There is a [literary] canon
of disability, but it is always viewed through the lens (a
lens smudged with fear and anxiety) of the non-disabled writer.
I think it's like any other "minority" group; when the tables
are turned and the stories/myths are coming from within the
group, old perceptions are shattered.
When I hear, on the floor of my room,
the tapping of my wooden legs and of my crutches, I grow angry
enough to strangle my servant. Do you think that I would permit
a woman to do what I myself am unable to tolerate? And, then,
do you think that my stumps are pretty?"
-Guy de Maupassant
evangelical Christians are busy trying to impose on the population
at large their superstitions about sex and the sexes and the
creation of the world. Given enough turbulence in the land,
these natural facists can be counted on to assist some sort
of authoritarian ... political movement.
emotional soul receives a wounding shock, which does not kill
the body, the soul seems to recover as the body recovers.
But this is only appearance. It is really only the mechanism
of the re-assumed habit. Slowly, slowly the wound to the soul
begins to make itself felt, like a bruise, which only slowly
deepens its terrible ache, till it fills all the psyche. And
when we think we have recovered and forgotten, it is then
that the terrible after-effects have to be encountered at
Lady Chatterly's Lover
Evil, Skin Deep
Commenting on the gun-toting
evil albino in Anthony Minghella's movie Cold Mountain,
dermatologist and film fan Dr. Reese Vail asks, "Doesn't Minghella
realize that the evil albino is such a lame cliché? Why are
there never any evil psoriasis characters? Filmmakers, please,
just give us one evil psoriasis guy."
Many would break down talking about
seeing their buddy get hurt or killed. They would even talk
about the Iraqi soldiers how awful it was, all that
carnage. One guy hadn't slept for a long time because of nightmares
because of what he saw early in the war, when we were killing
high numbers of Iraqis. And he saw some of them got run over
by tanks. He just couldn't get those images out of his mind.
Chief of Neurosurgery
American Military Hospital Landstuhl, Germany
Power corrupts. But so does powelessness.
Respect for human dignity requires a wide distribution of
power; in other words, the moderation of one man's power by
that of another.Limited power is thus a necessity, but not
a sufficient condition for the flowering of respect for self
and others. The additional requirement for it is the love
The Second Sin (1973)
"Art is not chaste," Picasso once said.
"It should be kept away from ignorant innocents. Those ill
prepared should be allowed no contact with art. Yes, art is
dangerous. And if it is chaste, it is not art."
His [Reagan's] policies on AIDS were a product of indifference,
disdain, self-imposed ignorance, and political capitulation
to a staunchly reactionary and religious Republican constituency
that was to reshape not only the party, but also the state
of U.S. politics.
Everybody has this thing where they need to look
one way, but they come out looking another way, and that's
what people observe. You see someone on the street, and essentially
what you notice about them is the flaw.
A Sort of Prosthetic Device
In recent years Ganesha's reputation as a benign, protective
friend of all beings has been brought to bear in AIDS education
programs in India. He is also a valiant protector of the weak
and helpless, and is the patron deity of the handicapped.
His own elephant head is actually a sort of prosthetic device,
replacing his original head which was cut off due to an unfortunate
mixup. His pot belly is perhaps due to his great love of sweets,
and he's a great dancer. What's not to like?
-Roop Verma and George A. Seman
Why, I wish to know, is it perfectly moral for me to copulate
with a personage whose sexual organs are different from my
own, and perfectly immoral for me to copulate with a personage
whose sexual organs are not different?
The Beautiful on Beauty:
"I know all my defects. My neck is too short. My hands
are not beautiful. The ankles are O.K., and the rest is not
so great. Who cares if you know?"
Barbara Waxman, a disabled feminist activist and scholar,
charged in the pages of the Disability Rag in 1991, "the disability
rights movement has never addressed sexuality as a key political
issue, though many of us find sexuality to be the area of
our greatest oppression. We are more concerned with being
loved and finding sexual fulfillment than in getting on the
American Sexuality Magazine
the poet e.e. cummings said: "to be nobody but yourself
in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make
you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which
any human being can fight, and never stop fighting."
-Robert J. Wicks
Touching the Holy
is incapable of being defined scientifically or aesthetically.
Anarchy takes over. Having devoted a long life to the art
of caricature I have rarely convinced anyone that caricature
and beauty are synonymous. Beauty may be the limited proportions
of a classic Greek sculptured figure but it does not have
to beit could be an ashcan.
(DIS-fuh-miz-em), noun: The substitution of a harsher, deprecating
or offensive term in place of a relatively neutral term.
~As in "crip" for "disabled." -ed.
used to hate my body. Now, instead, I hate the forces that
conspired to make me hate my body.
The New Yorker
was invented by a straight world dealing with its own bisexuality.
idiot can face a crisis. It's the day-to-day living that wears
write about the darkest human emotions is in itself an act
-Jean Paul Sartre
bigotry has its own "feel," but they all boil down to fear,
and anger at being afraid.
mind of the bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light
you shine on it, the more it will contract.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
& MOTHER LOVE:
Famed actor DUDLEY MOORE died in March
of progressive supranuclear palsy at age 66. Moore, who stood
5'2'' and was born with a deformed left foot once told an
interviewer that his mother wanted to kill him when he was
born "to spare him future problems."
Those of us who
come close to achieving normality tend to buy it by breaking
solidarity with those who must personify our difference. For
gays and lesbians, this has meant rejecting bisexuals and
transgendered people. This rejection allows us to say that
we're really stable, fixed in our identities . . . so including
us won't disrupt the status quo.
"Sexual Strangers: Gays, Lesbians, and Dilemmas of Citizenship"
presence of disabled and tattooed people violates social norms
and calls into question basic cultural mores in Western society.
As such, they are an ideal metaphor for understanding core
elements of human culture. That is, they represent society
reduced to its simplest expression; like the tattooed, disabled
people are in a constant battle against social and personal
-William J. Peace
"The Artful Stigma"
Disability Studies Quarterly
Volume 21, No. 3
Personal & The Political
For the indefatigable Alex
Comfort (author of The Joy of Sex), a lifelong pacifist, the
personal was political: "If we were able to transmit the sense
of play essential to a full healthy view of sex," he declared,
"we would be committing a mitzvah. People who play flagellation
games bother nobody. People who enact similar aggressions
outside the bedroom are apt to end up at My Lai or Belsen."
W. BUSH, out jogging one
morning, trips and falls over a bridge railing and lands in
the creek below, unconscious. Before the Secret Service can
reach him, three kids who are fishing pull him out. The grateful
President offers them whatever they want.
First Kid: "I want to go to Disneyland."
President: "No problem. I'll take you there on Air
Second Kid: "I want a new pair of Nike Air Jordan's."
President: I'll get them for you and even have Michael
Third Kid: "I want a motorized wheelchair with a built-in
TV and stereo headset."
President: (perplexed) "You don't look handicapped."
Third Kid: "No, but I will be when my dad finds out
I saved your sorry ass!!"
More Hidden History
From Out for Good, by Dudley
Clendinnen & Adam Nagourney: "'I do remember the shock I got
when he moved off that stool at the bar,' said Wynkoop, who
remembered Sagarin being severely crippled and stooped." Edward
Sagarin wrote The Homosexual in America, a book that
has been called the first essential document of gay liberation
in America, under the pseudonym Donald Webster Cory, in 1951.
A pioneer of the American gay rights movement was a crip.
The human body is an instrument for
the production of art in the life of the human soul.
-Aflred North Whitehead
The election result is good for me. Bush is this stable hard
target. It's as if Quayle had won. Plus you have the wonderful
narrative of how he got where he now is. It took his brother,
his father, his father's friends, the Florida Secretary of
State, and the Supreme Court to pull it off. His entire life
gives fresh meaning to the phrase "assisted living."
The New Yorker, 2/08/2001
"Life is divided up into the horrible and the miserable,"
Woody Allen tells Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. "The horrible
would be like terminal cases, blind people, cripplesI
don't know how they get through life. It's amazing to me.
And the miserable is everyone else. So, when you go through
life, you should be thankful that you're miserable."
Infirmity alone makes us take notice and learn, and enables
us to analyze processes which we would otherwise know nothing
Mathew Buchinger, The Little Man of Nuremberg, was only twenty-nine
inches tall and had no arms or legs but was blessed with remarkable
skills. With his stumps he performed a variety of conjuring
effects, played musical instruments, and produced miniature
calligraphy. His prowess at manipulating the bones undetected
and fleecing his opponents is recorded in a broadside from
1726 entitled "A Poem on Mathew Buchinger, The Greatest German
-Ricky Jay, "The Story of Dice"
The New Yorker, 12/11/2000
Whenever I am asked why Southern writers
have this penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because
we are still able to recognize one.
-Flannery O'Connor died at age thirty-nine
of lupus in 1964
"Everything we do is dependent
on technology," said Ms. Siino, a marketing consultant who
telecommutes to San Francisco, 80 miles away. She has a short
attention span, she acknowledged, a need for Internet speedfed
by a culture grown dependent on a round-the-clock stream of
digital blips and pulses. "When you're not on computer," Ms.
Siino said, "you may as well cut off your arm."
The New York Times, 1/28/01
Yankees" racked up over a thousand performances and brought
Ms. Verdon her second Tony. It was an impressive showing for
a performer who spent her early childhood years laced into
orthopedic boots to correct legs that had been weakened and
deformed by a series of illnesses.
-Gwen Verdon Obituary
The New York Times, 10/19/00
We attribute virtue to healthy and beautiful bodies, and
vice to ugly and sickly ones. Even virtues that only indirectly
touch on embodied existence— benevolence, graciousness, and
intellectual virtues—still have to overcome the reluctance
in others to cede merit to those whose physicality displeases.
-William Ian Miller, The Mystery
But the funniest part of the whole morning's entertainment,
was undoubtedly the dancing of the little Dwarf. When he stumbled
into the arena, waddling on his crooked legs and wagging his
huge misshapen head from side to side, the children went off
into a loud shout of delight. Perhaps the most amusing thing
about him was his complete unconsciousness of his own grotesque
-Oscar Wilde, The Birthday of the
There was a kid in my neighborhood who had Down syndrome,
and everybody went out of their way to be inclusive and to
be sensitive to his needs. But the minute he would grab my
sister or fondle her inappropriately, immediately all the
good intentions would cave in. And to me it was kind of comical.
-Michael White, screenwriter and costar,
"Chuck and Buck"
Pity to me is a step away from abuse.
- Michael J. Fox, talking about his
The New York Times, 5/24/00
Amps? We don't need yr stinkin' amps!
-San Francisco Opera billboard
Lewis can be disconcertingly casual. I was having breakfast
with him a few months ago in his New York pied-a-terre just
off Central Park West when I suddenly noticed that he was
unscrewing his prosthetic foot. (His leg was amputated below
the knee two years ago because of vascular problems.) He hoisted
his stump next to the marmalade, explaining, I'm more comfortable
- Martin Filler describing billionaire
art patron Peter Lewis
The New Yorker, 4/17/00
Grossly malformed children have at different times and in
different cultures inspired either awe or revulsion. They
have been regarded as the playthings of the gods, and some
gods have been modeled on human or animal malformations. The
defects have been regarded as signs and portents or as punishment
for sin. The ancient belief that they are produced by maternal
emotional impressions or shock still lingers today. In its
more absurd form it is expressed by such things as the belief
that if a mother is frightened by a frog or a rabbit, the
child in consequence will lack the top of its head or may
have a harelip. There is no evidence in favor of such beliefs.
-Encyclopedia Britannica, Online Edition
What is the ugliest part of your body? Some say it's your
nose, some say it's your toes, I say it's your mind.