Weekly Reading List

Picture of two shelves of multicolored books

This week's reading recommendations:

The Ethics Of Hodor
Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic - May 27, 2016

I was ambivalent about the meaning of Hodor pretty much all along. So I am happy to see this discussion that recognizes the many shades of meaning and contradictory interpretations available to understand this "Game Of Thrones" character, who is both mocked and beloved, often simultaneously. I have to admit though, since I mostly lost interest in Bran after the first season, I hadn't realized what an "abusive little shit" he is to Hodor. Like so many themes and tropes of disability in pop culture, once you see it, you can't unsee it. If you'd like to hear more about disability on "Game Of Thrones," listen to these Disability.TV Podcasts with me and Alice Wong: [Game Of Thrones 1] [Game Of Thrones 2] [Tyrion Lannister's Prison Conversations].

Adolph Hitler had a disabled younger brother, Austrian historian claims
Matt Payton, Independent - June 6, 2016

I'm not sure what to make of this. I'm certainly not equipped to vouch for the claim, or to refute it for that matter. I only have a few thoughts. Most non-disabled people will have a close relationship at some point in their lives with someone who has a disability, and peoples' response to direct contact with disabled people can go in several radically different directions. Knowing someone with a disability certainly does not guarantee understanding or dismantle ableism. In fact, it can sometimes make it worse. And this can happen with anybody. You don't need to be a depraved dictator like Hitler. After all, he could not have killed 70,000 disabled Germans and Austrians all by himself or purely through his own personal will. There was a constituency for such an approach to disability, and in a somewhat more muted and masked way, there still is ... and not just in Germany.
How's this for a transition? From genocide to disabled parking fraud ...

State auditor digs into questions of disabled placard abuse
Tony Bizjack, Sacramento Bee - June, 2016

I'm not sure why the social norms of disabled parking fascinate and frustrate me so much. It has something to do with upside down priorities. It seems like non disabled people, and many disabled people too, get more exercised by the slightest suspicion of someone undeserving parking in a "handicapped spot" than they do over disability issues of life, death, and basic independence. Maybe the better way to look at it is that the proper use and enforcement of disabled parking is a common entry point into disability activism. It involves, or seems to involve, clear rights and wrongs, and is personalized rather than "systemic." It's easier and more satisfying to get angry at "that guy" who parked illegally, (one assumes, often without proof or real insight), in a disabled parking spot ... much easier and more fun than taking action against diffuse and entrenched bureaucracies or "institutionalized do ableism." I'm not saying disabled parking isn't important. I just think it generates more (self) righteous outrage than it really deserves.

Unpaid, stressed, and confused: patients are the health care system's free labor
Sarah Kliff, Vox.com - June 1, 2016

Millions of disabled Americans could probably be justified in responding to this article with a hearty, "No shit Sherlock!" Most of us know full well that it's "on us" to make sure our medical care works the way it's supposed to. But it's useful to get this insight from a more mainstream, not disability centered point of view, and Sarah Kliff is an excellent health care journalist. On the other hand, I'm sure I'm not the only disabled person who would be at least a little hesitant to turn management of my health care over to some third party. Managing your own services is a hassle, and certainly tantamount to a part time or even full time job ... but autonomy is precious when you have disabilities, and I'm not sure how much of that I would be willing to delegate to a "case manager."

Labor and Disability Rights: A Chicken and Egg Problem
Ari Ne'eman, Sometimes A Lion - May 25, 2016

Ari expertly dissects at least part of the seemingly unavoidable conflict between disabled users of home care and home care providers. Recent U.S. Labor Department changes have theoretically offered the possibility of overtime pay for home care workers, but it will only work in practice of states agree to pay out those overtime wages by increasing their Medicaid funding. If they don't, workers will just have to stick to 40 hours or less per week. They will get paid less, and the disabled people they work for will risk losing their independence and health due to reduced hours of care. It is a true dilemma, with no real bad guys, except maybe for states that refuse to increase their funding knowing full well it will mess up the lives of both workers and disabled people. It's the kind of policy issue that absolutely begs for careful, dispassionate, (but not unfeeling), analysis, and Ari Ne'man is very good at that.