On Thanksgiving, one of the things I was thankful for was writers who make me think. All too quickly we’re mourning the passing of one of the people I had in mind when I wrote that. Laura Hershey was, among so many other things, a poet, writer, activist, word nerd, Scrabble ass-kicker, disability-rights mentor, partner, mother, and friend. She passed* the day after Thanksgiving.
Others will write about Laura’s long history in the disability rights and LGBT communities, of working with her as a writer, or protesting with her back in the day. My perspective is as a relative newcomer to the disability rights world, a straight, non-disabled law nerd wielding the dry prose of the legal brief in lieu of poetry or protest. I’ll miss Laura immensely as a friend, but I wanted to write about another role she played and will continue to play for me.
Laura is an important part of my Mental Greek Chorus. Perhaps you have one of these? My MGC consists of the people with whom I have the mental arguments that help hone my own views on things. (BTW, if having an MGC is a sign of mental illness, all I can say is I highly recommend it.) Membership in my MGC consists of really really smart people who I love and who call bullshit on my views. As you might guess, my husband and my brother are charter members. But so is Laura. Even though we could both be found on the left side of the political spectrum, she often challenged the assumptions in many of my views.
We disagreed on the question of abortion. But what, I asked, do you think of people deciding to have an abortion when they learn their child will be disabled? Her response: it’s wrong, but we can’t force people to make the same intimate decisions we would make.
She challenged my civil libertarian views of assisted suicide. Sure, in theory, everyone should have the same right to take his or her own life, but theory isn’t all that helpful in a world with limited support systems for people with disabilities, and a popular culture that often sends messages of pity and dependency.
And then there was the question of modesty. As you can see from her eloquent final blog post, Laura spoke frankly about sex. I think this is terrific — in theory. My own conversational approach is more, um, prudish. I recall Laura’s amusement as she described — over dinner at Little Shanghai — an art exhibit the theme of which was “what I was wearing when I had my first orgasm.” I suspect her ongoing amusement at her and Robin’s gift of a condom and a mint when my gift suggestion for Tim had been “exotic condiments” was motivated more by how long it took me to figure out the rebus than the actual blush value of it.
On these and so many other topics, I will always hear Laura’s voice adding nuance, intelligent commentary, and good humor to my dry legal analysis. She will live on for me in my heart and in my Mental Greek Chorus, continuing to gently, lovingly, and eloquently call bullshit.
* After my father passed in 1997, I noticed that his southern and African-American friends all said “passed” whereas non-southerners and non-African-Americans tended to say “passed away.” I came to prefer “passed,” because so often it feels like he is not really that far “away.” I’m thinking Laura would smile at taking the occasion of describing her death to nerd-out on word choice.
Here are some links by and about Laura:
This link has two of her poems:
Here is her Denver Post obit:
Family who do not measure love by the number of dishes cooked from scratch.
Sam Taylor’s Bar-B-Q, StoveTop stuffing, and Frances Lively, who happened to give us cranberry chutney last week.
My nerd family, where turkey is followed by pie which is followed by laptop time:
The people who make Hot Chillys long underwear, which made it possible to run off at least 42 of the 10,000 calories I consumed today.
The dogs, for making the clean up go so quickly.
All of the people willing to do the hard work so that the rest of us can be safe and free: servicemembers, peace officers, and lawyers who represent the unpopular and the condemned and take crap for it.
Speakers of truth to power.
Writers who make me think.
Co-counsel who laugh at the absurdities of law.
And always and most of all, Tim.
Here at Fox & Robertson World Headquarters, we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how not to travel. I could list all the reasons but let’s face it, travel sucks. And travel sucks worse in a power wheelchair than just ordinary suckdom. “I’m sorry sir, we left your wheelchair on the runway in San Francisco; it will be here on the next plane.” etc etc. I’m pretty sure Tim at least got some serious drink vouchers out of that one.
But the good news is: the results of our extensive anti-travel research can save the world from the TSA gropers … and hours of family tedium too. I present: the video conference Thanksgiving!
This is how we do depositions now; why not family dinners? Instead of schlepping through airports and spending money on hotels just to ask some clown a couple of questions under oath, we drive 10 minutes to Hunter & Geist where our buddy Dan sets us up in front of a video monitor with all sorts of fun remotes to play with. In addition to not traveling, and being back home by dinner, this system offers a number of other advantages, like only having to dress up from the waist up. (I do recommend *dressing* from the waist down, but you only need to wear a suit from the waist up.)
With this same technology, you can enjoy a happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones from around the country without anyone having to travel:
But here’s my favorite feature:
I love a good Cultural Elitism Contest as much as the next guy, but after poking fun of white people in green golf pants calling other people elite, I’d like to get serious and talk about Elitism with Real World Consequences, for example, Health Care Elitism. As in, do you even know anyone on Medicaid? Charles Murray: I’m looking at you.
Murray recently had a column in the Washington Post asserting that there is a New Elite taking over America. The Tea Party is warning us about this, and they’re right. Seriously — all of what I just wrote is in his article; I’m not satirizing it. Now put aside the general hilarity of a billionaire-funded astroturf movement warning us about any other elites than the one that took over their movement. And the specific hilarity of the man who believes that white people are a genetic elite warning us about other elites. The whole thing is just wrong. As in incorrect. It’s a bunch of lazy-ass cultural stereotypes repackaged as opinion commentary.
For example, Murray seems to think it’s elitist to identify Jimmie Johnson as an NFL coach rather than a NASCAR racer. Because the NFL is only watched in the salons of the Upper West Side. Or that it’s more elitist to go mountain biking than RVing, when the latter costs several hundred times more than the former.
Murray used these and other cultural stereotypes to announce that “[t]he members of the New Elite may love America, but, increasingly, they are not of it.”
As one commenter noted:
Time and again, this essay describes as “mainstream” or “quintessentially American” things that the vast majority of Americans don’t do: living in a small town (80% of Americans don’t), reading Harlequin romances (85% don’t), watching The Price Is Right or Oprah (more than 90% don’t), belonging to Rotary or Kiwanis (99+% belong to neither.) It isn’t just “elites” who don’t do these things; the average person doesn’t do them. (Nor follow NASCAR.) They’re not even majority behaviors among the groups where they’re more prevalent: the rural-and-small-town, the poorly educated, the old. So Murray’s quarrel is actually with the REAL mainstream America, is it not?
In fact, the elites who are trying to take over the country — including the ones who just poured hundreds of millions into the last election — are the ones with no real experience relevant to many of their fellow Americans. The don’t know about, don’t care about, and largely disdain the experience of being African-American or gay, of risking everything to come to this country to find work and raise a family (can there BE a more quintessential American experience?), or of struggling with employment, health care, and other family crises that require a government safety net.
Herewith a set of questions to match Murray’s. Test to see if you are a Health Care Elitist.
- Do you know what DME is?
- Have you ever had to choose between paying a doctor or paying for some other household essential?
- Have you ever made a career choice based on the availability of health insurance?
- Are you on Medicaid?
- Do you know anyone on Medicaid?
- Have you ever had to forgo paid employment to ensure that you don’t lose the benefits you need to function in the world?
- Have you ever had to forgo marriage and shack up with your sweetie because your combined incomes would kick you both off benefits?
- Have you ever had to hold a fundraiser to cover a loved one’s health care costs?
- Have you ever gone to the emergency room with an illness that could have been addressed by a family doctor because you don’t have a family doctor because you can’t afford a family doctor?
- Have you ever had to fight with an insurance company to get medical treatment you need?
- Have you ever read the very common headlines about state budget cuts knowing that would directly affect your ability to get out of bed in the morning? Perhaps to survive?
I would argue that if you don’t have any of these experiences or know anyone who does, you are too distant from the experience of Real America to be permitted to opine on health care policy.
Finally, just for laughs, my Murray Elitism Quotient revealed. I’ll let you decide if I’m fit to try to take over America:
Do you know who replaced Bob Barker on “The Price Is Right?” Yes but only because I read People magazine every time I have to fly somewhere.
Have you watched an Oprah show from beginning to end? No. I’d prefer to kill brain cells with alcohol.
Can you hold forth animatedly about mountain biking or skiing? Mountain biking sounds dangerous and exhausting. Love to ski — gravity does most of the work. I generally prefer my sports spectator.
Does the acronym MMA mean nothing to you? Yeah – it’s that show where buff men in shiny underpants grapple with each other. Tim claims it’s a sport.
Have you ever read a “Left Behind” novel or Harlequin romance? No – but only because my browsing is limited to the “Not Crap” section of the bookstore.
Would you be caught dead in an RV? Tim and I talk all the time about seeing the country in an RV… if they made one that was accessible.
Would you be caught dead on a cruise ship? No, but not because I’m elitist, because I hate being around other people.
Tim and I have often wondered whether our fathers were separated at birth. Welllll, since that would make us cousins, we don’t wonder TOO much. But they are/were both incredibly smart and compassionate, amazing teachers, inveterate tinkerers, and giant nerds with interesting fashion choices. It’s possible I just described your dad, too, right? Anyway, when my father-in-law, Denver Fox, recently had back surgery, my mother-in-law prepared this and handed it out to the hospital staff. The thought was: he’s more than just another random guy in gurney, he’s:
The hospital staff loved it, and it’s now posted on Nora’s blog. Check it out! Happy Birthday, Denver!
on what would have been his 75th birthday. My Dad, Peter Robertson, passed in 1997. I miss him every day, but am very blessed by his wonderful memory. . . and some hilarious photos. One of my father’s favorite expressions was, “life’s too short to take seriously.” He truly lived by those words . . . . the not-taking-seriously part and, unfortunately, the too-short part, too. Herewith a random sample of fun and funny photos.
Dad and his father in front of the Wyoming cabin my Dad was born in. I think my grandfather was trying to start a dude ranch at the time, so it’s not like they were pioneers.
Summer camp in 1951.
Law school graduation.
Dad, Mom and, um, me.
Rocking the shorts and black socks at Bruce’s 4th (?) birthday.
Going for the hippie look in the 70s. (I think that lasted through one summer vacation; he was back to his nerd ‘do by the time he went back to the office.)
BYOM! Dad at my college graduation dinner; also in the photo: my mother’s parents, his father and Jennifer Glancy’s gorgeous red hair!
Traveling with me in China in around 1983. Yes, I had a ‘fro. Yes, Dad traveled in rural China in his suit.
And boy did he know how to pack! I can’t even imagine how he’d deal with the TSA.
Dad and Granddaddy at Dad’s house. Note the washer/drying/filing system.
At Tim & my wedding – both of us all dressed up!
At our wedding – a goofy moment.
Meeting the President in 1996.
Dad and his grandson (my nephew) Christian at Christian’s second birthday party.
Dad and the orange plastic poodle. To be continued…