Tuesday 16th September ,2008

 

David E Bratt, MD

 
 
 
 
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Soaring high in Beijing

  • What Trini drivers have against putting on their car lights as it gets dark or heavy rain falls?
  • The pictures were all there in the Guardian, which seemed to be the only newspaper interested in these Paralympic Games.
  • We mere mortals can only stand and watch in awe at what the human spirit can reach for, attempt and attain.

That was a depressing week, what with the murder rate, now one of the highest in the world; the high cost of food, the government line being that it is out of our hands, forget the houses being built on prime agricultural land and farmers crying out for decent roads to deliver their produce; the dengue outbreak or no dengue outbreak stupidness; endless traffic jams now that school has opened; the broken down schools that no one can ever fix, and rains flooding out people’s homes for the umpteenth time. 

Can anyone tell me what Trini drivers have against putting on their car lights as it gets dark or heavy rain falls? 

On Saturday afternoon, during the midday downpour, the visibility on the Churchill-Roosevelt road (it cannot be called a highway with all those traffic lights) was less than 100 metres, and you know how important a hundred metres is to us now that we have a silver medal in the real Olym- pics. 

Most drivers still did not have their lights on. What is it with them? Stupidity or ignorance?

Yet anyone fearful of the consequences of the “spontaneous” political rally put on by the PNM in Woodford Square on Friday afternoon, designed either to demonstrate support for a beleaguered PNM or to intimidate the opposition during a session of Parliament, anyone fed-up with the antics of our politicians, government or opposition, had only to look at the startling pictures coming out of the Beijing Paralympic Games to get back that sense of “feel good” we have lost in T&T.

The pictures were all there in the Guardian, which seemed to be the only newspaper interested in these Games. Newsday had a three-paragraph article on Thursday about the opening which had taken place five days before and pointed out that T&T was not taking part. TTOC president Larry Romany claimed that this would change for London 2012. Yeah.

The Express was a little better with the occasional article scattered here and there during the week. As far as I could see there was nothing to little on the TV.

All indicative of the lack of respect in which disabled people are held in T&T and, really, throughout the world. The only time disabled people make the news is when they tie themselves to fences or sit down in the middle of the road and refuse to move or, like Oscar Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner” or “the fastest man on no legs” with his carbon-fibre transtibial artificial limbs (the “Cheetah Flex-Foot”), who challenged the IAAF to allow him to compete against able-bodied men in the sprints and caused them to amend their competition rules.

But at least the Guardian was full of pictures. And what pictures!

A Polish no-legged woman with the ubiquitous artificial limbs landing on her side during the long jump. A Jamaican with no legs and no prostheses (we poor but we have yam) sitting down on a stool while he throws a discus. A physically disabled Irish boy in a wheelchair celebrating like Usain Bolt with his coach (probably his father or uncle) after winning a bronze in boccia (Google that!). Another West Indian athlete, David Taylor of Barbados, “holding his leg in place” (and it looked like a broomstick) after swimming in a heat of the men’s 100 breaststroke. 

An Egyptian throwing javelin while tied down to a chair! A one-footed, one-armed Brazilian walking off after winning the gold in the men’s 100 metres freestyle. 

A smartly dressed German woman with no hands, on top of a horse taking part in the Equestrian Individual Dressage Championship, reins in her mouth. Of course.

Then there was the American runner crying in pain after falling during the finals of the 100 metres. He limped to the finish in a time of 34.43 seconds. 

Well, if Darryl could do so… Finally a picture of an official helping an injured woman from Sweden after she crashed with another athlete during the 5000 metres wheelchair final. Wheelchair final!

It is such a shame that there is a disconnect between the able and the disabled. 

One of the unspoken side-effects of interacting with disabled people is that you become accustomed to their disabilities and after a while you do not see the disability but the human inside. 

This happens especially when young children interact from early with other young disabled kids. For us older ones, the single biggest thing is probably the “big up” after seeing what they have to go through.

The theme slogan for this year’s Para Olympic Games in Chinese is “tongyi,” which means “the same,” but is being used for the English word “One.”

It highlights the theme of “the whole mankind lives in the same world and seeks for the same dream and ideal.”

We mere mortals can only stand and watch in awe at what the human spirit can reach for, attempt and attain. 

Let us hope that our political superiors are watching the same thing and put a “little something” into the budget for the disabled.

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