At the suggestion of my friends Matt Bailey and State Representative Chris Roy, Jr., I watched the documentary film Hot Coffee, which explores the issue of “tort reform” in America.
It should be required viewing:
I was particularly moved by the story of Colin Gourley. Honestly, it broke my heart, so fair warning to my mother, my family, and to the amazing people who helped me, when I was a kid.
To the Gourley family, I commend you for your courage and tenacity. To Colin’s twin brother, Connor, your brother may not be able to fully express it, but I can promise you, without any doubt, you are his hero.
When my mother was in labor with me, I was a breech baby, with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. As I understand it, immediately prior to my birth, the umbilical cord basically strangled me for about sixty seconds; I lost oxygen at a critical time, just like Colin. And just like Colin, as a result, I’ve been living with cerebral palsy for my entire life.
I’ve been incredibly lucky, though, and it’s pure luck: Seconds of time that ensured I would not be severely impaired, that somehow also ensured my cognitive skills weren’t affected and my motor skills were clumsy but easily improvable. Colin and I have likely had many of the same exact surgeries. Like Colin, there are pictures of me as a young kid, straddling a walker, as I strained to stride across a gait laboratory, and I’d bet we also shared some of the same doctors. (It’s a small world, after all).
Two days ago, Rapides Parish Police Juror Steve Coco said in a sworn deposition, “I think anything Lamar White writes on his blog or anything he writes anywhere is poppycock. He’s not a professional journalist. He’s physically challenged, a poor little rich boy. He’s never had a real job in his life. I feel sorry for him.”
He later said that it’s “obvious” that I am physically challenged and then reiterated his sympathy.
Forgive my slight digression, but I want to make it clear: Steve Coco, I don’t need, deserve, or want your sympathy. I live independently. I walk on my own, unassisted. I drive my own car. I bought my own house, with my own money. I snow ski, and I’ve dived in caves in Fiji and the Galapagos. I’ve traveled all over the world, sometimes by myself. Unlike you, I earned a college degree, a degree, by the way, from one of the top twenty colleges in the United States. Despite what you may believe, I’ve held a steady job for the last six years, almost immediately after I graduated, and within the next month, I will be a student at a top-tier law school.
You can call me a “poor little rich boy” until you turn blue in the face; I don’t care. I understand I’ve been privileged in many ways, but it’s mainly because of my father, who died, tragically, when I was eighteen. And not to go all Good Will Hunting on everyone, but it’s true: I would trade every single privilege I’ve had during the last ten years for just one more day with my father.
Juror Coco, your dismissive statements about me as a “physically challenged” person that you “feel sorry for” demonstrate your ignorance and your complete insensitivity toward the disabled.
They are particularly disgraceful, considering you are an elected official. You don’t have to apologize to me personally, but I hope you will consider apologizing for being insensitive toward the disabled. Or you should just resign.
Back to Colin Gourley and his twin brother Connor: Connor, you know why I’m confident that your Colin’s hero? Because I have a brother just like you, and he’s helped me more than any doctor or physical therapist ever has.