POLITICS
NOT AS USUAL?

READERS RESPOND
READERS RESPOND
READERS RESPOND

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BENT's March editorial "Citizen Crip, Citizen Queer," discussed how being queer in America bears on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and wondered why BENT writers don't choose to address overtly political topics. It concluded with these words.

Historically, the power wielded by queers as men and women uniquely positioned to criticize and remake society has emerged largely from our outsider status; some claim that that power is vanishing as mainstream culture absorbs homosexuality, as homosexuals themselves fight hard to be "just like everybody else."

Are we the New Strangers? Have gimps and queer gimps fallen heir to the outsider status enjoyed by the once-proud legion of Dykes and Faggots and Fairies and Queens?

Do we have anything to say for ourselves?

Will we speak up, here or anywhere else?

Well, four BENT readers (and writers, as it happens) did choose to speak up. We thought you would like to hear what they had to say. The transcript is still open—we'd like to hear from you, too.

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BENT's March editorial seems particularly relevant for me right now, because I'm concerned with current events as never before. However, in these sensitive times, I've tried to avoid controversy on Disagaytalk [Bent's online discussion group] and, by extension, in BENT. On a personal and immediate level, the current priority of death and destruction over life and health, is impacting us. Bruce, my partner, has been taken off the clinical trial for Copaxone/or/placebo because his MS has been worsening steadily. His neurologist wants him on BetaSeron, to the tune of $1000.00 per month.

As we all know, Medicare doesn't cover meds. There just isn't money in the budget for that, but to bomb the crap out of everyone, now that's a worthy expense. At the same time we're brokering peace to the same folks to whom we provide weapons and telling them, in all instances, to do as we say and not as we do. We play by a different and ever-changing set of rules. Doesn't the hypocrisy rankle just a bit?

And if you need more evidence of the political temper of the times, note the recent "town hall" meeting hosted by Ted Koppel, where an appalling number of participants supported the use of torture on whomever this administration designates the evil-doers du jour.

I'm up for a march on Washington...well maybe more of a Lurch on Washington.

-Don Lawrence

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I think that BENT is already "politically active." For many of us, the physical effort to live our lives with our disabilities takes most of our energy, resolve, and attention. Being politically active can be just as all-consuming. Many of us simply don't have the support systems that we would need in order to become activists.

Let's not forget that a lot of the gains of the disabilty movement came from formerly-abled people who had experienced themselves as powerful, an experience many of us have been denied.

-Michael Perreault

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I think the question is not why are BENT writers unpolitical, but why is everyone so unpolitical—even antipolitical? There is a small number of politically engaged people, but that small number is not represented in the media because the media goes after the fattest, juiciest demographic. If you are a politically engaged citizen (nonprofessional),this means that your media portrayal falls into one of two categories:a member of the Silent Majority, rubber stamping whatever the White House Resident wants for his "war," or some kind of fire-breathing freak who probably eats drugs and doesn't bathe a lot. There are thoughtful people who care about politics, I know some of them, and I don't think they are freaks. They are a minority, but they are not freaks.

Why does BENT not have more political articles? I'm not sure. There are the practical issues: I suspect that the challenges for the typical BENT writer are even greater than that of the nondisabled citizen who tries to muster up the resolve and time management skills required for political activity. But for BENT writers there is also the issue of sussing your audience. Perhaps they fear they would be preaching to the choir. Perhaps they are so thrilled to have a voice, and access to BENT's readership, that they want to speak of issues closest to home. Or maybe they are simply shy of claiming to speak for anyone else; each crip's experience is so specific to the individual and God help the poor S.O.B. who tries to generalize.

I'll tell you one thing. I work in the software industry, with a bunch of TABs who wouldn't know Eleanor Roosevelt if she rapped them on the knuckles. I am practicing disability politics all day long, by which I mean I am proving myself as an older worker and a disabled worker to be twice as smart and twice as productive as the TABs who surround me. It's a long day, and then I come home, take off my braces, and flop onto the couch. This is the attitude from which you will rouse me to power-up the PC and read BENT.

I don't want to talk about how we will change the world or show all those TABs a thing or two. I want to listen in on the conversation of other disabled people, drop in on their lives, look at their apartments, peek inside their psyches. There seems to be a lot going on there. By comparison the political sphere seems pretty limited.

-Tom Metz

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Are we still surprised that our government can find money for bombs but not for the medicine that people need? Are you scared that the government might tap into the SS fund? I am. I could not live without it.

Whatever your stance on Israel, doesn't it strike you funny that our government is telling Israel to show restraint?

Well, I'm not surprised at any of this. Candidates are voted in and then we express surprise at what they do, when all they're doing is being true to their platforms.

Bush is not doing anything that contradicts what he claimed to stand for, and neither will Mayor Bloomberg in NYC. So really, why the surprise?

-Robert Feinstein

 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/May 2002