at the very beginning of the film, expanding it on a grand scale to run the power at Stark Tower. As a power source, the arc can act as an alternative energy supply to oil. This feat isn’t mentioned in Iron Man (although this is the last place where we see Tony & Pepper in Avengers), but apparently Killich is angry at ‘Merica because it wasn’t developing alternative energy supplies, thus, the final battle (and best part) of the movie took place on an oil rig. I guess Killich couldn’t decide the reason why he was a terrorist in the first place!

On two serious notes, the Iron Man Trilogy was very consistent when it came to two things: Marvel’s grandiose brand of patriotism and ableism. In the latter, persons with disabilities (especially in Iron Man 3), are the passive recipients of the generosity of the rich. There is no agency on their part. My point about the arc reactor, that it is a symbol of ableist privilege on the part of Tony Stark. Tony’s reliance on this contraption is seen as a barrier to him being seeing as an ideal Western subject. The Arc Reactor is a denial of Tony’s self-reliance, and we all know, all Western, able-bodied men need to be able to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps from any situation.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe since the first Spiderman film in well over a decade ago, seeks at every opportunity to invoke American exceptionalism and display the flag in as many scenes as possible. Any critical look at US History is dismissed as frivolous, a joke sort of like the Mandarin in Iron Man 3. Left unchallenged, this ideology is dangerous. There’s a different between loving your country and promoting the status quo’s definition of “patriotism” that silences dissenting voices.

Since Marvel seems determined to have their sequels with subtitles (X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Thor 2: Dark World, Captain America: Winter Soldier), I thought I would suggest some subtitles for Iron Man 3:

Iron Man 3: The First Two Movies Really Didn’t Happen

Iron Man 3: Unapologetic Abelism

Iron Man 3: AntiImperialism Is One Big Hoax

Iron Man 3: People Of Color Still Can’t Star In Comic Movies As Serious Antagonists Even Though We Whitewashed The Mandarin

Iron Man 3: Marvel Still Didn’t Learn Its Lesson After Spiderman 3 And Had Too Many Villains Again

Iron Man 3: Let’s Prepare For Tony Stark’s Funeral In Avengers 2

Iron Man 3: You Thought Marvel Phase 2 Was Gonna Be Better Than Phase 1, Didn’t You? Ha!

No, seriously, I understand that Marvel Phase 2 is going to have a few darker, edgier films (Captain America 2, Thor 2), so light-hearted could have been a way to balance that out, but the story just felt really disconnected from any of the other Avengers, Ant-Man, or the Guardians of the Galaxy coming up. I could be wrong, but I saw maybe only one Easter egg in the warehouse scene. I can only hope that the rest of Phase 2 gets better and doesn’t disappoint me as much.

For another, um, interesting take on Iron Man 3, see Joel’s review: Quick Thoughts On Iron Man 3