There’s an old saying that goes: “when someone says it’s about the principle, not the money, it’s about the money.” It’s akin to Shakespeare’s “methinks the lady doth protest too much.”
Yesterday, I wrote about a blind activist who was turned away from touring the USS John F. Kennedy, undertaking her “farewell tour” and currently in Boston. I said that an active-duty warship, even one just about to be decommissioned, perhaps might not be the best place for a blind person to visit — a warship has to be one of the least handicapped-accessible places in the world, and might even be a downright hostile environment.
(Hell, I’m technically not disabled, but I’d probably have trouble in some places on a modern warship — I’m nowhere near as slender, flexible, or generally fit as today’s sailors.)
That stirred up a bit of attention, including two comments someone claiming to be the subject of the piece (and after a brief investigation, I am fairly comfortable that it was, indeed, posted by Mr. Pyyhkala).
Well, Mr. Pyyhkala is back in the news again today. It seems that the Navy reached out to him and offered him a personal tour of the Big John. It seems that the ship had let most of its crew off on leave while in port, leaving only 800 crew members to man the ship and manage the crowds that reached roughly 3,500 an hour — and a total of over 51,000 people. Now that the rush is over, they can spare a sailor or two to show him around the ship.
That isn’t good enough for Mr. Pyyhkala. He doesn’t want to visit the ship now. Instead, he wants an apology from the Navy — and, perhaps, to set a precedent subjecting active-duty warships to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
I see a very simple solution to all this: simply end public tours of active-duty warships. For everyone. If no warship is ever open for public tours, then there can be no discrimination.
This, of course, would suck — and suck severely. But it would solve the problem.
The idea behind the ADA was long overdue. The notion that any public accomodation should be accessible to all Americans is a fundamental principle, and it was appropriately tempered with the “reasonable” caveat to prevent abuses. And in this case, the Navy acted most reasonably.
Warships are not safe places. They are not designed to be safe places. They are designed to fight — and survive. They are designed for the safety of able-bodied, well-trained sailors, not civilians of all shapes, sizes, abilities, and fitness levels. And still every year sailors are injured — or killed — aboard them.
In a huge crowd like the Big John welcomed over the weekend, making sure a blind man gets his full experience without injuring or killing himself — or others — would require the services of at least one sailor. In the middle of the throngs over the weekend, they simply couldn’t spare one. After the rush, they offered him his own tour — and Mr. Pyyhkala refused to even return their phone calls.
Would it be considered “hate speech” if I were to say that Mr. Pyyhkala sounds like he has a long white stick with a red tip up his butt?