FULL DISCLOSURE: Reflections on Barack Obama

Full disclosure: I believe that God guides history. The improbable, meteoric rise of Barack Obama offers a case in point.

The facts are common knowledge: In 2000, Obama was a virtual unknown. He had to scrape together the airfare to attend that year’s Democratic National Convention, to which he had not been invited. Three months later, he was trounced in his run for an Illinois congressional seat. But in 2004, not yet a United States senator, he was the Democratic National Convention’s keynote speaker, an honor usually reserved for political icons; he became an overnight sensation. Just two years after he became Illinois’s junior senator, he announced his candidacy for president of the United States.

But here are some less well-known facts:

    • Obama’s 2004 victory might never have occurred were it not for an unprecedented financing loophole. Because his opponent in the Democratic primary had financed his campaign with over $28 million of his own money, Obama was permitted to accept as much as $12,000 from each donor, or six times the limit at that time.

    • Obama’s opponents for that coveted Senate seat evaporated at every turn like morning dew. As a 2004 New York Times editorial put it:

    It’s been looking a little too easy lately for Barack Obama, the Democrat running for United States Senate in Illinois against whom? Let’s see. It’s a little complicated. The race has been a little like the football scene in a Marx Brothers movie, with the candidate sprinting past a squad of defenders who look mean and beefy but end up slipping, sliding, colliding and falling all over themselves.

Even Obama acknowledges his “spooky good fortune.”

It certainly looks as if God is guiding Mr. Obama straight to the White House. But if God is guiding his history, and ours, aren’t we mere spectators forced to watch passively — some might say helplessly — as it unfolds? Several of my coreligionists think so, fatalistically pointing to the fact that the secular date of Obama’s breakthrough keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention — July 27 — coincided with Tisha B’Av, a fast day commemorating the many seismic tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people.

I can understand their prediction of impending doom. Reasons abound:

    • Barack Obama or, as New York Times columnist David Brooks has called him, “Fast Eddie Obama”:

    speaks so calmly and polysyllabically that people fail to appreciate the Machiavellian ambition inside. But he’s been giving us an education, for anybody who cares to pay attention. Just try to imagine Mister Rogers playing the agent Ari in Entourage and it all falls into place.

    • He has inveigled his way into the hearts of diametrically opposed constituents. According to New York Times reporters Jo Becker and Christopher Drew, here’s how he did it:

    He moved from his leftist Hyde Park base to more centrist circles; he forged early alliances with the good-government reform crowd only to be embraced later by the city’s all-powerful Democratic bosses; he railed against pork-barrel politics but engaged in it when needed; and he empathized with the views of his Palestinian friends before adroitly courting the city’s politically potent Jewish community.

    His chameleon-like charisma reminds me of my favorite scene from Fiddler on the Roof. In it, Tevye and his friends are immersed in a debate. One villager expresses an opinion; Tevye, nodding, says, “He’s right.” “That’s nonsense,” another man retorts and refutes his friend’s idea. Tevye, nodding, says, “He’s right.” “He’s right and he’s right?” interrupts a third man. “How can they both be right?” “You know,” says Tevye, “you’re also right!” Back in 1966, I laughed uproariously at this bizarre interchange. But Obama’s run for the White House has given it an ominous overtone. For when a Broadway musical makes all characters — even those with opposite opinions — right, it is amusing. When a politician does the same thing, it’s no laughing matter.

    • He is admired by untold numbers of American Jews, as well as millions of people who call for the destruction of not only Israel but of world Jewry as well.

    • He is guilty of politically motivated flip-flopping to woo Jewish voters. Hours after securing the Democratic nomination, when the cameras were rolling, when the reporters were taking notes, when influential Jews were listening with rapt attention, Obama addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference and declared, to thunderous applause, “Now, let me be clear: Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is nonnegotiable… And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” Hours later, he issued a retraction, subsequently calling “undivided” a “poorly chosen” word.

    • He favors talks — without preconditions — with Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who, in the words of Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, is a “Holocaust-denying, virulently anti-Semitic, aspiring genocidist,” the Hitler of our era.

    • Hours after visiting Sderot, hours after a Palestinian terrorist wreaked havoc outside the Jerusalem hotel where Obama would be staying, the senator spoke to an adoring throng in Berlin, proclaiming, “We must defeat terror…in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York.” To glaringly omit cities in the country that has suffered the greatest number of terrorist casualties per capita in the world is hypocrisy and political expediency of the lowest order.

Full disclosure: With pundits predicting a landslide victory for Obama, I feel pessimistic not infrequently — but never permanently. Here’s why: God may guide history, but He does so without full disclosure. Part of what the Almighty hides from us is how we, in tandem with Him, can guide history too. The question isn’t: What does God want? The question is: What does God want of us?

Esther, heroine of the holiday of Purim, guides us to our answer. We just need to examine a pivotal point in the book that bears her name.

In Chapter 4, things are looking pretty dismal for her fellow Jews. It looks as if the smooth-talking Haman, whose ambitions have been fulfilled at every turn, who has been blessed with “spooky good fortune,” is destined to succeed. It looks as if God is guiding his history so that he will have his way. But Mordechai knows that, at this juncture, fatalism would be fatal. He beseeches Esther to intervene, to help halt history in its tracks. And when she demurs, Mordechai upbraids her (Esther 4:14): “Who knows whether it was for just such an opportunity as this that you attained your royal position?”

In the absence of full disclosure, Esther has to resist her temptation to follow protocol, to be politically correct. But she accedes to Mordechai’s demand only after he agrees to accede to hers (Esther 4:16): “Go and gather all the Jews in Shushan, and fast on my behalf for the three days…My maidens and I will also fast.”

We have no Esther today. But over 2,400 years after she left the world’s stage, her example remains. We must emulate her two-pronged strategy: politics and prayer.

Full disclosure: Come Election Day, I will not be voting for Barack Obama, a man who sold out on full disclosure long ago. Furthermore, whatever the election’s outcome, I will watch the White House vigilantly, lifting my pen and voice whenever necessary to help safeguard the welfare and security of Americans and Jews worldwide. And finally, I will remember that God rules the rulers. He is the King of all kings, and no one rises to or falls from power unless He wills it.

Chava Willig Levy is a New York-based writer, editor and lecturer who zips around in a motorized wheelchair and communicates about the quality and meaning of life. She can be reached via her web site: www.chavawilliglevy.com.

When I’m 64

Hello, all. You know, for weeks now I have been anticipating June 18 and picturing former Beatle Paul McCartney in far-off England serenading his young wife on that auspicious day:

When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a Valentine,
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out ’til quarter to three, would you lock the door?
Will you still need me,
Will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?

Yes, June 18, 2006, Sir Paul turns 64. But alas, he will not take ukulele in hand to serenade Heather Mill McCartney this Sunday. Read on…

June 13, 2006
Heather Mills McCartney Plans Divorce
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 11:37 a.m. ET

LONDON (AP) — Heather Mill McCartney confirmed Tuesday that she and former Beatle Paul McCartney will divorce, a statement released by her lawyers said.

Once that’s over, the statement said, she intends to sue newspapers which have been digging into her past.

The couple had not mentioned ”divorce” when they announced on May 17 that they had ”decided to go our separate ways” after four years of marriage.

[snip]
[sniff]

Today is Purim!

Friends, today Jews the world over are celebrating Purim, a holiday over 2,200 years old that reminds us to this day that even when our circumstances seem hopeless, our dreams can come true in the blink of an eye.

On Purim, amid much merrymaking, we give delicious treats to our neighbors and alms to those in dire financial straits. In lieu of sending you goodies via cyberspace, allow me to present you with some of my favorite sayings about charity and about food:

  • Charity:
  • “My poor are my best patients. God pays for them.” – Hermann Boerhaave (1668 – 1738), Dutch physician and humanist

  • Charity:
  • “The noblest charity is to prevent a man from accepting charity; and the best alms are to show and to enable a man to dispense with alms.” – The Talmud

  • Charity:
  • “When justice prevails, charity is not needed.” – Ralph Nader

    [I can't help but wonder if Mr. Nader knows that the Hebrew word for charity (tzedakah) is etymologically linked to the Hebrew word for justice (tzedek).]

    And now, from the sublime to the mundane, on to food:

  • Food:
  • “My mother’s menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it.” – Buddy Hackett

  • Food:
  • “Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” – Jim Davis, ‘Garfield’

  • Food:
  • “The two biggest sellers in bookstores are the cookbooks and the diet books. The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it.” – Andy Rooney

  • Food:
  • “The second day of a diet is always easier than the first. By the second day you’re off it.” – Jackie Gleason

  • Food:
  • “Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” – Orson Welles

    Happy Purim!

    The Red Bridge Plate (or, Murder on the Long Island Rail Road) — Part 1

    A good twenty years ago, my husband Michael and I treated our seven-year-old nephew to a Mets game. I don’t remember the final score, who won or even against whom the Mets played. However, one incident occurred that day at Shea that I’ll never forget. And although the subject of this essay is an event that took place just last December, the Shea Disaster seems as good a place as any to start.

    Like 55,000 other Mets fans, we had one objective when the game ended: getting home. But unlike most of those 55,000 fans, Michael (who is blind) and I (whose arms are paralyzed) could not drive or (at least in the 1980s) take the train or subway to our destination. So we headed for a pay phone (when did cell phones arrive on the scene?) and called a local car service. We were told where to wait and assured that our car would arrive in 15 minutes.

    Thirty minutes later, we were still waiting. Cars bearing the correct logo arrived with great regularity, but the name the drivers shouted was never ours. We trudged back to the pay phone and were assured that the very next car was ours — guaranteed. When it came into view, we rushed toward the driver but before we could utter a word, a burly man hurtled past us, yanked the car’s rear door open, got inside and immediately leaned forward, shoving something into the driver’s hand. “Wait!” we sputtered as the driver dutifully pulled away. As the car gained speed, the passenger rolled down his window and barked, “Life is tough!”

    Yes, we were furious, but part of us wanted to genuflect and exclaim, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” A New Yorker was treating us like dirt. Was this not the ultimate sign of emancipation?

    Two decades later, you’d think I’d be impervious to impudence. So would I. But on December 28, 2005, smack dab in the middle of what Western civilization calls the season of peace and good will, I suffered two indignities within a span of two minutes — and it happened on the Long Island Rail Road.

    To be continued…

    Finally! Reflections on the C Word

    Friends, I’ll wager that the record-breaking blizzard of this past weekend put a grin on the face of every kid in New York. I’m grinning too, but the snow is only peripherally responsible for my glee. Truthfully, the following sentence in Monday’s New York Times gets the credit for my euphoria:

    “The biggest winter storm in New York City history — destined for lionization as the Blizzard of ’06 — buried the region and much of the Northeast yesterday under blowing, drifting, thigh-high snows that crippled transportation and commerce, knocked out power and disrupted life for millions in 14 states.”

    Well, I’ll be! The media is using the word “cripple” appropriately.

    This reminded me of an e-mail I received a few years ago:

    “Hello. I’m in my forties and, for most of my life, I’ve used a wheelchair to get around. Over the years, I’ve seen (or should I say heard) many words attempting to describe me come in and out of vogue. First, I was a cripple. Then I was crippled. Then I was special. Then I was handicapped. Then I was disabled. Then I was challenged. Then I was differently abled. My question is: What term do you consider preferable? And, honestly, what difference does it make?”

    Here’s how I replied:

    If your first question were in a multiple-choice format and the possible answers were:
    a) a cripple
    b) crippled
    c) special
    d) handicapped
    e) disabled
    f) challenged
    g) differently abled

    I’d choose:
    h) none of the above

    Why? Because I think words matter, and they shape our attitudes in more ways than we’d care to admit. Take the word “cripple.” The most appropriate use of the word “cripple” that I ever came across spanned the front page of my local newspaper: “BLIZZARD CRIPPLES THE CITY.”

    “Finally!” I remember exulting. “Someone figured out what ‘cripple’ means!” And what is that, pray tell? Brought to a standstill. Stopped in its tracks. After all, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the Old English root of cripple is creep. I don’t know about you, but my disability – although severe – has not stopped me in my tracks.

    And in case you think my word critique is a symptom of over-sensitivity, check this out: The dictionary defines the verb, to cripple, as “to deprive of capability for service or of strength, efficiency, or [get this] wholeness.” Well, if that’s what cripple means, they’ve got the wrong customers if they think the word applies to you or me.

    Now, on the other side of the spectrum, we’ve got “special.” Unlike “cripple,” “special” sounds like a compliment, doesn’t it? Don’t make me laugh. Turning to the dictionary once again, we find “special” defined as “distinguished by some unusual quality; especially being in some way superior.” Yes, that does sound like a compliment, but is paralysis, or mental retardation, or deafness, or blindness a form of superiority, in and of itself worthy of a compliment? I certainly don’t think so. Of course, neither is it a form of inferiority, worthy of an insult. What we have here is a euphemism, the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. Well, I don’t know about you, but since my disability is neither offensive nor unpleasant, I find the euphemism offensive and unpleasant. (Of course, the same critique applies equally to “special,” “challenged” and [shudder] “differently abled.”)

    This leaves us with “handicapped” and “disabled.” They are, by far, the least problematic on our multiple-choice list. The more politically correct word these days is “disabled,” why, I’ll never know. Think about it: You tune into the radio’s traffic report and you hear, “Avoid the Tappan Zee Bridge; a disabled tractor trailer has caused a 90-minute delay.” Now think again: You turn on the news and you hear a political commentator remark, “Joe Brooks may be short, fat and bald but he never let those drawbacks handicap him in the mayoral race.” The way I see it, if something (say, a tractor trailer) is disabled, it can’t budge. If something (say, a horse) or someone (say, you) has a handicap, it (or you) may be working against resistance or proceeding more slowly, but it (or you) will get to the finish line.

    What about “none of the above”? Well, if I had to fill in that blank, I would use your very own words. Take a look at the opening sentence with which this correspondence began: “I’m in my forties and, for most of my life, I’ve used a wheelchair to get around.” What did you do here? You avoided what I call definitional labels (words that define a person) and opted for a functional label (a word that describes how that person functions).

    At the crux of all this is the difference between the verb “to be,” which defines what a person is (a cripple, special, handicapped, disabled, challenged or – heaven help us! – differently abled), and the verbs “to do” or “to have,” which describe what the person does (gets around with a seeing eye dog, walks with a limp, uses crutches, reads at a second-grade level, communicates in sign language, etc.) or has (a disability, epilepsy, hemophilia, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, multiple sclerosis, etc.).

    At the risk of sounding like some ivory-tower philosopher, I’d like to tell you why definitional labels leave a bad taste in my mouth. In a nutshell, the moment we use the verb “to be,” we have created a verbal equation. What mathematical symbol can replace any form of the verb “to be”? The answer, of course, is the equal sign. So when we say, “She is a cripple” or “He is an epileptic,” we are creating an equation of sorts:

    She = cripple
    He = epileptic

    And the way equations work (if my memories of elementary school serve me right) is that whatever is on one side of the equal sign finds its complete match on the other side of the equal sign. You can say, “2 + 2 = 4” but you can’t say, “2 + 2 = 4 + 1.” So if we say, “She is a cripple,” there is no room (philosophically speaking) on the right side of the equation to include “and a gourmet cook, a mother of three and a high school principal.”

    A word of warning: This model works for me, but it doesn’t mean that I never use words like blind, deaf, mentally retarded or even disabled and handicapped. Those words are perfectly fine, as long as I haven’t forgotten the person linked to them. For example:

    • My neighbor, David Ross, is mentally retarded (yes).
    • The mentally retarded are represented on our block (no).
    [Instead: Some of our neighbors are mentally retarded (yes.)]

    • My boss, Cheryl, is blind (yes).
    • The blind should be hired at our firm (no).
    [Instead: Our firm should hire blind people (yes).]

    This correspondence intrigued me to no end and, like a pebble tossed into a lake, it took me to ever-widening circles of contemplation concerning the words that shape my world. One thing was clear: Nouns are the essential ingredients of definitional labels, words that restrict our identity to one thing only. Nouns are the enemy.

    Just a few days later, an absurd – and obscene – memory resurfaced that only reinforced my militant opposition to nouns. The year was 1962. The month was May. The city was New York. I was sitting in a yellow school bus, the kind equipped with a hydraulic lift and absolutely no shock absorbers. My public school’s Health Conservation [read: segregated] class was on its way to the Museum of Natural History. After battling traffic for over an hour, the bus driver pulled into the parking lot and headed for the museum’s rear – and (surprise) only accessible – entrance. Before he had a chance to turn off the ignition, a museum guard rapped authoritatively on the bus’s windshield and pointed to a far-off sea of yellow where school buses apparently had to park. Full of self-importance, our driver slid open his window and bellowed in the most mellifluous Brooklynese, “I gotta pock here. I got wheelchairs!”

    I was only 10 years old, but I knew something was dreadfully wrong. Was I a cripple or was I a wheelchair? Decisions, decisions.

    I close with a more recent memory. The year was 2003. The month was May. The city was New York. My husband and I had just attended a dazzling concert at Carnegie Hall. As we proceeded from the lobby to the sidewalk, a man several feet in front of us said to his companion, “Let the wheelchair pass.”

    I smiled and said, “You mean, ‘Let the woman in the wheelchair pass.’”

    The man retorted, “Well, you’re a part of it.”

    “No,” said I with an odd mix of gratitude and glee, “it’s a part of me.”

    Quick! Head over to Google!

    Friends, there I was just minutes ago, heading over to Google for yet another Web search, when I beheld a sight that, frankly, made my day. Check it out TODAY (it won’t be there tommorow)!

    …Did you look yet? I almost hesitate to discuss the image adorning the Google home page before you actually see it. So I’ll stop for now and ask you what your reactions are.

    I for one am as pleased as punch, but I wonder if the graphic in question could possibly be accessible to the population in whom it would probably generate the most pride. Any geeks out there have a clue?

    Bon anniversaire, Louis!

    “Good” News! (or, Move Over, William Safire!)

    I distinctly recall my first encounter with it. The year was 1990. My friend Toby had popped over for brunch. As our visit was coming to a close, I asked her to hand me a CD from a shelf beyond my reach. She readily did so, put on her coat, thanked me for my extraordinary tuna salad, headed for the door, stopped in her tracks, turned toward me and asked earnestly, “Are you good?”

    Puzzled, I replied, “Why would you ask such a profound philosophical question when you have one foot out the door?”

    Toby laughed. “No, I was just wondering if you needed anything else before I head for home.”

    Not long after, my friend Linda stopped by for a chat. “Would you like some coffee?” I asked.

    “No, thanks. I’m good,” she replied.

    Bewildered, I asked, “Do only bad people drink coffee?”

    Still, I was beginning to get the hang of it. “Good” didn’t only mean moral or upstanding, as it did for as long as I could remember. Somehow, through some linguistic mutation, it had begun to mean “all right,” “fine” or “okay.”

    I have to admit, this addition to the American vernacular drove me crazy. But after 15 years, it has become so ubiquitous that I have finally accepted it as a fact of life. But my obsession about the legitimacy of “I’m good” has been replaced by an obsession about its etymology. How did “Are you okay?” become “Are you good”? How did “I’m fine” become “I’m good”?

    Naturally, I turned to William Safire, the language maven. Sadly, my ProQuest search revealed complete silence from Sir William – and from just about the entire Fourth Estate. Then, just when I had practically given up, a miracle occurred.

    About two months ago, Michael and I were spending a weekend with friends. As we were getting ready to head out to visit one of their neighbors, our host’s 20-year-old daughter piped up, “Are you good? Are you good to go?”

    The word epiphany hardly begins to describe that moment – and my resultant joy. “Of course!” I exulted to Michael. “Why hadn’t I thought of it before? Isn’t it obvious? This whole ‘good’ phenomenon derives from NASA lingo!” And it made perfect sense. I could hear it in my head: “Houston to Apollo: You’re good to go. Roger.” Surely, “I’m good to go” is just, if you’ll excuse the expression, one small step away from “I’m good.”

    Now, if you think that I don’t have a leg to stand on (figuratively speaking, that is), get this: I just went over to Google and typed in: “good to go.” Would you like to know the first of the 1,780,000 links that appeared on my computer screen within 0.19 seconds?

    NASA Pluto mission looks good to go

    Elementary, my dear Safire.

    The Yellow Sign – Part 3 (or, Will Wonders Never Cease?)

    Well, there I was, gearing up for a battle royal, when the telephone rang.

    “Hello, Mrs. Levy,” said a man with a cordial voice. “This is [name omitted] from the Division of Traffic Control. I understand that you and your husband object to the ‘Blind Person Area’ sign near your home and that you wish to know who requested that it be placed there.”

    “Uh,” I replied, wishing that my words would not fail me so abysmally, “yes, that’s true.” Something told me that it would be okay to take off my boxing gloves. I was right. I am stunned.

    The voice continued smoothly, “No problem. And we want to apologize if the sign offended you. It will be removed promptly.”

    “It will?” I echoed, almost disappointed that my cause célèbre was about to evaporate.

    “Yes, ma’am. And you have every right to know who requested the sign in the first place. His name is [name omitted] and he lives at [address omitted]. Do you know him?”

    “Never heard of him in my life,” said I.

    “Really? We assumed he was your friend,” the man replied. (Oy, with friends like these…) “And since he was bringing such a sensitive matter to our attention, we rushed to take care of it. By the way, he also requested that a stop sign be placed at the same location.”

    I immediately informed my gentleman caller that we would be fully in favor of a stop sign, something that could benefit every driver and pedestrian. Then I tried to explain that the “sensitive” thing to do when a community member requests a sign of relevance to a third party is to consult with the third party before taking action. After several reiterations, I was left with the sobering impression that the caller had not absorbed my definition of sensitivity.

    Before concluding our call, I brought up our interest in a traffic light at the other end of our block, where the perpendicular traffic of West Broadway is harrowing. I was given the name and address of the appropriate contact person at our county’s Department of Public Works. Yet one more item on my to-do list.

    All of this occurred late Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday at about 1 p.m., my friend stopped by. Immediately upon entering, she commented, “Well, I guess Michael is no longer blind or no longer lives here.”

    My eyes widened. My jaw dropped. “You mean…”

    “Yup,” she replied, flashing a conspiratorial grin. “It’s gone.”

    The only downside to this dénouement is that I had to tell Michael that he would never have his chance to be photographed — as he had been gleefully planning for weeks now — sitting behind the wheel of his friend’s car several feet in front of the yellow sign that is no more.

    The Yellow Sign – Part 2

    The Public OffenderHello again. Here I am, intrepid rabble-rouser, with a yellow sign update.

    First, a huge thank you to all of you who posted comments regarding this bizarre situation. If you didn’t have a chance to review them all, please feel free to do so now (see below). One particularly creative comment was inadvertently posted to my “By Way of Introduction” entry; it has now been put in its proper place (which can — and should – never be said about its author!). So if you missed Pat’s anarchic solution, feel free to check it out.

    Second, Michael and I have decided to fight this intrusion on our civil rights.

    Third, here’s what has happened so far:

    I called the office of our Town Supervisor, which referred me to the Traffic Department.

    I called the Traffic Department, which referred me to the Town Attorney’s office, but not before telling me that I was not entitled to know who requested that the sign be installed, and not before presuming that the sign was on my property (why else would one want it removed?), and not before voicing bewilderment that a blind person would object to a sign so clearly for his benefit.

    I called the Town Attorney’s office, which confirmed that I was not entitled to know who requested the sign and told me to mail a written request explaining why we objected to it.

    I called the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), whose legal advisor suggested I cite the ADA provision in title 5, section 501(d):

    “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require an individual with a disability to accept an accommodation, aid, service, opportunity, or benefit which such individual chooses not to accept.”

    More to follow.

    The Yellow Sign

    A rather strange development came to my attention last weekend, and I’m not quite sure what (if anything) I should do about it.

    Over one of our Sabbath meals, our daughter casually remarked that a new sign had been installed several yards away from our home. Rectangular and yellow with black letters, it read, “Blind Person Area.”

    Many of you know that my husband Michael is blind. Thank God, he is exceptionally skilled at navigating all over the place with his cane. Hey, after living in Manhattan for 30-odd years, he ought to be!

    Both Michael and I were at best surprised and at worst stunned by this piece of news. We’re still trying to tease out all of the questions and reactions teeming in our brains, among them:

  • Who arranged to have this sign put up – our neighbors, our friends or total strangers?
  • Who chose the wording?
  • Why were we not included in this decision?
  • Do we have the right to insist that the sign be removed?
  • Is it appropriate to insist that the sign be removed? We’re not particularly interested in being run over by a negligent driver, but then again, who is?
  • Should we just let it be?
  • And why does this yellow sign sickeningly conjure up an image of a yellow star?
  • A bit of further clarification: The sign is on a pole at the corner of Narrow Lane (our block) and Station Place (a relatively quiet one-way street that turns onto our block). The sidewalk on Station Place is either nonexistent or intermittently so. Most pedestrians walk toward the train station in the street, and Michael and I are no exception.

    Now, if anyone were to ask me what (if anything) I’d want in the sign’s place, it would be a convex mirror across the way from where the yellow sign now is. That way, drivers could see a pedestrian (disabled or not) heading toward Station Place before they turn onto Narrow Lane.

    Ironically, at the other end of Narrow Lane is a dangerously busy street called West Broadway. Cars whiz by, and there is no traffic light at that corner or for several blocks in either direction. If I had my way, there would be a traffic light there for the safety of everyone, including Michael and myself. But there is no traffic light, and there is no yellow and black sign.

    So, what do you all think?

    Looking forward to your replies,
    Chava