Saturday, August 09, 2008

Tropic Thunder, Tidal Waves and Words Hit Like A Fist

What the disability community decides to do or not to do over the next 3 days will determine the quality of life of people with disabilities—all disabilities for the next 30 years. If you think I'm exagerating check here and here.

This week your agency doesn’t matter. Your diagnosis doesn’t matter. Your philosophy does not matter.

The only thing that matters is whether you can get beyond all of the things that divide the disability community and DO SOMETHING THIS WEEK a in response to the poison that the release of the movie Tropic Thunder is about to spew on us.

If you put your agency, your diagnosis, or your philosophy first—in any way—we will fail.

We have the potential here to gain more than we ever have as a community or lose more than we ever have and it is up to US.

Here is the Terri Theory of Making Waves (I do this as a presentation and it there’s a lot more to it, but this is the condensed version because time is short.)

Visualize this wave starting as a splash and working its way up, higher and higher—I envision it getting wider and broader, til it becomes a tidal wave.

There are 3 essential components:
• Presence
• Credence
• Influence

These components interact and expand the others—without all three nothing changes.

Presence: Be there. Be visible, in, among, belong, be seen, be heard.

Credence: This speaks about the KIND of presence you need to have. You must build something with your presence—poor presence will set your cause back. To achieve credence you must be:
• Assertive. This means seeing yourself as an equal among equals—there is no begging for crumbs or attention or anything else. Assertiveness is respectful and expectant (rather than demanding.)
• Relentless/tireless. Presence to have credence is not sporadic and it does not quit because it meets resistance. It is constant—this matters as much as what you do.
• On message. Your presence must send the right message. You must show by your presence that people with disabilities are individuals with gifts and strengths and rights. As Andy Taylor told Opie: “Act like SOMEBODY!”

Influence: This means act like a leader. In disability we tend to stop at education—education is not leadership.

This will come as a shocker to most people—every time I say it somebody faints, but:

Education does NOT change behavior!!!!!!

If it did no one would smoke, drink or overeat—and I would exercise! Someday I will expound on this, but not today.

Leadership means grabbing your presence and your credence and stepping into the fray to cut out what does not belong and build in what does. Education is one tool—sometimes a good tool, but like any tool it is not right for every situation.

If we walk up to movie goers and give them a lecture about why this is wrong or about the details of disability we will fail. We have lots of educating to do, but NOT today.

Leveraging the power of an agency, or group of agencies can also be an incredibly useful tool for influence. But if we walk into next week’s movie opening as this agency or that agency, or this diagnosis or that diagnosis and we do not unite EVERYONE ELSE we will fail.

Today the tool we need is UNITING, not unity—-we do not need to be the same this week. We need a common banner, a common cause and as much diversity of response as we can ignite. Put your logo at the bottom of your correspondence on this topic along with everyone else’s—people will notice (I for one will be impressed!)

We need small actions and big actions with a common title and we need to leverage those using whatever tools we can find. And we need to do it NOW.

Words Hit Like A Fist—Stop it. NOW!

This would be a great banner. Everyone do something.

Organize a rally at the theater—carry that banner, send a press release, take some pictures or some video and post it on the internet under the title Words Hit Like A Fist. Write a letter to the editor--of your paper, of a national publication--and post it on the internet.

If writing press releases is too cumbersome get yourself some of those invitations they sell at the store and fill those in and send those to the press--doing something is what matters, accept no barriers.

Go to the ball game instead of the movie—wear a t-shirt that says Words Hit Like A Fist. Send a press release with that phrase in the title and show what real folks with disabilities are doing—rather than going to this movie. Again post a picture or some video on the internet with the Words Hit Like a Fist title.

Organize a letter writing campaign—get together, send the letters, take a picture… you get it…

Send an e-mail to your church leadership, to the parents that you your family... Leave no one out.

Can your kids make a supportive video? Can they put something on Facebook or My Space? What else can you think of?

Your actions by themselves are good. Supersize your actions. Using the internet, using the same banner, using press releases, or whatever you can think of, will give our presence credence and influence.

So, what are you going to do? The future is ours. We can build it or watch it disappear.

If we act today, to misquote a little Shakepeare, this movie will become ‘a tale told by an actor full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

If we do not act today this movie will poison the culture in which we live—like nuclear fallout.

As for myself, I am blogging, I am sending out action calls locally and nationally, I have talked to a local t-shirt maker who can make me 100 t-shirts with the “Words Hit Like A Fist” on it by Wednesday and she will sell them at cost which is $4.50… I am sending out a press release from our parent group about an activity we have scheduled this week…and whatever else I can think of…

Is it a lot? Yes. Is it a lot of scary drama? Yes. Am I too busy for this right now? Of course I am.

But you know what? What I invest over the next 3 days will matter to people I love for years.

I am sucking it up, as the saying goes.

Will you join me?

Picture from here.


Louise said...

I will be so brave as to post my super size idea.
I strongly believe DreamWorks thinks they have nothing to loose.
They certainly do not think they are doing the right thing. They went so far as to pull the movie trailers.

Coca-Cola is sold at almost every major movie house around the world.

I ask............does a movie like Tropic Thunder unilaterally harm the very values companies like Coca-Cola stand for?

Coca-Cola, if your listening!

If this message gets to anyone who can make the connection and get DreamWorks to delay the release of this and work in and effort to make people with developmental disabilities whole again.

Terri said...

Yes! Coca Cola is a major supporter of Special Olympics--great thinking!