Public Notice

What? I'm Not Listening ...

So we're tripping along our usual Internet haunts over the holidays: catching up with some E-pals, surfing favorite Web sites, and lurking like cats on our frequented Usenet newsgroups. One Usenet group, austin.general, we occasionally check but often skip because the content is all too often dominated by vitriolic rants, flagrant flames, and predictably boorish trolls. Over the break, however, we were lured into reading the local newsgroup by a thread regarding the business practices of a national charity with many local outlets. The first volley was harsh; the post bordered on libel and attacked the charity with a slew of facts from that charity's Web site coupled with undocumented hearsay and anecdotes. Some semi-regular austin.general denizens chimed in and defended the charity, taking issue with the original poster's bitter words.

Eventually, the thread morphed (as they oh-so often do) into a different discussion, one about an entirely different poster's frustrations in dealing with handicapped workers. This poster specifically complained about deaf workers, saying that he believed that (and we are taking the liberty of paraphrasing here) handicapped people are treated the same as non-handicapped people, as long as that handicap doesn't get in the way. His assumption regarding the treatment of a certain group of human beings seemed to imply that a handicap is not an issue unless he is inconvenienced by it. He also seemed to naïvely assume that "lip-reading" was just some class that a deaf person could take (without even pausing to consider that even if one could, perhaps one might not want to -- assuming of course, that this poster agrees in unalienable rights for all Americans and not just for those with all of the requisite equipment in working order ...).

Excuse us? We were stopped in our wrist-rests.

Now, we aren't often accused of being "politically correct" (whatever the hell that means...). In fact, we, ourselves, are called out for our own insensitivity now and again. But these posts hurt. These posters, who were quite content to sign their names and e-mail addresses to these painfully uninformed rants, were not in the least embarrassed at their lack of insight. Did they grow up in caves? Had the weary world worn away what little humanity their mamas tried to instill in their tender little hearts ages ago? Were they completely oblivious to the fact that they were making asses of themselves?

It made us sad. Usually, we are girded for the idiocy of Usenet, but these posters weren't completely insensitive jerks. They weren't your everyday Net-trolls, diving into the muck just to stir up trouble and get a reaction. These were people who really believed what they were spouting. Their attempts to sound reasonable only made their arguments even more insidious and us more sad.

We remembered this quote attributed to West Coast un-rockstar Snakefinger, part of the Residents/Ralph Records crew back in the early Eighties: "Ignorance of your culture is not considered to be cool." Hmmmmm. Why did this ring so true?

Why are people so willing to flaunt their pitiful lack of humanness? Why are they insistent not only upon remaining ignorant of their own and others' cultures but in rubbing other peoples' faces in it, as well? Why were we reminded of our own inabilities to step inside the other brother's moccasins, as it were -- to value humans for the mere quality of being human, without hesitation, judgment, or bias?

We were sad staying sad. So, we called our friends at the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD). We couldn't combat all of the world's evils (and too often find ourselves on the dark side to be anything but hypocritical anyway), so we decided to content ourselves to address just one.

Does TSD have a required sensitivity-training program for employees, we wondered. Better yet, do they have some sort of awareness campaign for the general non-deaf community? We asked. They answered.

TSD has a department called ERCOD (Educational Resource Center on Deafness) which acts as a statewide resource center. They provide information on Deafness (Deaf Culture, Communication Issues, etc.) to people who are interested. If they can't help you on your quest for understanding, they'll direct you to someone who can. ERCOD acts as a clearinghouse, by re-directing very specific questions/issues to very specific people or agencies. They also maintain connections with other area agencies and state schools.

Hey, austin.dudes? Give them a call, and check it out, okay? 800/DEAF-TSD (332-3873).

Witness for the Persecution

Don't think for a nanosecond that religious terrorism went out with the Spanish Inquisition ("No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!"). Despite our touted self-righteous hoo-haw about being a nation founded upon principles of religious tolerance, the USA in the late 20th century finds itself as religiously intolerant as its hypocritical days of witch burnings (carried out at the time for the most part by people whose purpose fleeing to these shores was to escape religious persecution). It's the same old saw: Religious tolerance is a-okay as long as it's my religion that's being tolerated.


Today, religious persecution comes in all sorts of ugly shapes and sizes: anti-Semitism, assuming that all Christians have the same political manifestations of their faith, criticizing parents who choose to raise their families as atheistic or agnostic, dismissing cultures or people who practice Islam as fanatics capable of horrific acts of terrorism, and on and on.

Don't think for a millisecond that the abortion debate doesn't fall under this category. What happened in Florida, in the Pensacola clinics specifically, was religious terrorism, pure and simple. A millisecond is what it took to cut down the life of the doctors and clinic escort, people who were living by doing what they believed in, murdered by people who ignored the strongest tenet of the very faith which brought them to oppose the clinics in the first place. They chose to ignore the subtle, complex, and often contradictory gentleness of their religion by trading in their strongest weapons: faith and prayer, opting instead for the weak-willed ways of violence and murder.

Wow. What conviction.

The Texas Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League (TARAL) presents a showing of I Witness, a compelling hour-long documentary exploring how Pensacola has been affected by the religious terrorism of the abortion war. Civic and religious leaders in the area reflect on the issues brought forth by the events which have forced the area's religious community to scrutinize its responsibilities regarding reproductive freedom. The film's director, Janet Goldwater, will introduce the film and field questions after the showing. It all happens Wed, Jan 20, 7:30pm, at the Dobie Theater. Tickets are $5.50. 462-1661.

Help Prevent Wasted Minds

Donations to this weekend's star-studded (Boys II Men! Celine Dion! Babyface! Samuel L. Jackson! Jasmine Guy! Shaquille O'Neal! ... and more!) fundraiser, An Evening of Stars: A Celebration of Educational Excellence, Sat, Jan 9, 3-7pm on KNVA-54, will not only benefit a national concern -- specifically, the United Negro College Fund -- but will have direct local impact as well. Our Huston-Tillotson is a member college, and the local school will host the cut-away segments in breaks of the national feed, presenting features and vignettes about the college and its students. Donations, 800/945-7200; info, 505-3075.*

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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Kate X Messer, Aug. 31, 2001

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"Public Notice" talks about friends and the end of this column.

Kate X Messer, Aug. 24, 2001


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