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Friday, July 29, 2016
Letters to Young Cripples
My good friend Steve Kuusisto has been posting "Letters to a Young Cripple" on his blog Planet of the Blind. I find his words deeply moving. We hatched the idea drinking beer in a brewery. That is what good academics do. Drink beer and in our case work on the art of disability. I am not sure any bipeds appreciate what we do but I sure do enjoy life. I have a series of such letters written and this will be an ongoing theme.
Young cripples. You are hated by many. You sense this. You may directly experience hatred. You likely have been segregated to “resource rooms” and deemed “special” in secondary schools across the nation. You are often the only cripple present--the lone person using a wheelchair. You feel lonely and isolated. I feel this too. I feel loneliness in the marrow of my bones. Get over it. Do your best. Try hard. It is okay to fail. I have failed to get over a feeling of alienation my entire adult life. I hope you will not feel the same when you are as old as me. This is probably not going to happen but you can hope. I hoped, and believed, I would be equal someday in my lifetime. I no long believe that. It is a bitter pill to swallow.
Never given in to the hatred. Never give in and accept less in life. When you are given what superficially appears to be a good deal stop and think. Cool you are going to be the only kid who will get a taxi ride to school. No bus rides. No bullies. Why the largesse? Some typical other person in authority is too cheap to authorize a lift on the bus. You are not worthy of the expenditure. You are less. Fight back with vigilance.Do not accept crumbs doled out to the crippled so we are not seen and supposedly treated with selective kindness.
Forge ahead on your own. Let Mom and Dad go. They will not be able to advocate for you someday. I hope they have taught you how to self advocate. Like it or not, you will spend enormous amounts of time advocating for yourself and others like you. The world, both physically and socially, has not given you any consideration. Our physical structures remain largely inaccessible. Our social environment is hostile and you will encounter ableism at every turn because it is built into the fabric of society. You need to face ableism head on and do your best to undermine it in any and all ways. You are not just one person. You represent others. If people tell you that you have a chip on your shoulder you are doing something right. When a biped tells me this I reply I have a boulder on my shoulder. Being angry is healthy. Social injustice does that to people. You will encounter social justice—it is part of a cripple’s life.
Never forget our people. We are largely poor. We are unemployed in large numbers. We are white. We are black. We are fat. We are thin, tall, ugly, gorgeous, and more. We are simply human. Never forget you are a human being—homo sapien sapien. We are symbol builders and tool makers. Most of all we are adaptable and wildly creative. Embrace the art of disability. Embrace it because you will wake up in the middle of the night alone. You will think “I must be wrong. I am not fully human. I am a rotten person. I am a drain on others.” Don’t go down that rabbit hole. You are a good person. You have human rights. Oppression is wrong. Ableism kills. Do not give typical others the satisfaction. Resist.