Reporters: Do more research!

12 Jan

(Jeff Flodin read this clip in a local Newspaper Magazine, appearing in early May, 2009.  His response to the article was published on the Op/Ed page of the newspaper later that month.)

 When help is rebuffed, snap back(?)

 Q       Recently, I saw a blind man about to walk into heavy traffic on Madison Street.  I put my hand on his arm to help guide him back to the curb, but he jerked away from me and snarled, “Get your hand off!”  Is it unreasonable for me to feel angry about this?  — Livid in the Loop

 A        Dear Livid:  Unreasonable?  Please.  You should be commended for your restraint in dealing with this deeply unpleasant individual.  If you ever see this guy again, you should approach him from the side, bite his ankle and then run off, screaming, “Rabid dog!” at the top of your lungs.  Bottom line: You have every right to be annoyed with this guy.  He is clearly a jerk, and even if he has come by his jerkiness honestly, that doesn’t excuse his behavior.  You were, after all, only trying to help.  (You know, by saving him from imminent death.)

 Jeff’s Response to the Question/Answer column:

 One responsibility of we who are blind is to help others understand what is helpful to us and what is not.  Ideally, this give and take occurs calmly.  But stress and chaos strain mutual respect.  Any kind soul who wades into traffic to assist a blind person deserves gratitude and is entitled to feel confused and angry if rebuffed.  I have been startled by people grabbing my elbow at intersections and, with a, “Light’s green.  Let’s go,” propelling me into the street.  Though their motive is well intentioned, I feel fearful and vulnerable.  Remember Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman?”  “Hoo-hah!  You don’t touch me.  I touch you.”  If you doubt the stress of blindness, close your eyes and have someone, even someone you trust, push or pull you around the block.  My suggestion to potential sighted helpers?   Get the attention of the blind person verbally rather than physically, explain the perceived danger and offer assistance.  Many sighted pedestrians have helped me a great deal and I try to respond considerately to their show of consideration.  No one is helped if I say, “If you don’t stop distracting my guide dog, I’m going to punch your homely face.”  We can all remain civil.  “An eye for an eye makes us both blind,” said Martin Luther King, Jr.  It’s a shame the [newspaper] wasted an opportunity to educate its readers and dispel stereotypes about the blind.  Instead, Suggesting that the helper bite the blind man’s ankle and shout, “Rabid dog!” reveals ignorance, hostility and the boorishness to delight in taking the cheap shot. 

 Jeff Flodin, Chicago, Illinois


Jeff Flodin is a writer.  He has been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa for 30 years.   Read more about Jeff on the Statement page of this blog.  You can see Jeff’s own blog called Jalapenos in the Oatmeal, which he writes for The Guild for The Blind.


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