David A. Paterson, blind governor of New York, steps down from office
Why did the governor cross the street alone?
Because he had to.
Okay, enough with my terrible rendition of an already terrible joke. A new year means new elected officials. David A. Paterson has stepped down from his gubernatorial position in New york, returning to a civilian lifestyle after more than 30 years in politics. During his office, he endured several comic jabs on “Saturday Night Live.” But not being able to see anything out of his left eye and only colors and large shapes out of his right, Paterson should be commended for attempting a public life in government, an often thankless job even for the sighted.
A story about the former governor was sent to me by my friend and grad school comrade, Jessica, over a month ago right after it ran on December 19th in The New York Times. In an interview, Paterson admitted his fears of returning to “normal life,” a life outside of the public realm. During his years in politics, there were bodyguards and state police to accompany him wherever he went: work, the grocery store, even across the street. Whatever he needed, they were practically at his beck and call. Doors were held open, the proper jug of milk was selected, elbows were offered before the pedestrian traffic light switched to “WALK.” But now that he’s just an ordinary joe like the rest of us, he’ll have to learn to navigate and survive on his own.
Paterson claims he plans on returning to a school for the blind which he had not attended since the age of three. Such simple, mundane things as crossing the street are now a cause of mild panic in him. I can recall when I first began losing my vision, and I went on my first orientation mobility lesson. Because I had not fully lost my vision, my OM instructor required me to wear a blindfold so I wouldn’t cheat. We crossed busy streets, circumnavigated a Wal-Mart, conquered getting on and off the escalator. My heart throbbed–there’s nothing like the anxiety you experience after vision loss. Vision is probably the sense the average healthy human being depends on the most next to, say, touch. So to have that taken away and to be thrust into the world alone is undoubtedly scary.
But I have faith that Paterson will survive alright. I mean, he was able to govern the state of New York (in spite of the criticism he received for his work), so I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to live independently. Hats off to you, Governor.