Guest Editor Letter
By Mel Leviton
I hesitate to write this… not for fear of offending anyone. You know, I don’t much care. I hesitate out of fear. Fear for myself and for my family. That’s right. I’m afraid… A kind of fear I haven’t experienced in many years. Yet here it is again, especially during the last few months. What’s changed?
…Six weeks ago, I politely asked three men not to use two accessible parking spaces as a loading zone. To be clear, I really am polite. I’m used to people being jerks and I know how to walk away. But these guys became verbally assaultive and physically threatening in a way I’ve not experienced in many years and under much different circumstances. This happened late on a Sunday morning… in a crowded parking lot… in the Treasure Valley… in front of my wife and grandchild.
…Last evening, in front the grocery store, we were confronted by a man in his mid- twenties… smugly saying hello and asking how we were… literally dancing his way out of his car and into the store. He was parked in an accessible parking space. The last one available… Here’s what’s weird: seven weeks ago, I would have asked him if he had a permit to park there. It’s likely he would have been an ass, but I would have at least said something. Also weird: I don’t remember being so openly mocked for my disability in such a public setting.
Related to the first incident, I’m still looking over my shoulder… Related to the second, I’m surprised by our own lack of response. Related to both – It was broad daylight and crowded. Everyone else went about their day… even though both incidents were loud, especially the first.
These incidences were simply about parking spaces. We were afraid to take further action. Why? Because we’re a mixed ethnicity, same sex, crip couple. That’s why. We know the reality of where we live. The experiences above represent what’s relatively safe to share in a public forum. All marginalized peoples have darker stories and fears. The gains of recent years feel more and more like losses. If I’m afraid, then how much worse for people who don’t have coping and advocacy skills… support systems… connections to the community?
In light of recent, horrific hate crimes, people are asking: why didn’t someone step up and speak out?
Really? People won’t even step up in crowded, urban parking lot when three men spew profanity and aggressively encircle a woman in a wheelchair… over a parking space.
You expect people to step up to report the rape and abuse of a young, black disabled man? …In a tiny Idaho town?
When our own government is arguing about transgender use of bathrooms in schools, you expect people outside of the LBGTQI & Ally community to show up and shout about the targeting and brutal murder of a gay man? Really?
Why the delay on calling hate, HATE?
Where are you Disability community?
Where are you LBGTQI community?
Where are you ethnic and racial communities? Where are you Idahoans who say you believe we’re all equal and deserving of a safe and tolerant world?
Where are WE when the violence and hatred is spewed at another marginalized group? And who stands with the many of us who straddle several worlds?
Where were you on Election Day?
Why aren’t you running for city council, school board, PTO, county commissioners, legislative office… joining community planning groups and committees… finding any way to get on the inside? Are you scared?
Welcome. the hell. to America.
Shit won’t change until WE change.
WE let them separate us by our issues when our issues are ultimately the same: the right to live equally, free from fear and violence.
This is reality.
Do something beyond pressing the thumbs up, angry or sad emoji. Do more than sign an on-line petition or complete a form letter to your legislator.
Because TV is becoming our reality. Is that really what you want?
The fear, the violence, the horror, the hate won’t stop until we join together and stop it.