Submitted by: Howard Renensland, CEO & President, [with]tv
This is my take on Tropic Thunder and its own little self-engendered thunderstorm. It all starts with a word. Here the word happened
to be “retard” the noun, not the verb. The storm is passing and The Dark Knight
is making room, but will not be passed as a bigger Box Office Bonanza. Makes
you realize how sentient the creators of Life Goes On really were. Life does
go on for each of those with and without a disability.
I understand the sorrow this word can cause when used as an
epithet with an obvious intent to inflict harm on the one it is used against.
My daughter had the good fortune to grow up in a wonderful community full of
opportunity for most but still had “Retard” spray painted across a class
project, balloons popped with a pin in her face (knowing she was terrified of
this noise) and other indignities too numerous to mention. Life goes on. No,
the “R word” is not as crippling as “the N word”. Nor is it as seemingly
harmless as Nerd, Geek, Slacker or Jock. It hurts the one called, the one doing
the calling and most important to many of us, the one meant to be characterized
by the word
In contemplating this recent public outcry I have thought long and hard. I feel it is about such basic and long lasting issues impacting our community of pwd and truly the larger community of pwod that will be with us long after anyone capable of reading this today will be dead and buried/cremated. I come back to the power of words. What we want to have happen will never happen if we continue to go about attempting to make it happen the way we currently are. I mean, my God isn’t your head beginning to hurt, because that brick wall is sure getting bloodier and bloodier. Tropic Thunder is making money hand over fist, the backlash against our well meaning but impotent protest is much greater, and Spielberg and friends are out creating another entity to make more money in mainstream media and popular culture. Get a sense of where I am going? Here we go.
My American Heritage Dictionary says to advocate is To speak, plead, or argue in favor of. Well I am in favor of speaking, if anyone will listen. But I feel pleading and arguing have their own levels of success and their own levels of backlash. Not sure I want to arrive at success through begging though.
Heritage says to empower is To invest with power, especially legal power and official authority. Okay. Now we are getting sexy! Now we are talking! The question is how do we empower? Well right now we advocate. That is we talk, plead and argue. Okay, that’s a plan. How are we doing…really? Where are we seen and how are we seen? How many of us are employed and how many unemployed?
Now finally Heritage also says To entertain is To hold the attention of with something amusing or diverting. Now I feel we are really getting somewhere when we also look at the root word, enter – To come or go into, to penetrate, to pierce.
So to sum up we are advocating (speaking, pleading, arguing) for empowerment (to be invested with power in many forms). Well I do think it is vital to stand up for oneself. But if I want power I have to get it. I lift weights and do cardio, I acquire knowledge, I pursue wealth (boy is that a lost cause), and I seek spiritual understanding (not necessarily religious, but of the spirit). The point here is that I do it. I empower myself. Others will then look upon my empowerment with their own perspective.
So I feel the best way to empower myself and my community is not by speaking, pleading or arguing for it but by establishing it. Let us stop asking others “to not do this” and “to not do that”. “Stop calling me this and call me that” “Please hire one of us, or at least think about hiring one of us” “Please buy a table and show your support”
Let us let all that go. Let them do what they want. In the meantime let us do what society already feels we are best at! Let us become a really good role model.
[with]tv means to get the message out to everyone in the right way. We begin broadcasting as a mainstream, accessible, inclusive media platform for people with disabilities. Having a hard time imagining what I envision? OK. How is this? Go home and watch TV for one week, 168 hours. Now imagine that of all the people you saw on TV more than 20%+ were people with disabilities. Now imagine that for all the people behind the camera 20%+ in all departments and at all levels of the company!
Imagine that all the commercials you see are close captioned, narrated for the blind and have actors with disabilities as principals, background actors and voice over talent.
Imagine that many, but not all, story lines were concerned with issues directly related to our lifestyle. Now imagine that all this content was not only entertaining for ALL viewers but along with all commercials was close captioned and narrated for the blind. Imagine that in addition to news, weather, sports and information shows we were creating drama, comedy, variety, reality shows and that all the major producers in the industry were creating shows for us too. Now imagine this content is available on your TV, computer, cell phone, and all over the world in other languages. That is what would give us what we want. That is what we envision at [with]tv. That is what we intend to do, not to ask others to do part of for us
Continue to advocate. But upon funding we at [with]tv are ready to put to work people with disabilities regardless of the disability. We will hire people without a disability too of course and go after them as viewers too. We are in the business of empowerment by employing and by piercing and entering the consciousness of society on our own terms with our own worldwide media voice. No more advocating then, just creating content, employment and opportunity for us and for those of us with and without a disability.
Now we need advertisers, corporate sponsors, media company mentors and we need investors. We have everything else. We need YOUand others just like you!