Differences

So I was watching Mad Men last night. I don’t have cable and I don’t do the Netflix thing (I have my principles, you know), so I do it old school. I get them on DVD. Which means I am about a season or two behind. So I hope I’m not ruining anything for anyone, buuuuuuuuuuuuuuut…

Getting your foot run over by a lawn mower is disgusting.

You Mad Men-ites know what I am saying. If you aren’t a fan of the show, just trust me on this one.

So this young hotshot from London gets his foot run over by a lawn mower (while partying at an advertising agency. Those ’60s… such a crazy time), goes to the hospital and we find out that they had to amputate. Then we eavesdrop on a conversation among his bosses and someone from the New York office. They London bigwigs keep talking about him in the past tense and lament that, “The doctor said he won’t be able to play golf anymore!” Oh, the horror.

But they make it clear that he no longer has a place in the company. After all, how can he work if – wait for it – he can’t walk?! Oh, my lands. Whatever will he do without a foot to help him dial a phone, meet with clients or make decisions?!

Ree-donk.

I was all set to sing the praises of living in the 21st century where we don’t have to deal with such foolhardy thoughts like that. We know now, of course, that people without feet, or hands, or ears, or eyes, are certainly able to do things like, you know, earn a living. Technology has come a long way. Overall understanding and attitudes have adjusted accordingly.

And I am thankful for that. But I also know that while we’ve made leaps and bounds, we still have a long way to go. I know some intelligent, caring, solid and driven people who are having a hard time finding a job just because they can’t use the phone. I’m still touchy about Netflix and don’t even get me started on movie captioning. There are still a thousand little misunderstandings to correct and myths to explode. Division and exclusion still apply. It’s just that instead of a few big, obvious issues like, “Are people with hearing loss (or any other disability) able to work?” or “Can someone in a wheelchair still live a fulfilling life?” we have a million smaller ones.

For instance, I’m not sure what to do when I do see someone in a wheelchair. Do they need help? Would it be rude for me to offer to open the door or grab something from a shelf? What kind of questions are appropriate to ask someone who is blind? What do I say to a couple whose child was born with Down’s Syndrome? And I know, I know, people are wondering the same things about me. So we’ve come a long way, but at the same time, we haven’t. I don’t know what it is that keeps us from each other. What are we so afraid of? The unknown? Offending someone? Stepping outside our comfort zones?

Probably all of the above and more. Are we really that different than we were 40 years ago? What do you think?

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