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Richardson Snow Globes: Not Funny
by Amy Upham
I picked up my Artvoice Holiday Guide with the hope I would get great ideas for holiday gifts for my friends and family. Instead I got derailed by the first gift suggestion into a total state of disbelief: an insane asylum snow globe? The description under it, to give it to your loved one to say “I’m crazy for you”? After working in disability rights advocacy for years, I thought to myself: are these people serious? And even if they are joking: is this funny?
So I’ll give you my impressions. It’s not funny. Lobotomies (chemical and surgical), insulin-induced comas, forced electroshock (which is still legal in New York) are not funny, nor does the architectural beauty of the two towers, which by the way is where the administrative offices were--not the patient wards, overshadow the degrading treatment there. Would you put a concentration camp in a snowglobe? How about Guantanamo Bay? I hear there’s some great mortar and brick over there.
While the Richardson Corporation rakes in cash to rehabilitate what became the shame of our nation, I have a suggestion for the city. Tear the row houses where the mentally unstable were tortured down and turn the towers into a museum on the history and collapse of “moral treatment” in psychiatry which is why these buildings were made so beautifully initially, so that our city might understand why some of its residents near the psychiatric grounds mumble, stumble, drool and curse. That’s a better Christmas gift than mocking them in our local progressive newspaper.
This holiday season, as architects seize upon this cash opportunity, let us remember as progressives what sets us apart: we back the little guy. We question big money. We dig into the roots of oppression. We don’t slander our neighbors. We don’t put snowglobes of the administrative offices of torturers on our holiday list as our number one gift idea. I didn’t even look at the rest of the gifts; I guess I’ll go to Walmart where they are getting paid slave wages, but at least they’re not getting holes drilled into their heads.
Amy Upham, Buffalo
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