Monday, June 30, 2014

"Let Us Now Praise Famous Men"

Bob Gardinier, Albany Times Union - June 28, 2014

I ran across this article almost by accident, but I found it fascinating in I’m sure a completely different way than what was intended.

Let me say first that I don’t know anything about Mr. Fitzgerald, or about the agency he apparently gave so much of himself for, the Center for Disability Services in Albany, New York … not that far, really, from where I live. For all I know, he was probably completely sincere and well-intentioned, as selfless as his friends suggest he was, and even progressive in his view of disability, at least in the context of his life and times.

That’s just it though. The whole article feels diffused with a very old-fashioned, back-slapping, golf-tourney, rich guys doing good vibe that seems more in line with a Jerry Lewis Telethon than with an ADAPT protest, or even a modest Center for Independent Living.

I’m really not trying to be mean, but the article, unintentionally highlights not only a difference in philosophy … the Center has a sheltered workshop where Mr. Fitzgerald’s own son works, for God knows how long … but in tone and personality between “your grandfather’s” disability agency, and the consumer-driven, activist organizations of today. Except that it isn’t really yesterday and today. In many cities and towns the two kinds of disability agencies live side by side, rarely battling each other directly, but eyeing each other with suspicion and perplexity. In general, they also tend to have entirely different bases of support, and cleanly separated spheres of influence and awareness.

Anyway, I realize that’s a lot to get from a the obit for a local benefactor, but boy did it come through to me loud and clear.