From Politics to Sally Johnston

This brings us to the question of politics.  According to Wikipedia, “Politics (from Greek politikos ‘of, for, or relating to citizens’) is the art or science of influencing people on a civic, or individual level, when there are more than 2 people involved.

“Modern political discourse focuses on democracy and the relationship between people and politics. It is thought of as the way we ‘choose government officials and make decisions about public policy.’

The state

“The origin of the state is to be found in the development of the art of warfare. Historically speaking, all political communities of the modern type owe their existence to successful warfare.

“Kings, emperors and other types of monarchs in many countries including China and Japan, were considered divine. Of the institutions that ruled states, that of kingship stood at the forefront until the French Revolution put an end to the “divine right of kings“. Nevertheless, the monarchy is among the longest-lasting political institutions, dating as early as 2100 BC in Sumeria to the 21st Century AD British Monarchy. Kingship becomes an institution through heredity.

“The king often, even in absolute monarchies, ruled his kingdom with the aid of an elite group of advisors, a Council without which he could not maintain power. As these advisors, and others outside the monarchy negotiated for power, constitutional monarchies emerged, which may be considered the germ of constitutional government. Long before the council became a bulwark of democracy, it rendered invaluable aid to the institution of kingship by:

  1. Preserving the institution of kingship through heredity.
  2. Preserving the traditions of the social order.
  3. Being able to withstand criticism as an impersonal authority.
  4. Being able to manage a greater deal of knowledge and action than a single individual such as the king.

“The greatest of the king’s subordinates, the earls, archdukes and dukes in England and Scotland, the dukes and counts in the Continent, always sat as a right on the Council. A conqueror wages war upon the vanquished for vengeance or for plunder but an established kingdom exacts tribute. One of the functions of the Council is to keep the coffers of the king full. Another is the satisfaction of military service and the establishment of lordships by the king to satisfy the task of collecting taxes and soldiers.”

Well how about that?  Who knew that the origin of the state lay in successful warfare?  Nothing high-minded here—just killing.  And when our forefathers wrote “of the people, by the people and for the people,” they were reaching back to the Greek ‘of, for or relating to citizens.’  Of course, I knew none of this when I decided to become chairman of the Public Transportation Advisory Council.  All I knew was straight-talk to other people, so I went to a PTAC meeting and outlined the problems we were facing, the things we’d done that hadn’t worked, and my conversations with David Knight.

I told the PTAC members that I knew how to lead them out of this mess.  I would keep getting and giving them information on how Centro’s Call-a-Bus should be run, then all they had to do was file complaints.  I would organize and follow up on the complaints.  We could build a case against Centro, get them investigated by the feds and stop all this abuse.  The members nodded in agreement and voted me in as the first chairperson.  As we’d had rotating facilitators, so we also had rotating minute-takers.  At this meeting, a visitor from ARC took the minutes and then handed them over to Beata Karpinska.

Beata, the director of advocacy at ARISE, re-wrote the minutes, omitting that I’d been elected chairperson, and mailed the minutes out to the members without my knowledge.  Can you freakin’ believe that?  So I got a meeting with ARISE’s executive director Tom McKeown (no relation to Linda McKeown of Call-a-Bus).  His position was that PTAC was not a program of ARISE—they were merely hosting the meetings—and therefore he had nothing to do with it.  He was not responsible for Beata Karpinska or anything that happened in PTAC.

I countered that Karpinska was his employee.  She ran the PTAC meetings as part of her work effort.  She had re-written the minutes on her work time.  She’d used ARISE paper and postage to mail out the minutes.  Tom McKeown’s response was to walk out of the room.

When I arrived at ARISE for the next PTAC meeting, a colleague was waiting for me in the hallway.  She quickly whispered that they had set up to get me; I was being ambushed.  She was in tears.  I thanked her for the heads-up and wheeled into the meeting room.  It was full.  Beata and Sally Johnston had stacked the deck against me.

A word about Sally Johnston.  She had spina bifida, had spent her entire life in a wheelchair, and was viewed as the be-all and end-all of disabled advocacy in Onondaga County.  The story is that she took on Centro back in the dark days before the Americans with Disabilities Act and chained her wheelchair to the front of a line bus in downtown Syracuse to stop the system and make them serve people with disabilities.  When PTAC was formed after Linda McKeown’s abortive meeting, Sally was the leader in the room.

Sally was credited as the creator of the Consumer Directed Personal Assistant Program.  People who are disabled often need home health aides.  For-profit agencies like StafKings, St. Joseph’s Home Health, and Home Aides of CNY operate by getting referrals from the county Long Term Care Resource Center and then sending out aides.  The agency chooses the aides and sets the times when they will work; the client has no say in the matter.  I’ve had situations where I got a good aide and she and I both requested that she be re-scheduled with me but the agency wouldn’t do it.  This is called “bondage” as opposed to “freedom”—freedom being a situation in which the citizen has a choice.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
This entry was posted in activism, advocacy, disability, disability rights, God, Government Services, Power, power wheelchairs, Powerlessness and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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