Sunday, September 2, 2012

Nasty Little Beggars

Flickr: oddsock
A thing nearly everyone with a visible disability is sure to encounter is the assignment of Mr. Nice Guy, or Ms. Nice Gal, as the situation might apply. 

Crips are innocuous. Benign. Saintly in their suffering. 

Of course, that doesn't apply to sex. Everyone knows people with disabilities are asexual. None of us subscribe to Playboy. No crip looks at porn. Crips love Disney and never attend R-rated films.

Rather let's talk about being approached, being seen, being treated as incapable of the range of raffish behavior expected from the average, flawed human being navigating this mortal world.

Lie. Steal. Cheat. No person with a disability would ever do such a thing. Okay, maybe we'll whine. Sure, a little bit. Doggone, though, everyone knows Disabilityville is a tough place to live.

I came to this bizarre opinion by experience and by inference, mostly. I can't be objective, scientific, experimental. For example, I've never shoplifted simply to see if I could get away with rolling out of a store with a shiny new Rolex. You can blame pre-crip corporal punishment.

That goes for lying. Again, pre-crip corporal punishment. That's not to say I don't have enough sense to employ the occasional white lie in appropriate situations. I'm not stupid. I simply cannot walk. 

I get this, let's call it, impression, this idea that disability has conferred some sort of semi-serious sinlessness as I watch hand gestures, or the way people approach me, touch me, and relate to me. The chair makes me a good guy. As I roll into Mass and dip my fingers in the font of Holy Water, I see people thinking, He doesn't really need to do that, does he?

I thought about this recently when a writer friend asked me to read a manuscript in which the protagonist functioned with a mobility disability. There was the use of the word retard.

Truthfully, it bothered me a bit. Then I remembered that I am often plagued by crip envy, a silent begrudging most of the time, but there nonetheless.

Of course, the converse of crip envy would be to seek a place on the hierarchy of disability higher than some other place.

She had it right. I had forgotten something I have regularly told other people. A crip can get mad and be a jerk, even to other crips.

It came to mind again this morning when I read "At Paralymics, First Thing Judged Is Disability" in The New York Times. The judges apparently need more than a stopwatch and a measuring tape to decide who wins what when it comes to athletic struggles amongst people with disabilities.

Obviously, there's no way to line up the ten fastest people for the Paralymic 100-meter dash without deciding first how disability applies. Is it fair for a blind dude to run against a double amputee? Or should a woman with one lung be allowed to compete against a contestant with one leg in swimming? Then there's the question of how intellectual disabilities figured into the equation.

It's surreal, this classification of disabilities, especially when we consider that crip envy (He's nowhere near as disabled as me!) can be turned on its head given the right circumstances. Add to that the attempt to factor in judgment over whether a disability is truly a disability can become illogical. 

For example, organizers let Oscar Pistorius run against people with legs, but in other venues, they've refused to allow wheelchair marathoners run (roll) against two-leggers in the long-distance event. 

Pistorius didn't make the finals, but on the other hand, the world record for a marathon is 2:03:38 on foot, in case you're wondering, while it's 1:18:27 via wheelchair.

And I'm certain there's politicking, back-stabbing, rumor-mongering, and outright fraud involved in the Paralymics. Why not? It happens in Real Life. 

You should be comforted to know this is one area that people with disabilities need no access. Apparently greed, ambition, rationalization, ego-centrism, arrogance, entitlement, envy, selfishness, hypocrisy, and laziness are equal opportunity employers.

1 comment:

Nikki Hootman said...

Envy. You know, I think we're programmed, as humans, to put things in categories. It helps us figure out the world. But it hurts us, too.

I try not to be the crazy lady who hates other pregnant women, but I admit that I find myself indulging in that particular envy from time to time.

When I found out Ripley had died, I was almost immediately thankful it hadn't happened any later. Yes, I had to give birth, but she was still small, and it was not nearly the nightmare it could have been. At least it happened when it did. And at least it was not my first child.

But then I had a couple of women attempt to relate to me on the basis of their very early miscarriages. And I found myself thinking, are you kidding? Do you think your little miscarriage (which I've also experienced) could possibly compare in any way to the agony of giving birth to death?

But this evening I saw a post on facebook about a baby born with a horrific genetic condition that will almost certainly result in a painful, lingering death. And I thanked God that I was spared the agony of watching my child die.

I don't know if these comparisons have any merit or not. All I can really do is try not to be the crazy lady, and to be thankful for what I've been given. :)