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Sunday, July 31, 2016
Letter #2 to Young Cripples
You are not pathological. Your body is perfectly fine. You are different. You may not see or hear. You may not learn the way typical others do. You may not ambulate like your average biped. You might have your own language. You might not be verbal. Your body is perfectly. You are not pathological. This should be your mantra. It is your mantra because we humans are naturally curious. Difference is interesting. Your body is interesting to others. Those others, ableists, who abound consider you to be public property. You do not exist to satisfy typical others curiosity. Rude and intrusive questions will be the norm. Strange social interactions are inevitable.
At the dentists office, I fill out standard forms and list medications. I transfer into the dental chair. Enter the dentist who looks over the form and asks standard questions. Because this person is smart they are also curious. I am asked How long have you been paralyzed and how did it happen”. My first thought is fuck you. I can’t say this but I can think it. I reply “How does paralysis relate my dental care?” An uncomfortable silence ensues. I have asserted my equality.
I am eating my lunch in a public place and a stranger comes over to me and starts a conversation. Within 30 seconds I am asked “So, how did you become paralyzed? I am in a cab and shortly after the vehicle starts the cabbie asks “What happened to you?” This is one of the oldest questions I am asked and is a kin to the ancient phrase “Its so good to see you out”. None of the people who ask rude and intrusive questions think they are being rude. None of them woke up thinking people with a disability are interesting and I expect them to answer any question that pops into their mind. They are ignorant. They have simply absorbed knowledge about disability that is all wrong. A few days ago a highly intelligent lawyer who teachers law told me how much she loved Me Before You and what a great job the actor did “playing paralysis. I just loved the realism”.
You have the right of privacy—the same as any biped. Your body is different. Celebrate that difference. I am injured at T-3. My lats are huge and over developed. They give me a limited amount of trunk control. I am proud of that muscle. I love my body. It has served me well. I plan to finish my life by getting wvery last ounce of energy out of my crippled body.
Whatever has been lost in terms of bodily functioning you have gained in adapting to that deficit. Bipeds and those with typical bodies will see nothing more than a deficit. They do not see the gain. You are elite. You have survived. You have adapted. You have overcome. You have not over come a deficit. You have overcome baseless prejudice and have come out the other side a different person. You are part of an oppressed minority group. Our people represent the very best of humanity. We as a species would not exist without the ability to adapt. Others see a deficit. I see a person and reject the medicalization of the body. I see a strong tree like being that thrives when thriving appears unlikely. We are wood. Strong and hard. Don’t dare push us. We will push back with vengeance. Ed Roberts did this. I did this. Millions of other have done so. You are not alone. You are never alone. You have people. We people have power. Look at the gain and reject dominant socio cultural norms. Reject ableism. Reject a medical model of disability being imposed on you. Do not give the bipeds the satisfaction of buckling to needless pressure to conform.