We talk about objects being “in the way”; of an accident on the road and we complain, “Why can’t they just pull over and get their vehicles out of the way?” We use similar phraseology when we “objectify” human beings, as in — when we seethe with anger and retribution at some person — the threatening tone of: “Stay out of my way!”
Does the subtle (or not so subtle) alteration in language’s usage determine how we treat another human being? When a driver gets irritated with a bicyclist who is not so adept at keeping a straight and narrow line on the roadway, do we forget suddenly the value of human life and see it merely as an “object” that is “in the way”?
And when you read of stories of human tragedies — of a person who negligently ran over a person and seriously injured or — worse, yet — killed a pedestrian, we realize the thin line between insanity and rationality, of love and hate, and the vulnerability of passions left out of control and going berserk when it is often the language we use so carelessly that leads to the tumults of life’s misgivings.
Objects are often “in the way”; can it ever be that people are also? Do we bypass one another and ignore the plight of others because of our capacity and ability to objectify those very subjects we want to ignore and avoid?
Utopia is an idea of human perfection; the reality of this real world is quite different, where love, cooperation and human compassion lags far behind because the essence of human nature is far below the paradigm of perfection. Honking the horn at something “in the way” when one is backed up on the highway in a state of frustration may well shed one of some frustration — until we learn later on that it was the body of a young child hit by a car because he was “in the way”.
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the concept of “in the way’ is a familiar one — for, the Federal or Postal worker has knowledge of it both as an object, as well as a subject.
The “medical condition” itself is “in the way” — seen as an object that has become an obstacle. Conversely, the Federal Agency or the Postal Service begins to see that once-stellar, high-performing individual — you — as something “in the way” of the Federal Agency’s “mission” and the Postal Service’s “work”.
When the Federal Agency or the Postal Service begins to see a Federal employee as an object, as opposed to a subject, then you know it is time to begin to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, lest you become another casualty left in the heap of roadside debris as a passing car yells, “You were in the way!”
Robert R. McGill, Esquire